Sunday, August 31, 2014

Random FBA Notes & Thoughts

Our thoughts create our reality.

Random FBA Notes & Thoughts:

1. If you've been using balloons to replace air pillows, please STOP NOW. I asked seller central about this practice (after hearing that someone got a policy warning), and this was their response: Balloons are not acceptable as they do not protect the product from the damage and hence results in damaged goods received in the Shipment.

2. There are lots of unofficial lists floating around of products that have been restricted, yet on those same lists are products that other sellers have sent in without issue. I think it's safe to say that anything that could be potentially hazmat, high end brands like Coach (even accessories like key chains), liquids (over 4 oz in glass containers are not allowed FBA), powders (anything with phosphate -even food items), and glass could cause you problems, so proceed with caution.

As Q4 gears up, there are a few toy items that you simply need to avoid: Disney Frozen (all products were FROZEN by Amazon without special approval), Rainbow Loom, and Discovery Toys. Some sellers have had Hello Kitty items restricted while others have sold them without issue. It's a toss! Amazon doesn't have an official list which is part of the problem, so I've learned that if you're in doubt, ASK seller central. Get their answer in writing! If a toy is super popular, and could possibly have counterfeits running around, then you need to be cautious.

3. Source outside of the box -big box stores that is. Look local. Think about places that might have items you can source that people wouldn't typically think to look there. Do you have a chain of stores that is specific to your state or region? What about mom and pop shops? Do you live in the city? Take a country sourcing trip. Do you live in the country? Go into the city for a day or two. Get out of your comfort shopping zone, and look for the unexpected in the places least hunted. Think of it like one big giant Easter egg hunt! Where might those valuable eggs be hidden?

4. Get a handle on your numbers. Get your focus on. Set goals. (Note to self).

5. Set a sourcing budget. Plan what / where / how. Focus on one type of sourcing at a time (category, store, online, niche, bundles, multipacks, fast turns, long tails, ect.). For example, I've been focused mainly on toys this week. Next week, I will probably focus on replens, but I also have some bundles I want to explore, so I might take a week just to focus on that. There are so many ways to go about this that it helps to focus on one at a time and rotate. Keep adding baskets for your multicolored eggs.

Monday, August 25, 2014

FBA Quick Tip of the Week

You are the inventor of your destiny.

Here is a quick tip for all of you FBA sellers out there:

Go through your inventory, and if you have anything priced $30-34.99, then change your price to $35.00. I was just looking at something I sold for $35.00. I have one more left, and I noticed that there are two sellers priced below me: one at $34.99 and one at $34.94.

What's wrong with this picture? Why did mine sell even thought it's priced higher?

FREE SHIPPING! Non Prime members get free shipping when their purchases equal $35.00 or more. Pricing right under $35 is leaving customers to other sellers! Swoop in and do your repricing. Thirty-five is the magic number.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Walmart Savings Catcher

Pennies add up to dollars.

Catch a little savings from your Walmart trips. Set up a free Walmart Savings Catcher account, and begin entering your receipts each time you shop.

It's so simple! If a local competitor has a lower price, then Walmart will give you the difference in the form of a gift card. Don't expect to get big bucks back however, let your little savings add up to a decent amount, then redeem your gift card. Buy products for FBA, and double or triple your savings!

You can also download the Savings Catcher app from Google Play or Apple App Store. Scan your receipt on the way out the door! A moments effort adds up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Flexibility of an FBA Business

Unwrap a challenge and accept it as a gift of your strength.

This past week my family has faced some unexpected challenges. I needed to stop everything, and devote my full attention to unwrapping this gift. If I had a day job, I would not be able to do that which would have made the challenge more difficult and stressful. 

Although my FBA business is not at full time status, I am so grateful that I've found something that allows flexibility in my life. The beauty of FBA~

  • I choose my own hours which allows me to devote time to my family.
  • My business continues on even when I can't.
  • My shipment can sit while I weather life's storms. There are no deadlines. As soon as the sun shines again, I can pick right back up where I left off.
  • I can take my business with me when I travel.
  • I can work on my business from home or a waiting room.
  • I can set my own pace.
  • I can choose how much I invest -in both time and money.
FBA all the way!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Buying Decisions

You might not know what is behind the door, but if you never open it, you will never find out.

What should you consider when making buying decisions for FBA?

  • Your cost of goods. Set a budget when you go out sourcing and stick with it. Try to get the most items with the highest ROI potential that you can buy on your fixed amount.
  • Average buy box price. Don't just look at the buy box. What is the average price of the lowest priced five sellers? Now subtract your cost of goods. 
  • Fees. You need to consider weight and size. If it's a heavy item or a large item, then it's going to cost you more in fees. Run the numbers through the FBA calculator.
  • What is your potential ROI? Is it double or triple your money? Is it a slim 10-20%? How much wiggle room do you have if Amazon or another seller drops the price? 
  • How many FBA sellers? And how many does each seller have available (put the item in your cart, then edit it to reflect the highest number you could purchase, then delete it from your cart). The more FBA sellers that have the product available the longer it will take to sell (even when the rank is super low).
  • Rank. The lower the rank the better, but how fast a rank of 25K will move in groceries vs. how fast in home & kitchen is drastic. Ranking changes on the hour too, so if one just sold the rank will go down, but if it hasn't sold in a long time it will go up. 
  • How fast (based on the above information) do you believe the item will sell, and how long can you afford to sit on it?
  • Is Amazon selling it? You can sell items that Amazon is selling. Despite the popular belief, Amazon does share the buy box, but they also have tremendous buying power and can afford to drop the bottom out of your price. They also tend to run out, and when you get your turn, you can sweep up the money at a higher price.
  • Is it an add on item? Add ons are known to be slow sellers, but if there is only one or two sellers, and super duper low rank, add ons do sell. Add on with caution.
  • Only consider reviews if the item is one or two stars. It's possible the item is a dud, and would end up a return if you sent it in. 
  • Hassle. Is the potential ROI worth the hassle? Is it oversized or heavy? Do you need to shrinkwrap, polybag, add expiration dates, etc.? Your time is also a commodity.
There is not an exact formula for success. There are many variables to making buying decisions. In the end, you have to make a quick analysis of the data, and essentially make an educated guess. You will guess right a lot of the time, but sometimes you make a buying error. Retail stores make buying errors as well. The widget they thought would be hot turns out to be not. It's part of business. Take in all of the data and make the best decision possible with the information you have on hand.

P.S. Avoid glass grocery / health & beauty products over 4 ounces, high end designer names, gated categories (that you don't have permission to sell in), any potential hazmat items, and items that fragile or easily breakable (unless you are a super hero packer).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Variety Packs

Stop thinking outside the box. Invent the damn box!

I recently posted about my inquiry to Amazon concerning multipacks. In Amazon's response, they mentioned Variety Packs.
  • Multipacks are 2 or more of the exact same item.
  • Bundles are made up of different, complimentary items.
  • Variety Packs are made of two or more flavors of the same item.
An example of a variety pack: 1 jar of creamy peanut butter and 1 jar of crunchy peanut butter (same size, same brand).

The term variety pack got me to noticing. As I was researching a category of grocery items this morning, I noticed that one very popular brand had lots of multipacks, but not any variety packs. Now I have a plan to create two new variety packs for a low ranking brand in which the individual items (and multipacks) have great ROI. Just thinking the words variety pack stimulated my brain and opened a window. 

As I searched Amazon, I discovered a variety pack packaged as a gift! Now that's what I'm talking about -variety, creativity, and possible exclusivity. 

What is so great about variety packs? Not every store offers every flavor. Some buyers might not want to buy 12 or 24 of one flavor, but would like to try out different flavors.

Just make sure you follow Amazon's bundling and multipack guidelines for variety packs. All of the flavors must be shown in the main picture (with the pure white background), and the title / description / key features must have all of the required information.

Variety packs - I'm on it!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Should I Go Into Debt for My FBA Amazon Business?

Patience isn't just a virtue, it's a business building necessity.

FBA Amazon is one of the simplest, low entry level businesses that you can enter, and make a fast return on your investment. There are sellers who begin their business with $50, and sellers who start out with $5000, and everything in between and then some.

So what should you do?

First, what do you have available? How much can you afford to invest without going into debt, dipping into your savings, or putting a major dent into your household budget? Start there.

Second, what can you do to raise seed money without going into debt? Hold a garage sale. Sell clutter on eBay. Save your change. Take on some temporary, part-time work.

Several years ago, my hubby and I attended a Dave Ramsey course at our local church. We cut up our credit cards, worked on snowballing our debt, and live on a cash basis.

There are those who will argue that personal debt is different from business debt, but in my opinion, if you're responsible for repaying the debt, then it's still your debt. Do you really want to go there?

The beauty of this business is that you can spend a small amount of investment money, then reinvest your payouts until you reach a point where you feel as if you can justify paying yourself. No debt needed.

Some people invest more than they really have, then panic when their items don't sell as quickly as they had projected. Some people invest too deep in one product, and put too much hope into getting their money out, then something goes wrong, and they freak out. Don't invest more than you're comfortable losing. You will most likely make your money back, but sometimes you make a buying mistake, so you have to plan for that. You might get a return -another hit to the pocketbook. If you invest too deeply, going into debt, and things go awry, then you're stuck.

There are sellers who use credit cards or take out small loans from sites like Kabbage. Oh, the temptation! Imagine being able to invest a few thousand in time for Q4! A disciplined person might feel certain that they will pay off their debts monthly. A business minded person might determine that short term loans for capital is simply apart of doing business. A desperate person might be willing to take a risk. But is it necessary?

Instead, what if you used your small, piddly amounts to carefully research and invest in fast turn replenishables? Could you turn $50 into $100 within a couple of weeks, or by the next payout? How about snowballing those payouts into more fast turn replens? Could you turn that $100 into $200 sooner rather than later? Patience is not just a virtue, it's the key to staying debt free while you build your little Amazon empire.

I've seen sellers in the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1 - I pulled the trigger and took out a Kabbage loan for Q4. I thought I'd be able to pay it all off, but I made some buying mistakes, and now I'm stuck with the debt. 

Scenario 2 - I put all of my eggs into one basket. I went deep on this product, and now someone has come in and undercut my price! I need to sell these items, or I won't be able to pay my electric bill this month. 


As tempting as $500 from Kabbage, or elsewhere might be, I recommend taking the turtle route. Slow and steady builds this business -debt free.

As great as one product might seem to be, you never know how things might change. I recommend taking the wide diversification route. Debt and depth are two "D's" on a report card leading to an "F" which equals Fatal mistake. You might be able to overcome your F, and pull it back up to an A (A for Awesome), but is the stress worth it?

If you don't have $500 or a $1000 that you can comfortably take out of your own budget, then in all honesty, you can't really afford the debt. Risk taking is one thing. Packing that first box is risky. Investing anything at all is risky. There isn't a need to take a financial risk when patience will pay off in the end.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mistakes Happen

No one is perfectly perfect. Just be the best you can be, do the best you can do, and learn from your mistakes.

I made a mistake.

I left out a small item in a bundle.

Feedback: 1

The hard part is that the item was sent as a gift to a child in the hospital. I even read the gift note.

I apologized up one side and down the other, issued a full refund, and I'm sending the missing item, plus an  extra child friendly bundle through Priority Mail.

It was a mistake, but it was my mistake, and I accept full responsibility. I'm not blaming the customer or crying foul. I'm doing everything I can to resolve the issue. I hope the buyer will be forgiving and remove the poor feedback, but I'm not counting on it. I will double check all of my bundles in the future. I probably got distracted when I was packing it up.

I will not let this minor bump in the road slow me down, or stop me from building my business.

Mistakes happen.

Monday, August 4, 2014

FBA Tool Kit

Every day is a chance to begin again.

FBA Tool Kit - Where have you been all of my FBA life?

Seriously. How did I miss this? Sign up now. It's free.

I just found it. Literally 10 minutes ago. It's worth blogging about because it gives me one piece of critical information for my product research - average sales per day / month! Plug in the UPC or EAN for a product to get a report with ranking and average sales. It even links you over to Amazon to double check the numbers.

I will continue exploring, and I will be on guard to watch this site for accuracy. Pretty cool tool. Go check it out for yourself, or if you have experience with it, please leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Update: Use Evernote to Snap Sourcing Pictures

Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.
~Zig Ziglar

Drumroll please....
Before I begin today's post, if you haven't heard, the Amazon Seller's App for android is now available! 

I recently discovered that you can download Evernote to your computer! Take that discovery one step further. I blogged about taking pictures of a section of the grocery store in order to research at home. At first, I did this with my phone camera, but now I use Evernote.

Yesterday, my hubby and I went to look at a new bed frame on clearance for our son. I snapped a picture in Evernote, made a note of the price for a queen and twin, and the name of the store.

When I opened the note up on my computer, I discovered that I can double click on the picture and open it in Microsoft Office Picture Maker. I like opening my pictures here because I can zoom in and see the detail of the product, as well as the price on the shelf.

When you go out sourcing, and you want to snap a picture of a section in the store, simply use Evernote. Now you can add a note with the name and location of the store, aisle number, and any other pertinent information to help you research later. 

Go home and do your research in your pjs! 

I found a new grocery item with a low rank, only one other seller, and a high ROI last week using this method. I made a new note in Evernote of products I wanted to pick up on my next sourcing trip. Snap sourcing is the best thing every!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quality Alerts on Amazon

When it rains, open an umbrella.

Ahhh! Those quality alerts! At first, they freaked me out, then I read on various groups that most people ignored them, so I ignored them.

Then we got that email...

You know...the one that says "fix it or they will suppress it". Yikes!

I'm trying. I really am, and it's a good thing. I discovered that the picture from my bundle disappeared! I have some new listings that I couldn't quite get the category perfectly perfect. I noticed some details missing from some other listings. The titles on some listings suck (no other way to put it really -just bad, bad, bad).

Click on your Quality Alerts (they show up on your landing page). Take one quality alert category at a time
and tackle it. If it's something you can go in and edit -give it a go. If your changes don't take place after 24 hours, open a case with seller central.

If it's something that you can't edit either because you're missing information, or the system just won't let you do it (changing categories is one), then open a case.

You might have to do a removal order for an item in order to snap a new picture, and to get the details for the product (if you can't easily get your hands on another one). I had to do that for one product.

You might have items that you no longer sell with a quality alert. You can remove them from your inventory or ignore them.

You can also hope another seller does the job for you and that the quality alert will go away, but don't count on it.

Avoid future quality alerts by checking listings for good pictures, and well written titles, key features, and descriptions before you list the item. This small step might take a little extra time up front,  but it will save you a serious headache later! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Discovery Sourcing

Today is a great day to get started on the rest of your life.

Shhh! I'm going to tell you a secret. It's just between us, okay?

I uncovered a new way to "discover" potentially profitable products. It was easy, kind of fun, and I found several new possibilities in about 45 minutes.

I searched Amazon.

There's a little more to it than that.

I picked a grocery product. Something simple like cookies or cereal. Then I clicked to search Prime only, and a price range of $20-50.

Next - I clicked on a product (rather randomly), then I clicked on the link to the seller who had the buy box.

This is where the discovery sourcing began. Out of curiosity, I scanned through one seller's store. In a few minutes, I began to notice something: great selling, familiar products with only one seller. I started taking notes. I wrote down information about products that I wanted to check the prices on the next time I go into the store, and product lines that are worth scanning. I found one grocery bundle that I already know the price on because I buy it for my family! I've already run the numbers, so it's definitely something I'm planning on testing out in my shipment.

Another thing I've discovered through this method is ideas for bundles. I really don't have any interest in stepping in on other's creative bundles (except for grocery variety packs that are easy), but I love seeing what others are doing, and how well they are doing it (by looking at ranking). This has given me a lot of food for thought. My creative juices are flowing!

This discovery method forces me to think outside the box, to consider scanning products that I've passed up, and to put a different perspective on what sells on Amazon. One thing I won't do is undercut someone's price. If I go in on a product that someone has been selling by themselves, I will match their price. That's my personal policy. If it's selling at that price, then there isn't any reason to start a race to the bottom.

Everyone is always wondering what everyone else is doing, and in truth, our products are not a secret. They are on Amazon for everyone to see! Digging around Amazon in different ways is a way to discovery the possibilities, to formulate new ideas, and to get creative. It's all right there, and it's public. It's all about noticing, paying attention, and realizing which products are available to you that you haven't thought about before, and that is what I call "discovery sourcing".