Selling On Amazon: A Seller’s Perspective

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Selling on Amazon’s Marketplace has become wildly popular the last few years. It’s estimated that 43% of every dollar spent in U.S. will be spent on Amazon in 2017 and likely to continue growing in 2018.

“43% of every dollar spent in U.S. will be spent on Amazon”
– eMarketer

We interviewed an Ohio business owner who has grown their business on Amazon to learn more about their experience running and promoting their e-commmerce business.

Q: What’s your business and how did you get started selling on Amazon?

A: For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by Jeeps. The seven slot grill, the round headlights, doors off, top down, climbing over rocks – what’s not to love? I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and after more than 15 years in the corporate world, it was time for a change. Combining my passion for Jeeps with my experience in marketing, advertising and product sourcing led to my wife and I starting our own company in 2013.

After looking at the competitive landscape of some of my favorite Jeep accessories, I decided to test the waters in the Jeep sunshade market. There were a few companies manufacturing aftermarket shade solutions for Jeeps, but most of them were not reaching the everyday Jeep owner. They were targeted at hard core owners who were off-roading every weekend and had a dedicated Jeep as a second vehicle.

“I quickly discovered that I could improve the product, make it faster, cheaper and leverage Amazon”

I quickly discovered that I could improve the product, make it faster, cheaper and leverage Amazon’s vast distribution network. With an initial investment of $10,000 and many hours of negotiating with suppliers, Alien Sunshade was formed.

Q: What challenges did you encounter while getting your business ready to sell on Amazon?

A: The biggest challenge was the unknown. I had made plenty of purchases on Amazon and sold old cell phones, computers, and kids clothes on eBay, but I had not idea how to sell on Amazon and limited experience running a business. It was overwhelming at times trying to figure out things like taxes, insurance, procurement, building a website, starting a Facebook page, etc. Additionally, when we first started out we packaged our own products, so I underestimated the amount of physical work required to get products ready to go to Amazon. We’ve come a long way over the past four years and have streamlined our operations significantly as we set the stage for future growth of the brand.

Q: Do you use Amazon’s PPC to sell products? If so, what has your experience been with their ad platform and the results?

A: Yes, we view pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as an investment in our brand. We are a registered brand on the Amazon platform and have access to Amazon Marketing Services, an enhanced marketing platform that gives us additional paid exposure to potential customers. For the first three years I did the PPC advertising myself. As the company has grown, we have brought on additional resources to optimize our advertising spend. Earlier this year, I had a comprehensive analysis done by an outside expert and we made significant changes in terms of our how we leverage our PPC.

Q: Do you actively optimize your listings with keywords or other SEO tactics?

A: We are constantly updating our listings, keywords and SEO content, specifically on aliensunshade.com. We get a treasure trove of data from Amazon that we leverage on our own website and on Google shopping.

“…we’re continuously monitoring the marketplace to help guide us…”

While our core keywords remain the same, we’re continuously monitoring the marketplace to help guide us in updating our product descriptions, headlines and meta data.

Q: Do you use Amazon’s FBA or drop shipping? If so, what are the pros and cons?

A: We do both FBA and drop shipping. Our high-volume SKUs are all handled via Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA). It’s extremely efficient to plug into Amazon’s ecosystem, ship them product. Once they have the product in their warehouse, Amazon handles the transaction, payment, fulfillment, and customer service. We also have a third-party logistics company that warehouses our products and offers a pick, pack, and ship service. They handle fulfillment for our website and any merchant fulfilled Amazon orders. If you’re looking to scale your business, companies like this can be a life-saver.

Q: Do you have any tips or suggestions for people new to selling on Amazon or looking to grow their business on Amazon?

Know your numbers – It’s critical to understand this before you decide to invest in a product. Product cost, shipping, Amazon fees, advertising, fulfillment and other costs can add up quickly. Make sure your numbers make sense before you buy or manufacture a product.

Ask for help – You won’t know how to do everything, but chances are there is someone in your network who can help you. Ask them! Also, don’t be afraid to hire a freelancer to get things done – you’ll often find they can do things faster and better than you.

Take care of your customers – Amazon can be a daunting marketplace to tackle, but it still comes back to the core principals of retail. Treat your customers well, they will come back and reward you with repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

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