Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How I Started Selling on Amazon and the Experiences that Followed

I first started selling on Amazon in September of 2013. I was recruited by a representative on Amazon that summer and over the course of a few months, I diligently worked on compiling a spreadsheet for them. He created a Brand account for me and held my hand (metaphysically) through the entire process. At that time, I was selling on both my website and Etsy and had just opened my retail store (not to mention my daughter was about 6 months at the time), so this was a new challenge to add to the mix.


My sales in the first few months were sad, but still probably better than I did on my website. I had about 5 sales a week for the first 2 months. It was pretty easy to manage. I shipped directly through Amazon's interface, but pulling orders was time consuming.

At this point in my business I had not been pre-packaging any of my products, so as an order came in, I manually counted out what I was shipping and sealed them in a little plastic baggie. Selling on Amazon was really an experiment for me.

Three months passed and I spent the holidays working on adding new products to Amazon. I went from earning $100 a month on Amazon to about $400 a month by summertime. I had also moved my shop to a busier location and bought a counting scale to help me package. Believe it or not, I was counting out all my inventory manually for a year before my husband asked me one day, "Have you ever tried using a counting scale?" Not sure why it took him nearly a year for him to realize if I had, I would have used one.

What a life saver....a year late.

Amazon sales kept steady for the remainder of 2014 and it kept growing in 2015. I had very little competition on Amazon until mid 2015. More on that in just a bit. Fast forward to 2018 and Amazon continues to brings in about 40% of our revenue, allowing me to support my entire family while my husband concentrates on designing a multi-channel inventory syncing software for me. (The slated release of this amazing software is February of 2019, so stay tuned).

I am reaching my 5 year anniversary of selling on Amazon and I have learned many lessons on adaptation and reorganization. A couple years after selling on Amazon, a flood of Chinese sellers jumped on boat, tipping the scale for small businesses like mine. My best selling item, which I was selling for $25-30 suddenly dropped to zero sales. I did a little research and found that my best selling product was being offered by Chinese sellers for only $3.

That was a huge blow and I had just invested an additional $1000 into that inventory (and for the record, I still have 3 boxes of it). It hit my bottom line pretty hard. I had to step back from my business on Amazon and make some decisions. Sales had died and I needed to figure out how to get it back. The novelty of Prime was kicking in and I evaluated my options.

I packaged up all that extra inventory I couldn't sell and sent it Amazon for Fulfillment. I also had to drop my prices to about $8 which included shipping. This also got me reevaluating my shipping costs. I had so many people complaining about shipping costs on a $3 item. I changed my products to include all my shipping charges. So instead of $3 plus shipping, I changed the item to $6 with free shipping. To my Amazon customers this was a great deal. FREE SHIPPING!!!

To help offset some of the shipping costs I also offer customers 10% off for multiple item purchases. It helped re-energize my sales.

As time passed, most of those initial Chinese sellers all were removed from Amazon. Understand that Amazon has a strict 48 hour shipping policy. You have to ship within 48 hours to keep your account in good standing. I believe there are exceptions with how you set up your account, but my account was set up for 48 hours shipping time.

Luckily this does not include weekends, so I don't have to ship on Saturdays. If you miss shipping deadlines, your ratings decline and Amazon will not show your products on the the first several pages even if it is relevant to a product search. They will eventually remove sellers that have a negative rating, which is why all those Chinese sellers disappear shortly after they arrive. I still see this true. There have been a few products of mine this has happened to.

A few years passed and a friend at my daughter's school told me how she had received a follow up email from an Amazon seller, checking in and asking for feedback. She suggested I do the same because she felt a personal connection to them. I thought that was a great idea and proceeded to sign up with a service that sends follow up emails. I'm not going to mention the company here because the guy has some other businesses that seem like a bit of a scam, but the email software works for me. On a side note, the email follow ups will be a feature of our software, so no extra $40 a month for that pretty soon.

The reviews really helped my page ranking too. Having the reviews on my Amazon store has been really good for business.



Amazon has another feature called Enhanced Brand Content that I have taken advantage of. I'm not sure what the deal is, if this is a feature for Brand accounts only, or if anyone can use them. They changed their Brand requirements since I joined, but I'm kind of grandfathered in. The new requirement is that you have to have a trademark of some kind to be able to have a Brand Account. Having a Brand account also negates the requirement of having UPCs.

What the Enhanced Brand Content does for me is it allows me to have a custom description for a product including additional images. This is what my underwire listing looks like.



There is also an Amazon advertising account that is linked to your store, but thats a whole other animal that I won't be discussing here. If you are interested, comment below and I will see what I can whip up for you.

Amazon has been a fun experiment in growing my business. I feel like I got in early, but maybe I'm just seasoned now. I'll have to write another post about how I got selling on Walmart too, but today I need to go to the gym and get a little work out in.

Check out my Amazon shop here: Porcelynne Amazon Store

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