Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flipping Groceries on Amazon FBA

Due diligence results in just rewards.

Ready to flip some groceries?

Thing 1: You have to be approved to sell groceries on Amazon.
Thing 2: Groceries are fast turns, great replenishibles, but you have to watch the price and ranking carefully.
Thing 3: Don't get attached to any one grocery product. Be ready to give it up when the going gets tough.
Thing 4: You CAN make multipacks (see my post about this topic).
Thing 5: Keep scanning. Groceries are not a needle in a haystack, but you do have to spend time searching.

Let's go grocery sourcing!

  • Keep it simple. Take your phone (loaded with Evernote). Choose one section (like coffee or tea), and snap pictures of all of items in this section.
  • Bring it home. Open your desktop to Amazon, and to the FBA Calculator. Open up your pictures and save them into a folder. Example: Coffee_Walmart
  • Focus on one picture at a time. Search for the first item on Amazon. Look at price, rank, number of sellers, and the different multipacks available. Run it through the FBA calculator. If it's a winner, make a note in Evernote with item, price, fees, profit, # in package (like a 2 pack or 4 pack), rank, and aisle # in store.
  • Go through an entire picture. You might find one profitable item, or not. Once you've gone through a picture, rename it Finished with the # of potentially profitable items that you've found.
  • Once you've found several potential items, take your list to the store and buy 3 to 5 to test out. If they sell out within two weeks, then plan to pick up another round on your next trip out. I never go too deep with groceries. It's a competitive category, and it doesn't take much for the price to drop and eat away your profits. 
  • Don't forget to check the expiration dates. Try to find grocery products with a year out.
Keep Track of Replenishible Groceries
  • The best way to keep track of replenishible groceries is on a spreadsheet. FBA Flip Side Facebook group members can download my spreadsheet from the files.
  • I could source groceries all day long, everyday, but I believe in diversification, so I've made the conscious decision to refill my groceries once per month. Before I go out to pick up groceries, I run through my list to check price, rank, profit, and the average # that is selling per week. I'm willing to drop a dud, or a grocery item that has dropped dramatically in price. Sometimes the price for the item goes up at the store causing my profit to burst. I keep items on my list for a recheck each time I shop.
  • Keep an up to date replens list in Evernote.
  • When you list a grocery item, begin your SKU with a code that indicates grocery (GRO), so that you can search by the first three letters and bring up all of your grocery inventory at once.
Keep In Mind
  • Grocery replenishibles should be a fast turn. Based on your averages, send in enough for a month. You should sell out in a month, but if you don't, go back to the listing and do a reevaluation.
  • Your profit margins are usually a little smaller than other items, but always aim to double your money.
  • Check the weight of your grocery item and compare it to the listed weight. If the listed weight is heavier than the actual weight, snap a picture of the item showing the weight, and open a case with seller central to get it corrected. Incorrect, higher weights effect your fees!
  • Make new multipacks and variety packs if none are available, but check that the individual items are selling on their own first.
  • Shrinkwrap or polybag your grocery items. Don't forget your expiration date label! And if it's a multipack label, add a label that says, "Multipack of #. Do not separate."
  • Don't forget your coupons!
On your mark, get set, go grocery sourcing!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pricing Your Products for Amazon FBA

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
~Helen Keller

The ultimate goal: double your money or better.

If you pay $3, then your goal should be to make a minimum of $3 profit.

When you're out sourcing and making buying decisions be sure to take a look at the 5 lowest FBA prices. If you can double your money by selling your product somewhere in the five lowest FBA prices, then you're good to go. Make sure you have a little wiggle room in case the price drops dramatically or the item simply doesn't sell after 90 days. Don't forget to consider fees, as well as shipping and handling (especially weight and size of the item) when figuring your total investment and profit margin.

If there isn't an FBA seller, then look at the average merchant fulfilled prices + shipping, and list your product  somewhere in the middle range of the five lowest sellers.

On the first of every month go to Manage Inventory to cull out products that are not moving. Let's say you have ten pages of inventory. The oldest inventory is on page 10. Start at the end and work backwards. Evaluate prices, rank, and your cost to determine whether you should hold, or cut your losses and knock your price down to cost. If the item is a seasonal item, you might want to hold out until the next season. You have to determine whether you consider the item a long tail item, or simply a dud. If it's long tail, you might tweak your price, and if it's a dud, you probably should cut your loses and price to break even (or to make a few dollars vs. 100% ROI).

A few unwritten rules (not Amazon's rules and not real rules, but common thinking among many sellers):
  • Don't undercut other FBA sellers unless the product is truly unreasonably priced, or not moving at the lowest FBA price after 60 days.
  • Don't play race to the bottom just to gain the buy box 100% of the time. Play nice. Share.
  • If Amazon comes in as a seller on your product, then price your product 20% above Amazon's price and hold out until Amazon sells out. Don't freak out. Just hold. You will get your turn at the buy box.
  • You don't always have to have the lowest price. It's okay. Really.
  • If you're the only seller, then price based on what you consider reasonable and fair. If the item isn't moving after 30 days, then lower the price a little bit. Keep tweaking until you find that sweet spot.
Pricing is not a science. There are no hard and fast rules. You just have to tweak and play until you get it right. It's a guessing game, but while you're guessing, don't forget to run your numbers to make sure you don't price yourself out of a fair profit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Make Your Own Photo Background Prop

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, you will begin to have positive results.
~Willie Nelson

Amazon requires simple, clean photos with a pure white background. 

I've learned a couple of things to help me get my photography from point A to point B. For one, use a white sheet of paper, white poster, or white foam board for your background if you're taking pictures of products with color. If an item is in a polybag or is light / white in color, then do as the film guys do, and use a green screen (green / or blue background). 

I've been laying my products down on top of a poster and snapping my pictures. One of my biggest problems I have is keeping my own shadow out of the picture. I haven't invested in lights yet (on my wish list), so I have to make do with house lights during the day when I also have natural light coming in through the windows (not the most ideal). 

I wanted to be able to stand my products up, or at least lean them against my background, so that I could snap the picture easier (and even use a tripod). 

I thought about it and thought about it, and I came up with this:

I went to Home Depot and looked around until I found two small pieces of the same size wood. These were already partially painted white. I have no idea what they are supposed to be used for, but they did the job I wanted, so I bought 4 pieces.

My hubby gorilla glued the pieces together for me. Sweet man!

I went to Walmart and bought two pieces of foam board for a couple of dollars. The foam board has blue on one side and white on the other side. I cut the pieces in half (one half about three inches bigger than the other half), then I used the larger half as the "stand up piece". I attached velcro to the wood blocks, then to the foam board (one wood "stand" on each end of the foam board). 

Next I sat the standing foam board just on top of the other piece to create a photo background. I made one for a white background, and one for a blue background.

Now I can stand my products up and take my photo. 

A couple of notes: I didn't mess with trying to get a pure white background. That is something that has to be done in a photo editing software program. I use Photoshop.

I probably should have sat in a chair to get a better perspective with this photo, but I wasn't shooting for Amazon here. I just wanted to show you how the background prop works. I also should have put these items against the blue background (or at least the pad of paper).

The reason I used velcro is to change out the background from white to blue and back.

Disclaimer: I am a complete amateur photographer, but I do know that light is everything in photography. I see tabletop photo lights in my future (Hubby? Are you reading this?).

Photo Tip: I learned something the other night. This works for all cameras (not cell phones, but real cameras). If you press the button just halfway first (you will hear a little sound, but it won't snap a picture just yet), and allow your camera a couple of seconds, it will auto adjust to the light to give you a better picture.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Playing Categories

Plan for today, tomorrow, and the future. 

I needed to run into a craft store today to pick something up for a current little at home project. I haven't been in this particular store for quite some time. In fact, I haven't been in this store since I started FBA. As I was walking around searching for Mod Podge, I noticed a ton of potential profit. Yes, I'm going back.

But that's not the reason for this post. As I was driving home, I thought about the craft category, and ran through my mental one off list until I found that yes, I have sent in items in this category. And then I thought about how I sent in a few items in the baby category. And I wondered if I've hit every open category.

That's something that I need to investigate. You see, when Amazon gated groceries, personal health, and health and beauty, sellers found themselves either grandfathered in or in a bind. I was grandfathered into groceries and personal health, but I missed out on health and beauty because I never listed anything in that category. Now I have to jump through hoops if I want approval. If only I would have sent in some shampoo or something! Right?

So now I'm thinking that I should check each open category and make sure I have sent in some products, and if I hadn't, then I had better get to sourcing. You never know when Amazon might decide to gate a category, so better safe than sorry. Now there isn't any guarantee that selling a few items in a category will grandfather you in, but at least it's a step in the right direction. You're increasing your chances to call safe, and get a homerun. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sourcing Jar

A penny saved is two pennies earned.

Did ol' Ben Franklin say that? There was a time when a penny saved was a penny earned, but today, you can turn your penny into two pennies.

Have you ever heard of the tale about the grain of rice? 

Once there was a greedy king who didn't share the stores of rice with his people. One day soldiers with wagons were taking the rice collected from the fields to the storerooms. A bag had a hole, and a young girl saw it, then she followed the wagon and collected the rice that fell out of the bag into her skirt. She took the rice to the king. He was so happy that she gave back the rice that he granted her anything she wanted. She asked for a grain of rice, doubled each day for 30 days. He laughed and granted her the rice. She was wise, and pretty good at math (the king was a dolt and not so good at math).

Now you do the math.
First Day - 1
Second Day - 2
Third Day - 4
Fourth Day - 8
Fifth Day - 16
Sixth Day - 32
Seventh Day - 64
Eighth Day - 128
Ninth Day - 256
Tenth Day - 512

Are you getting the idea?

I thought so.


So what does this have to do with a penny, a sourcing jar, and FBA?

Save a jar of change. When it's full, take it to one of those coin drop machines (check your bank or credit union to see if they have one that is free of charge), and dump your change. Take the money and go sourcing. Buy products that you can double (or more) your money after fees, shipping and handling. Take the profits and and invest in more products. Rinse and repeat until you reach your goal, or your storehouse is full, and you're ready to take a payout to the personal checking account.

Cha-ching!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Multipack Guidelines for Gourment & Grocery Amazon FBA

Do not rely on hearsay for your answers. Always go to the source to prove or disprove (and to document) interpretations and assumptions.

I asked, and Amazon answered.

There has been some confusion about Amazon's guidelines for third-party sellers creating multipacks in Gourmet & Grocery, so I asked Seller Central to please clarify.

My question:

Are third-party sellers allowed to create listings for multipacks in grocery if a listing is non existent? I am not referring to manufacturer created multipacks, but third-party seller created multipacks. Are we allowed to shrinkwrap and polybag multipacks and create new listings? (I wanted to be clear as possible. I gave examples as well).

Amazon's first answer:

Answer : Yes, You may list seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of single-serve hot beverage products (coffee, tea, etc.) in the Grocery & Gourmet Food category that adhere to the guidelines outlined here. These guidelines do not apply to manufacturer-created or seller private-label variety packs.

Failure to adhere to the following guidelines may result in buyer dissatisfaction, product delisting, or both.

The product detail guidelines for Grocery & Gourmet Food seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of single-serve hot beverage products are as follows:

1. Custom variety packs are permitted only in unit count sizes (cups, pods, capsules, etc.) that are in multiples of 10 (for example, 10, 20, 30, 40, etc.)

2. If a variety pack contains more than one type of product (for example, both tea and coffee), then the types must be in equal proportions (for example, 10 coffee pods and 10 tea pods) or as close as possible to equal proportions if the number of serving units is not evenly divisible.
>For example, for a variety pack containing 3 types of products (coffee, tea, and hot chocolate) for a total of 20 pods, you would include 7 pods each of two products (tea and coffee) and 6 pods of one product (cocoa) to equal 20 pods in the variety pack.

3. The type, brand and flavor of every unit contained in the pack must be clearly specified on the detail page.

4. You may not label variety packs with a custom brand name (for example, your company name) because seller-prepared variety packs contain individually branded units. Instead, you should use the following approved brand name for these products: "Custom Variety Pack."

I realized they assumed I was talking about coffee and tea, and then it dawned on me that if we can create multipacks of these items, then why not other items, so I asked again.

------- 
Q: I understand that we can't brand the multipacks, but can we shrinkwrap and polybag, and create a listing if there isn't a listing available for the number that we want to multipack? 
------- 
A: Yes, you may create listings for multipack & shrinkwrap and polybag it as earlier if they are adhering to the FDA labeling requirements for food products and not in line with how we would like products sent to our customers. 

------- 
Q: Are sellers allowed to make multipacks of other grocery items? 
------- 
A: You may list seller-prepared and packaged variety packs of all products listed in Grocery & Gourmet Food category that adhere to the guidelines outlined in the previous email correspondences. These guidelines do not apply to manufacturer-created or seller private-label variety packs. 

The answer is YES. Sellers may prepare and create listings for multipacks (and variety packs) in Grocery.

Using Evernote to Help You In Your FBA Business

Everyday you make new choices that effect tomorrow. What are you going to do today to earn sales tomorrow?

It's a app.
It's amazing.
It's EVERNOTE.

OMG! Where has this app been all of my life? I've been exploring this app recently, and let me tell you, slice bread has nothin' on Evernote! It's the coolest app ever!

What can it do to help you with your FBA business?

The number one thing it can do (and this is ridiculously exciting) is that you can snap a picture and make a note with that picture. Why is this so exciting?

Think about it. You're in Walmart, and so are all of the people of Walmart, and all of their children, and they're everywhere. You can edge your way into that section of cake mixes that you've dying to scan. People keep asking you to move. They reach over you, around you, through your legs (well, hopefully not through your legs). You begin to wonder why you're in this business, and surely there must be a better way.

Snap!

A picture that is. Snap a picture of the section you want to scan. In fact, snap several. Then key in a note with the store name / location, and anything else you want to remind yourself.

Then go home and research to your heart's content in your underwear!

That's what you can do with Evernote!

But that's not all. You can create notebooks, then create notes within your notebooks. You can have notebooks for stores, categories, replenishables, BOLO's, and so much more! And you can have notebooks for home, work, and other online ventures. How awesome is that?

But that's not all! And this is the part that I'm totally pumped about - you can download Evernote onto your desktop and sync your notes with your phone! Think about it: you can type a list on your computer with all of the information you need for a quick referral for your replenishables, sync, then open it up on your phone when you're out sourcing.

I haven't even explored everything that Evernote can do for you as a seller, but what I've discovered so far is an absolute lifesaver.

Don't forget to save an Amazon category ranking's chart to your Evernote notes. (Members of The FBA Flip Side Facebook group can access their chart in the files. It's FREE. Oh, and so is Evernote -FREE that is.). Note: There is a premium Evernote subscription. I might bite in the future, but right now all of my spare pennies go into the sourcing jar.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where Can I See My Amazon FBA Sales?

The sun rises each day. Everyday is another chance at fulfilling your dream. Make the most of it.

I've seen this question over and over again, "How do I know if I've sold something?" So here goes...

When a buyer clicks to buy your product, you're sale goes into pending until it's filled and shipped.
Go to Orders>Manage Orders

What you see on this page are actual orders that have already been filled and shipped. To see pending orders, click on Advanced Search. A new page will come up. Make sure the radio button for Pending Orders is checked. Click on Search. The orders that are greyed out are pending orders. Once they are shipped, they will go to black and you will receive an email.

Next question: "Why is an item in pending orders for so long (even days)?"
There are multiple reasons for this. Perhaps the buyer needs to add a new credit card, but hasn't noticed the message yet. The buyer might have ordered multiple items, so the warehouse has to gather them all first. Prime orders will go out faster than regular shipping. Most of the time an order will eventually get shipped and go into the black, but sometimes a buyer cancels the order before it gets shipped out, and it will disappear.

And, "Where do I see how much money I've made?"
When you log in, you will land on your main dashboard page. Look to the right-hand side of the page. There is a box that says, "Payment Summary". Inside the box, you will see your balance. That is how much money you've earned! Beware that before Amazon releases your payout to your bank account, they will subtract any fees that you own from your balance. It will show a negative balance if you've earned less than your fees. If payout day comes around, and you're still in the hole, they will take the money out of your credit / bank account on file.

One more, "When do I get paid?
If you're new to Amazon, you will get paid every two weeks. If you've had an account for a long time, you can request payouts daily. If you sold something on Amazon years ago (I sold books through merchant fulfilling before FBA was created), and you're just now coming back to Amazon, you will discover that you've been grandfathered into daily payouts! You can click on you balance to see when you will receive your next payout.

There you go. I hope this helps you find your sales!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Missing FBA Merchandise

Do it in order to achieve it.

I know this is going to be hard to believe, but every once in Amazon misplaces our merchandise. Yep. It happens.

Pick a day of the week. Any day. How about every Sunday (or whichever day makes you happy)? On Sunday, go to Reports>Fulfillment>Inventory Adjustment.

Request a report for the last seven days. (If you've never done this, you may want to backtrack, but from this point forward, check it once per week).

Notate any merchandise that has gone missing (-1). In a calendar (I use a paper one), count from the date of when the item was marked missing to the 31st date. In other words, I have an item that went missing on July 21st. I marked my calendar for August 31st.

In my calendar, I wrote:
IM (inventory misplaced)
7/21 (date it went missing)
Name of item

Rinse and repeat this process each week. Check your calendar to see if 30 days have passed on any misplaced inventory. If so, then run a 30 day report in Inventory Adjustment. Look to see if the item has been found (+1). If it has been found, then mark it off your list. You might want to double check that the item made its way back to your inventory.

What if it's still missing? It's payout time. Go to Reports>Fulfillment>Reimbursements. Run a report for the last 30 days. Do you see a reimbursement for the missing item? If not, open a case and let seller central know that the item has been missing for 30 days. Check your reimbursements the following week to make sure you received it (you should get an email when you're reimbursed).

This little system will help you keep organized and keep up. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moving Your FBA Business Forward Between Sourcing Dollars

Do something everyday to move towards your dream.

Every move you make is a step forward. Out of sourcing money? Waiting for the next payout? Here are ten things that you can do to keep your business going in between sourcing dollars:

TEN
Check your Inventory Adjustments report for missing and damaged inventory. Go to Reports>Fulfillment>Inventory Adjustments. If you check this report once per week on the same day, then you can always request the last 7 days to keep things manageable.

Found a missing item? Make a note of it 30 days out on your calendar. If it's not found by then, open a case and request reimbursment.

Found a distributor or warehouse damaged item? Open a case and request reimbursment.

NINE
Make a list of replenishable items for your next sourcing trip. Recheck rank and pricing to see if it's worth repurchasing a product. Double check your profit numbers as well.

EIGHT
Go to the store. Choose a category, and take pictures of items in that section. Go home and research in your underwear. Make a list of items to pick up on your next sourcing trip.

SEVEN
Brainstorm possible bundles! Make lists of items to go into your bundles. Try to think of unique content that you could add to make your bundle an exclusive. Research the items. Figure out the cost, fees, and profit.

SIX
Tweak prices. Go through your inventory and try to get items moving by changing prices to reflect the market. Don't lose money by racing to the bottom. If you're a price above a few sellers, and can hang out until they sell out, then do it. Keep your COGS, fees, and S/H in mind when tweaking your prices.

FIVE
Educate yourself. Read. Watch. Listen. Participate.
Read ebooks.
Watch videos.
Listen to podcasts and spreecasts.
Participate in Facebook groups.
Learn something new!

FOUR
Research prices on packing and shipping materials. Make a list of what you need, and a wish list for things you want in the future when you have some spare cash to make the investment.

THREE
Discover new reports in Seller Central. Spend some time lurking around in SC and playing around with the different reports that are available to sellers.

TWO
Organize your space. This is a good time to get things in order. Clear out the clutter, and organize your space, so that you can work efficiently.

ONE
Raise sourcing cash by taking the clutter you cleared out and listing it on a local Facebook swap group or ebay. Hold a garage sale. Dump the change you've been saving. Take books that won't bring you a profit on Amazon down to Half Price Bookstore and get a few dollars to add to your investment money. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tweaking Product Prices

Change is the cause to the effect. Is the change worth the possible effect?

Some sellers swear that tweaking product prices on Amazon makes a big difference in sales. They say that price tweaks can jump start a slowdown dead period. So they say. But do they really?

I've tweaked some prices here and there, but in all honesty, I have tracked it well to see if tweaking brings about results. Yesterday, someone posted on one of the groups that they lowered all of their prices by 0.10 cents and saw a $60 jump in sales. (I don't even remember which one. That's what happens when you join several Facebook groups).

Not a bad result, so I decided to give it a go. This morning I tweaked all of my prices from 0.01 to 0.05 cents up or down, plus major price changes on about 5 products. As soon as I finished, I checked my pending sales, and low and behold, I had a sale! Coincidence? Probably.

I will update this post over the next couple of days with my results. If you decide to do some tweaking, please post your results in the comments section.

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Crickets. Seriously, I feel like I've jinxed myself. And I just had 3 shipments hit the warehouses too. What's up with the silence? I did notice a slight change in format under the Orders tab. Perhaps it's a glitch, and all of my sales will come pouring in soon...very soon...like right now...immediately...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sourcing at Walmart

Go ahead: Think big, source mightily, live freely. 

I was pulling into Walmart the other day when I had a sobering thought: I've been to Walmart more times since I began sourcing for FBA than I have in all of my years as a shopper. I was never a fan of Walmart -the crowds, the long lines at the cashier, and the general feel of the place. As a shopper, it's not high on my list, but as an FBA seller, Walmart is a goldmine.

Just make sure that you don't end up on "People of Walmart"!

A few notes about sourcing at Walmart:

  • If you have a reseller's certificate, you must register it with each individual Walmart.
  • Walmart prices matches other stores, but they do not price match between their own stores.
  • Different Walmart stores carries different merchandise. You may not find widget awesome at every Walmart.
  • Different Walmart stores prices may not be the same. Walmart A down the street may price widget awesome a dollar higher than Walmart B down the street in the other direction.
  • Each Walmart manager determines Walmart sales and clearance.
  • Walmart is not the lowest price on everything -not even close. But they are the lowest price on a lot of things -that's why you have to scan, scan, scan.
If you're new to sourcing, you might be thinking, "You mean I can go to Walmart and buy stuff, and send it to Amazon, and sell it for a profit? Seriously?" 

Yes. Seriously. I've done it.

It's hard to wrap your mind around it at first. It's rather brain boggling, and seems to good to be true, but it is better than good, and it is definitely true.

I haven't explored every section of Walmart, but I will tell you that groceries, baby (on clearance), and school supplies are ripe for the picking. Good toy deals are surprisingly hard to find. I did come across a one off at the Walmart to my left for $10, but guess the price point for the same item at the Walmart to my right? $29.99! Be care with Walmart clearance. If they have a lot of an item, then chances are, other Walmarts will have a lot as well, and other sellers will jump on the bandwagon. The next thing you know, your item is saturated by the time you get it to the fulfillment center. 

My suggestion is to pick a category that you know well (and isn't gated to you), and head down to your local Walmart and scan a section. If you'd prefer to avoid the pushy carts, then snap a few quick pictures, and go home and research on your computer (saves you time and aggravation). I have found that no matter what time it is -day or night, Walmart is packed with people (at least my local Walmarts are always packed). Go when it's the least crowded, so that you can do your thing without feeling bothered. 

One strategy for tackling Walmart is to check your weekly circulars, researching items online, then going and buying profitable items. Go in, get what you need, and get out quickly! I found a fantastic replenishable this way. Even at regular price the ROI is great. And that is the main thing that I like about sourcing Walmart -replens are in abundance. 


Saturday, July 19, 2014

FBA Tip Sheet

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
~Aristotle

Ten Little Tips for FBA

TEN
Scotty Peelers are the tool of the trade. Apply a little heat (heat gun or blow dryer) and use your Scotty Peeler to remove those pesky store price stickers. Clean up sticky residue with lighter fluid.

NINE
Keep a stash of boxes around in a variety of sizes. I use the small Home Depot boxes, two different sizes from Walmart: 14 x 14 x 14 and 12 x 12 x 10.5. If Amazon wants you to send items to 3 different fulfillment centers, it helps to have different sized boxes to accommodate your shipments.

EIGHT
Save your 30 up labels from disuse by shipping in multiples of 30. The other day I had listed 86 items. Four more items would use up 3 sheets of labels. My local Kroger was moving things to clearance the day before while I was grocery shopping. I ran down there and picked up four $4 items with $35 Amazon price point. The effort to use my poor stickers paid off in a great find.

SEVEN
So you're shopping for the family, and really, you don't have time to stop and source, but you see a section that intrigues you. You know that you want to come back and source. Use Evernote to snap a picture of the section and make a note about the location. Go home and research the section in your underwear, then go back and buy your potential winners.

SIX
When you are listing multiple boxes, use a marker to write the weight and fulfillment center onto the box before you print your shipping labels. Now you can easily match up your box with your label!

FIVE
If in doubt, ask seller central. The other day I picked up a travel alarm clock for less than $2. I listed it, put it in the box, and approved the shipment. After an interesting discussion in a Facebook group, I realized that I might be selling a restricted item, after all, luggage is gated, and the category is called: Luggage and Travel Accessories. Oops! I checked and realized my travel alarm clock was listed in Home & Kitchen, but I know that some sellers will try to get around restrictions by listing items in other categories (major no-no), so I opened a case and asked if I could list the item. I was given the green light to list, and I have documentation showing that I was told yes by Seller Central.

FOUR
Start your SKU with a category code. For example: Toys could be TY, or Home & Kitchen could be HK. I wish, oh how I wish, I would have thought of this a long time ago. You can't sort your inventory by category, but you can sort it by SKU. Are you catching my drift here? You can sort by TY and bring up all of the toys in your listing! 

THREE
Polybags look professional. Ziploc bags do not. Just saying'...

TWO
FYI - Office Depot shrinkwraps for 0.75 cents per item.

ONE
If you put an FBA label over shrinkwrap or on top of a polybag, cover it with clear packing tape to ensure that it doesn't fall off. The removable labels easily peel off of plastic. Yes, Amazon can scan the label through clear packing tape. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Check It Before You List It

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
~Ben Franklin

It just came down the Amazon email pipe that sellers are expected to clean up listings by the end of the month. Listings lacking Key Features (bullet points), descriptions, and images with pure white backgrounds will be suppressed.

I don't blame them. Really.

Have you seen the listings with absolutely no description? Or the listing with products sitting on someone's bed? This isn't Ebay, people!

What a pain in the rear it's going to be to make sure your listings don't get suppressed -especially if A) you didn't make the original listing, and B) you don't have the product because it's sitting in Amazon's warehouse.  We will have to do the best we can with these new demands, but what about the future?

I confess that I haven't spent a lot of time paying attention to the details of a listing (except for the ones I create). My bad. I'm going to change my habits beginning now. When I enter the product UPC code into "Add a Product", I always click over to look at price, number of sellers, and rank to determine my own price, but I've kind of ignored bad pictures and descriptions. Who has time for all of that?

Well, I don't have the time or resources to go backwards, so I had  better start paying attention.

Join me and pledge that on this day forward:

1. Check the weight of the product. If the weight is incorrect, take a picture of the product on your scale and send it to Seller Central. I did that yesterday, and they corrected a listing with the weight listed at 4 lbs. when it was actually less than 2 lbs.
2. Check the Key Features to make sure everything is included, and that they are written in an appealing way. Check capitalization, spelling, and punctuation as well. I've noticed some serious errors on a number of listings.
3. Read the description. Is it clear? Is it appealing? Is it factual? Does it include all of the important details?
4. Check the title. Does it use the best words to describe the product? Does it include the quantity if there is more than one? (I fixed my own listing today. I didn't think to put "2 Pack"  in the title on a multipack listing that I created.). If it's a bundle, then does it include the number of items (bundle of # items), and list of all of the items in the title AND the Key Features?
5. Check the image. If it sucks, then get out your camera. Images should have a pure white background.

Read through every listing that you list against, and submit changes to Seller Central before you put the product into the box. I want the listing to be correct by the time my products reach the fulfillment center. If every seller would do this before listing, we could help clean up the catalog, and possibly save our product listing from suppression (which sounds depressing). 

Keep Calm and Flip On


When Amazon makes changes...keep calm and flip on.
When a customer complains...keep calm and flip on.
When you get a return...keep calm and flip on.
When you are scammed by a buyer...keep calm and flip on.
When you made a mistake...keep calm and flip on.
When you receive a warning...keep calm and flip on.
When you can't find anything profitable...keep calm and flip on.
When you're exhausted...keep calm and flip on.
When you're frustrated...keep calm and flip on.
When you're payout is in the hole...keep calm and flip on.
When you want to throw up your hands...keep calm and flip on.
When you make a lot of sales and receive you're biggest payout ever...
Do the happy dance and flip on.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Q4: Buy & Hold or Send & Sell?

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

Q4 is coming!

The big question: buy & hold or send & sell?

Disclaimer: I haven't experienced Q4 on Amazon, but I have experienced seasonal ups and downs on other venues, so this post reflects what I've learned about buyers, and my strategy for Q4.

It never ceases to amaze me what people will buy. There are people who will buy Christmas in July and Valentines in September. For this very reason, you see stores stock up on the next season or two months in advance. The summer is only halfway through and the clearance has begun to make room for back to school. As soon as back to school is over, you'll see items for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and yes, even Christmas. I usually start seeing some Valentines stuff around November. Stores wouldn't stock up early if buyers weren't buying. And they do buy year round.

So why buy for Q4 and hold?

There are those who buy and hold because they believe the price will go up in Q4. That may be true, but you can set your price now. Storage cost is just pennies, and your hot toy just might sell early. There are birthdays year round, and some people (like my mom) shop for Christmas year round or early. If your product is sitting in your house, it definitely won't sell.

Here is another reason to send & sell:

You purchase Toy Spectacular on clearance in June.
COGS: $3
Price Point: $14.99
Profit After Fees & S/H: $7.26
Sold in July

You snowball your $7.26 and reinvest in Toy Fabulous.
COGS: $6.99
Price Point: $29.99
Profit After Fees & S/H: $22.47
Sold in August

You snowball your $22.47 and reinvest in 4 Toy Amazing that you find on clearance for $4.99 each.
COGS: $4.99 ($19.96)
Price Point: $21.99 ($87.96)
Profit After Fees & S/H: $16.17 ($74.68)
2 Sold in September, 2 sold in October

Are you beginning to see the possibilities? Your original $3 investment has snowballed into $74.68 in 4 months. If you held, then you might make $7.26 in November. If you send, you still might make $7.26 in November (it might not sell until then). Either way, sending & selling can work to your advantage, but especially if it's a low ranked item with zero to few sellers.

It's hard to predict when something might sell, but as I said before, it most certainly won't sell sitting in your house.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rule of Thumb: Estimating Fees While Sourcing

To move forward in any goal requires action. What have you done today to reach your dreams?

Amazon fees are high.

If you owned a brick and mortar store you would have to pay monthly: rent, utilities, employees, insurance, advertising & marketing, inventory, and many more little things that all add up to big expenses.

Amazon fees are peanuts compared to owning a brick & mortar store. Seriously.

In all honesty, I wish Amazon would just take a simple percentage in fees. At least it would be easier to calculate. I had to develop a little system to estimate my fees while out sourcing. I'm going to share my system with you today.

My system is based on a pro seller's account. If you have an individual seller's account, you will need to add 0.99 cents to your estimation. Beware that once you sell over 40 items a month, you're literally giving your money away to Amazon. Let's say you sell 80 items as an individual seller. You just gave $40 to Amazon. That's $40 you could have kept in your own pockets! Nuff' said.

I primarily source for small, lightweight products. This keeps my fees and shipping weight to a minimum. If you are sourcing oversized items, then check the FBA fees page in Seller Central.

Standard Media:
$1.02 + weight handling + 15% of sale price
When you consider weight, you need to consider both weight handling and inbound shipping. I round up to 0.50 cents (easier to calculate and gives me a little wiggle room).
$2.52 + 15% of sale price
Since I'm round up on weight handling / shipping, I could easily round down to $2 for simpler and quicker calculation.
$2 + 15% of sale price

Small, Lightweight Products (Standard Sized, Non Media):
$1.02 + $1.00 + weight handling + 15% of sale price
Example for product that is 1 lb. or less: $3.02 + 15% of sale price
Add $1 for each additional pound (keeping inbound shipping in mind)
Since I'm rounding up on weight handling / shipping, I could easily round down o $3 for simpler and quicker calculation.
$3 + 15% of sale price

Evernote Notes (Best. App. Ever.)
I keep the following notes on Evernote to help me make quick estimations (and remember, it's an estimate, not a perfect number):

Standard Media: $2 + 15% of sale price
Standard, Non Media: $3 + 15% of sale price (+$1 per lb. after 1 lb.)

Explanation of the Following - I've calculated the maximum cost of goods in order to take a certain amount of profit based on a specific price point. You can choose to lower the profit amount by either lowering the price point, or paying more than the listed max for the product. You can also up the price by a dollar or a few dollars. This is just a guide to quickly determine the potential profit you could make. Keep in mind that you want wiggle room to lower your price and get out of a product that is a bust. I keep this in my notes as a reference. 

Standard, Non Media, 1 lb. or less (subtract $1 from profit for every lb. over 1)

Price Point: $35.00
COSG Max: $6.75 ($11.75)
Profit: $20 ($15)

Price Point $30.00
COSG Max: $7.50 ($10.00)
Profit: $15 ($12.50)

Price Point: $25.00
COSG Max: $6.25 ($9.00)
Profit: $12 ($9)

Price Point: $20
COSG Max: $4.00 ($7.00)
Profit: $10 ($7)

Price Point: $15
COSG Max: $2.75 ($4.75)
Profit: $7 ($5)

Price Point: $7.99-$10
COSG Max: $1 or less
Profit: $2-4


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FBA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

YOLO! You can either begin now or wait until your dead.

Where do I find out why an item was returned?
Go to Reports>Fulfillment>Returns

My item was warehouse damaged. What do I do?
Amazon will reimburse warehouse damaged items. To keep a paper trail, open a ticket, give Amazon the ASIN information, tell them the item was warehouse damaged, and ask for reimbursement.

My item was damaged in transit. What do I do?
Same as warehouse damaged.

My item was returned to Amazon damaged. What do I do?
Put in a removal order and have the item sent back to you. Nine times out of ten the item is fine, and you can send it back. If it's truly damaged, you will need to consider selling it as used or on ebay, or writing it off as a loss.

Where do I see my sales?
Go to Orders>Manage Orders>Advanced Search>Click the radio button for Include pending orders>Click on Search. The greyed out items are pending orders. They will go black (and you will get an email) once they are shipped.

Why has my item stayed in pending orders for so long?
Items are pending until Amazon ships it out. How fast an order is shipped out depends on the shipping methods and time frame (Prime orders will ship out faster than non Prime orders). An item will also stay in pending while they gather multiple items for one order, or until the customer provides (or updates) credit card information. It's possible for a customer to make a purchase without realizing their credit card is outdated. They receive emails, but not everyone checks their email daily or even weekly (I know -hard to believe, but it happens).

Why is my item listed as in reserve?
Reason 1: The item is in pending orders. Reason 2: The item is being moved to a different warehouse. Reason 3: The item is being inspected for something (possibly restricted; new listing).

Is it okay to send an item in that's restricted?
Absolutely NOT.

Is it okay to send an item in that's in a gated category?
Do NOT send in an item for a gated category if you haven't gained approval. Example: Jewelry is gated. Costume jewelry is still jewelry. If you don't have approval to sell jewelry, then don't send any type of jewelry in to Amazon.

How do I get approved for a gated category?
Go to Seller Central, click on Help, click on Contact Us, click on Inventory (left-hand side), click on Permission to Sell New Products, Click on the category you want to sell in and READ THE REQUIREMENTS.
Note About Grocery, Health & Beauty, and Personal Care: In May 2014, Amazon gated these categories. Some sellers (those who had a history of selling in these categories) were grandfathered in and automatically approved. Everyone else had to request approval. At first, Amazon requested three invoices, then they allowed three receipts. There have been mixed responses from sellers requesting approval with receipts. Some have received approval while others have not. The latest deduction from the rejected sellers is that tenure as a seller is being considered. If you're very new to Amazon (possibly since April 2014), it appears that you will most likely be rejected. It is unknown how much time you need to be on Amazon before gaining approval to sell in these categories. If anyone is able to figure out this mystery, please post what you discover in the comments (or post your experience if it is different from the above).

What is a multipack?
Two or more of the SAME items packed together.

What is a bundle?
Two or more different, but complimentary items packed together.

Do I need a UPC code, and where do I get them?
If you need to create a new listing, you can use the UPC code on the product, but if that code is already in use, then you will need to purchase and use a new UPC code. You will also need a new UPC code for bundles. I purchase my UPC codes from leadingedgecodes on Ebay (no affiliation).

I received a low feedback rating. Can I get it removed?
If you receive a 4 or 5 star rating, it's advised to leave it alone even if the buyer says something in their comments about the product quality or price. If the buyer leaves product feedback, mentions price (or that they found it cheaper elsewhere), and the rating is 3 or below, open a ticket and request feedback removal. You may or may not be granted removal depending on the wording of the feedback, but always give it a try.

Do you have other questions (or questions / answers that you see frequently)? Please leave them in the comments.




Monday, July 14, 2014

FBA Workflow from Sourcing to Shipping

You can think about things all day long, but until you take action, nothing will happen.

My workflow has changed over time. I didn't even realize it until someone ran into a problem in their own workflow and posted about it on The FBA Flip Side Facebook group. I ship out about once a week or week and a half (depending on my life's schedule and the amount of sourcing money I have on hand). I label all of my own products, and allow Amazon to tell me where to ship. For this reason, I try to get at least 100 items into a shipment in order to fill up boxes.

Here is my workflow from beginning to end:

1. I keep my items safely tucked away in plastic boxes. When I come home from sourcing, I list everything that already has a listing page on Amazon. I set things aside that require a new listing, or belong to a bundle. I store all of the products I've listed together.

2. Once I've bought everything I'm going to buy during a cycle, I gather up all of the items that require a new listing -in other words -photos! I'm not the best photographer, so I have to really work at it. It's easier for me to photograph everything in one session. Once I have decent pictures, I use PhotoShop to give my photos a pure white background. I have a folder for bundles, and a folder with pictures for new listings. I store my photos on my computer until I'm ready to tackle new listings.

3. It's easier for me to tackle all of my new listings at once. I gather all of the items that require a new listing (including my bundles), and go to work. You might consider typing out your Key Features (the bullet points) and description in a Word document first, then copy / paste it in. Be careful not to linger while creating a listing. They can time out, and cause you to have to start all over again!

4. Next, I prep all of my items. I tackle all multiples together: shrinkwrap, polybag, sticker removal, cover barcodes, etc. This is a good time to print off your labels (I use 30 ups and only dream of the day someone buys me Dymo for Christmas -hint, hint to hubby). It's easier if you label all of your multiples together, so that you don't have to go on a search through your labels one item at a time. If I place a label onto the outside of shrinkwrap or a polybag, I cover it with clear packing tape to ensure that it doesn't fall off.

5. I'm ready to pack! I have an assortment of boxes on the ready. I begin by opening up the "Review Shipment" tab, and clicking on "View Shipping Contents" for each warehouse. Trust me when I say that you should PRINT the page opened to all of the contents for each warehouse. It will be multiple pages, but this is the way that I ensure that I don't mix up my widgets. I use a highlighter to highlight the fulfillment center, and put each FC's shipping content's pages together. I tackle one FC shipment at a time.

6. At this moment, I have 32 units going to RIC2. I gather up these items and put them into boxes. I write
RIC2 on the outside of the boxes (You can use more than one box if needed). As I place items into a box, I mark it off on my sheet, then once everything is accounted for, I double check one more time that everything that is supposed to go to this warehouse is packed. Then I stuff the box with dunnage and close it with packing tape.

7. Next, I weigh the box and write the weight on the outside of the box. This really helps if you have more than one box going to the same FC. I put in the weight and box measurements, add another box if I have more than one, calculate the shipping, then print off my labels. If you've written the weight on the outside of the box, then you can correspond the label to the box which ensures that you don't mix up your box labels! I label the box and cover the label with clear packing tape. Done!

8. I work on the next shipment (another FC) in the same way, and continue packing and labeling until I'm done. Once all of my boxes are packed, I harass my son or husband into loading the boxes into the car. If the boys can't go with me to UPS (work and school), I've discovered that the folks at the UPS center will kindly bring out their dolly and load my boxes out of my car, and take them in for me. It never hurts to ask! I've also been known to load them into a shopping cart (there is a Kroger next to my local UPS). A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!

This is my workflow process which is always a work in progress. What is your workflow process? Go ahead. Post your thoughts in the comments section.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Staying Focused with Sourcing Cycles

Focus on one task at a time and get it done.

If you're like me, you've tried numerous types of sourcing, experimented in different categories, and live in a chaotic mess. My next shipment is filled with replenishables, one offs, and bundles -all from different categories. No wonder I'm tired!

I've decided to focus my energies, and organize my sourcing into cycles. A cycle can last two days or two weeks -it's up to you, but I recommend focusing for a week or two. If you're dependent on payouts to source, then your cycle might last from one payout to the next, but the important thing is to stay focused during your sourcing cycle.

Sample of Sourcing Cycles

Cycle 1 - Replenishables
Replenishables (replens) are any product that you can purchase again and again and send it into FBA. It's something that sells consistently. And it doesn't have to be grocery, or health & beauty. I have replenishables in toys, baby, home & kitchen, and office supply. Replens are not just consumables, but the kinds of things that lots of consumers buy all the time. Think outside the replen box. A lot of my replens are also multipacks.

During your replenishables cycle, you'll want to do the following things:

  • Create "by store" lists of replens on Evernote. Keep it updated.
  • Check your replens to see how many are in stock, how many you're selling on average, and how many you should pick up.
  • Create a replens route. I have several on my list that I get from Walmart. I source at three Walmart stores. My goal is to go in, grab what I need, and get out. 
  • Check on prices and reprice as necessary. 
  • Review your profit margin. Determine if you should keep a replen or let it go.
  • Research, source, and test new replens (test 3 to 6 and track how fast it sells).

Cycle 2 - Bundles
Bundles are complimentary items that are packaged together. I'm becoming a bit of a bundle fanatic, so I need this cycle to stoke my creativity.

During your bundles cycle, you'll want to do the following things:

  • If you think of an idea for a bundle -write it down! 
  • Check to see how your bundles are selling and reprice if necessary.
  • This is a good time to set up advertising campaigns for your bundles.
  • Research the best prices for the different items you put in your bundle. Keep a list of everything that goes into a bundle, where each item is located, and the price. 
  • Write and publish exclusive information that you can include in your bundle to keep the copy cats at bay.
  • Brainstorm new bundle ideas and write them down. Test at least one new bundle idea during each bundles cycle.
  • Replenish any bundles that replenishable, and out of stock (or nearly out of stock).
  • Source the items you need for your bundle. Think about the best, most professional way to package your bundle, and purchase the necessary supplies.
  • Photography, list, prep, and pack your bundles.


Cycle 3 - One Offs
One offs are items that you generally buy just once, although you might buy more than one, but not too deep, and if the price is right. Your one off cycle is the time to hit all of your favorite hot spots and scan, scan, scan!

During your one offs cycle, you'll want to do the following things:

  • Check and reprice any one offs that have been sitting on the Amazon shelves for awhile.
  • See if you need to submit more details, or request a category change, and take care of it.
  • Review your past one offs to see which ones did well vs. which ones were duds. Keep your successes and mistakes in mind when you go out. 
  • Charge up your phone, and take an extra portable charger with you when you go out sourcing.
  • If you find a one off with potential, but without a current Amazon listing, think about your time vs. the profit potential. Creating a new listing is time consuming. Is it worth it? Can you pick up 3 or more? 


Cycle 4 - Category or Store
It's a good idea to spend time focused on a specific category or store (or maybe a specific category within a certain store). For example, you might decide to venture into the Baby category. You spend time learning as much as you can in this category by scanning, researching, and testing. Perhaps you want to become a Target expert. You live this cycle in Target (on and offline). This is a dedicated time to hone your sourcing skills, explore, and discover new treasures! Don't forget to learn about sale's cycles, store discounts, and to research which stores have the best prices in your category.

Preempt Cycle
A store is closing! It's the end of the season. There are huge clearance sales going on everywhere. It's Black Friday!

A Preempt Cycle is one that preempts another. Forget bundling this cycle. There's a store going out of business. It's okay to spend your money and time on a special occasion. Just plug this cycle in when needed.

Other Cycles
Perhaps you're thinking: When am I going to search exclusively online, focus on wholesale, or go thrifting? The sourcing cycles you choose to put into your business model are up to you. A lot sellers like to go wide, and source from a variety stores, in a number of categories. The Sourcing Cycle plan is to help you focus your time and money for better results while still taking advantage of the different opportunities available in this business. There are sellers who only source online, or focus on one category, or stick to one store, or only source wholesale. You've gotta do what works best for you.

Sourcing Cycles keep me focused. I can devote all of my time, energy, and funds in one direction without sacrificing other opportunities. It's the ultimate multitasking for an FBA business plan that goes wide.

Disclaimer: This doesn't mean that when I'm out picking up my replens, and I happen to run across a toy that I can rarely find, but I know sells like hot cakes for a ridiculous ROI that I won't snatch it while I can. I've done this when I've gone out grocery shopping for my family! If you create rules for yourself, then make your self-inflicted rules flexible for those magical sourcing discovery moments.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Going On A Q4 Toy Hunt

Decide upon a strategy and carry it through, evaluate and reflect on it, then revise it. 

I'm going on a toy hunt!

I haven't been through Q4, but everything I've read and heard indicates that it's going to be FANTABULOUS! I've been trying to learn as much as I can in order to develop a Q4 plan (the fourth quarter of the year -October, November, December). 

Toys are hot, hot, hot during the Christmas season, but I'm not going after the hot toys. Instead, I'm going after the popular characters. I can't compete with Amazon (or Walmart for that matter) the number 1 or even number 100 toy, so why bother? My goal is to make a profit, not play race to the bottom just to unload stuff.  

I have two main strategies that I plan to put into place:

1. Buy now. Buy clearance (60% off or better). Buy throughout the season until the "Too Late" timer goes off.

I picked up a toy yesterday at Walmart for $10. It's a major character, but the toy itself has it's own "characters". I remember seeing these last Christmas for $20-30. The price never dropped. In fact, I was surprised to find this one off for only $10. The other ones on the shelf were still full price! I scanned it, and found that there are only 2 FBA sellers, and the price ranges between $50-60. I don't think this is an easy to find toy, so I'm betting that the price will stick, and the rank is decent enough now to convince me that it will fly in Q4. 

When I go into a store (including grocery stores), I check the toy clearance sections. I don't mind if it sits in the warehouse for a couple of months. I'm stocking up on toys that I think will fly off the shelves as Christmas approaches. I stay focused on buying popular character and brand name toys. In truth, I'm not doing anything different that I've been doing in toys, I'm just trying to do more of it. July is "Tis' the Season to Discount Toys", so I'm getting as much as I can afford right now.

2. Bundle up.

I've been on a bundle kick for a few months now, but I really enjoy making bundles in toys. It's easy for me to think of themes, and put things together that I think would make that great extra little Christmas gift, stocking stuffer, or gift from aunty who lives across the country. I've been testing toy bundles for a few months, and my strategy is already working. I've sold out of one bundle packed with cool items for a popular character. Right now, I actually have more ideas than money!

I believe this is the time to make bundles for Christmas. Once Q4 hits, I hear that it's going to get CRAZY! I'm looking forward to every minute of it. I will come back at the end of the year, and let you know how my two strategies played out.

What are your toy buying strategies for Q4? Leave your answers in the comments. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

What Can I Sell on Amazon?

Successful people get that research is necessary, but action is mandatory.

The almighty question: What can I sell on Amazon?

The answer: stuff

Okay -that answer sucks. No one wants to hear "stuff" or "widgets" or "thingamigingys". But no one is going to tell you exactly what they sell either. Competition is stiff enough without inviting it.

So what can you sell on Amazon?

You can sell anything in a category that doesn't require approval. Start with toys, home & kitchen, office supplies, baby items (no clothes or accessories), sports & outdoor, and lawn & garden. You can sell just about anything in these categories (with some exceptions). It's your job to read through seller central and learn what can and can't sell. Do that first.

Once you have a handle on the categories -choose one. Pick one that you know something about. Your a gourmet chef (or at least that's what you try to be in the kitchen), then focus on kitchen stuff. You have a passel of kids -toys. You live and die for sports -yeah, sports. Pick a category in your comfort zone. Live and breathe it for awhile.

Then pick a store. Go to that store and scan everything in that category until you're done (which could take hours or days or weeks). Just pick a small section, and scan every single item in that section. When you find profit potential -go deeper with your research.

Researching a Potentially Profitable Item:

  • What is the buy box price?
  • How many sellers have the item (how many FBA and how many MF)?
  • What is the average low price among the 10 lowest priced sellers?
  • What is the ranking?
  • Is Amazon selling this item themselves?
  • How much profit could you make after cost, fees, and shipping & handling?
  • How much does the item weigh? How big is it? (Weight & size effects shipping costs inbound and fee wise.)
Once you've discovered a potential item look to see if you can buy more than one. Most sellers suggest testing 3 to 5 to see if it's a seller. If you can get 10, and the cost is super low (like a dollar or so), then you might go ahead and splurge. This is something you have to decide. 

Keep working the category in this one store, then move to another store, and then another. Get a strong sense of what sells in this category, what makes a good profit, and where to find the best deals. Do an online comparison as well. 

You will probably find stuff that no one else has found, or only one or two sellers have found. Stick with the buy box price. Don't go low to go fast and end up taking everyone to the bottom with you. If it's already selling at $20, then it will sell at $20. If there are other sellers -SHARE the buy box. It's okay! You will get your turn. If you price your item at $10 just because you can, you might sell it a little faster, but you're also leaving a lot of money on the table! And other sellers will not thank you for it. So please...don't go there (tirade over).

There you go. You can sell stuff on Amazon. Lots of stuff.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Perfect White Background Using Adobe PhotoShop

Perfection is a matter of practice and perseverance, and not expecting true perfection. Be as perfect as you can be.

A number of years ago, I went for broke and bought Adobe Creative Suite which includes PhotoShop. I confess that the only thing I bothered to learn was how to change the size of an image. The program is so complicated that it boggled my mind. And that is what I kept telling my son who is a self-taught PS master. Couldn't he fix the white background for me?

He did fix several photos while complaining that it wasn't that hard, and that I could learn to do if I would just listen. Meh...

I finally gave in, and he's right -it's not that hard.

First of all, you need to take the best picture you can. Light is key in photography. I'm far from being a great photographer. In fact, I use my cell phone to take my pictures for newly created listings on Amazon. I have learned a couple of tricks. I take pictures in my kitchen (during daylight hours) because it has the brightest light when I turn on all of the lights. I use a white poster board for the background unless the item is white, then I use a blue or green poster board. Once I'm satisfied with the picture, I open it up in PS on my computer. (I just randomly grabbed a book in my house for this example. I didn't take a lot of time trying to get a great photo. This is for white background demonstration purposes only.)

There are two tools that I use to create a white background. I don't know what they are actually called. I call them the Magic Wand and the Coat Hanger.
I start by clicking on the Magic Wand, then I click into the space that needs to be white. Sometimes it will magically make fabulous straight lines all the way around the object, and sometimes I have to keep clicking throughout the space until the lines are clean.

Keep clicking on the fuzzy black lines until it's nice and clean all the way around.








Next, hit the DELETE key. Your white background is there, but you're not done just yet. You have to click on SELECT, then click on DESELECT.
If you're edges are clean and white, save your picture. You are done!

But wait...
Do you see the grayish yucky edge? Sometimes it doesn't come out clean and white around the edges. Click on the Coat Hanger tool, then click exactly on the edge of where you want to create a line. Drag the tool until you reach the end of the space, then drag it up, over, and around until you've created a blocked off area. Double click where the blocked off area connects. Hit the DELETE key. Click on SELECT, then click on DESELECT. Work in the same manner until you've cleaned up all of the gray, yucky area and your background is nice and white.


I confess that it took me a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that you can fix your white background using PhotoShop in no time. 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Source for Products in Your Underwear

Work smarter, not harder. Efficiency is key.

Why should you waste gas when you can source for products from the comfort of your home in your underwear, PJ's, or naked (who cares, right)? Sourcing online has its advantages, but if you're like me, you probably have already checked Walmart.com and Target.com only to come up bust.

There are people who do all of their sourcing online. They don't fight the crowds or other scanners. They use their computer and their noggin to find everything they want and need. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

Advantages
You don't have to leave the comfort of your home, put miles on your car, or pay for gas. You can avoid the screaming kids, and the lady who always knocks into your basket to get by. You no longer have to endure the odd stares, or nosy comments and questions about the contents of your shopping cart.

Disadvantages
You have to pay for shipping (unless you can find a coupon), and wait for the arrival of your products which cuts down on your time to get it into FBA.

Every time I looked online, I came up empty handed. One day I had an idea for a bundle, and headed to Walmart to pursue a specific home & kitchen product. I was surprised that I couldn't find this particular product at a reasonable price. I went home disappointed, but then I decided to do an online search. I had to go a bit deep, but I eventually found the item and a price comparison site. Walmart had the highest price! The lowest price was on a site that I'd never heard of. I went exploring.

And through this discovery, I had a major ah-ha. Everyone and their dog sources online at all of the well
known stores. If Walmart can sell it, so can Amazon. The reason I kept coming up bust on my online searches was because I was searching in all of the wrong places. This small site that I found has great prices, and lots of interesting products. I ordered my item, and filled my cart with other items. Then I bookmarked this site and created a folder specifically for online FBA sourcing.

What did I learn? Search deep and find small shops that not everyone in the free world has heard of. As you're searching: think bundles. I found an item sold by Amazon with a low rank. I knew that even with the low price this site offered that I couldn't make a profit. I considered making a multipack of 2, but as I scrolled down I found two complimentary items. Bundle!

My new goal is to find one or two new sites each week that the whole world has yet to discover. I'm searching for small mom and pop online shops with great bargains and quality merchandise. Before I order, I always look for a coupon code. Take the time to see how the site advertises. Like their Facebook page if they post their coupon codes. Sign up for their emails (use an email just for this purpose to keep your email from being cluttered). You can spend your time trying to beat all of your competitors to the Walmart clearance rack, or searching nomorerack.com like everyone else, or you could take the time to search for the elusive, smaller companies and get an edge on your competition.

Now I still like going out and about and sourcing. It's fun! But sometimes I get weary of not finding what I want (especially when I'm thinking about bundles), so I've turned to online searches while sitting in my pajamas and drinking my coffee.