By Cliff Ennico
Over two million Americans make a full-time or part-time living selling merchandise on Amazon.com.
Roughly 200 of them attended last week’s Sellers’ Conference of Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE) in Philadelphia, a semi-annual trade show focused entirely on the do’s and don’t’s of selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other popular online retail platforms.
Attendees were treated to three whole days of world-class speakers (including – full disclosure – yours truly, who gave a talk titled “Beyond Amazon and eBay: Building a Successful e-Commerce Empire, One Step at a Time”), presentations by 36 companies providing goods and services to Amazon sellers, and networking opportunities with sellers from the United States, Canada, China, Japan and Israel in virtually all Amazon merchandise categories.
Here are some cool things I learned, and some new resources I learned about, last week in Philadelphia.
“You cannot overestimate the importance of product reviews when selling on Amazon,” according to Chad Rubin, founder of Crucial Vacuum (www.crucialvacuum.com), the leading seller of vacuum cleaners on Amazon, pointing out that the best-selling (and highest rated) vacuum cleaner on Amazon is not available in Target, Wal-Mart, or indeed anywhere else in the “brick and mortar” world.
If an item isn’t selling quickly on Amazon, sellers often have to reprice the item frequently in order to stay in Amazon’s “buy box”, and that’s tough when you have hundreds of items listed. FeedVisor (www.feedvisor.com) is a repricing software program that uses a self-learning, constantly improving algorithm which checks hundreds of thousands of competitive products every minute and automatically reprices your items so you stay competitive.
“You know those Coinstar machines in the supermarkets where you can get rid of your excess coins and they charge you an 8 percent processing fee? Many of these machines offer Amazon gift cards in lieu of cash back, and if you choose to take the gift card, they often will waive the 8% fee!”, according to Jason T. Smith, star of the “Thrift Hunters” reality television show on the Spike cable channel.
Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of listing your items separately on the 22 most popular online retail platforms, you only had to do it once and push a button? Check out Zoobilee – you enter your inventory to your Zoobilee account via upload or FTP. Your listing is then sent to the venue(s) you select at the price(s) you specify, along with your photos and other images.
“We used to measure advertising success in terms of the cost of every thousand customers reached, or CPM. Today, thanks to Facebook and other social media sites that track your online activity, we have a new metric – CPP or ‘cost per pixel’,” according to John “ColderICE” Lawson (www.colderice.com).
You probably know that Uber.com offers peer-to-peer “sharing economy” taxi service in many large American cities. But did you know that Roadie offers a similar service for package delivery? These guys are going to give UPS a run for their money.
You would like to sell in Amazon’s popular “Fulfillment By Amazon” (FBA) program, but you are concerned that you will have to collect sales tax in each state where FBA warehouses your merchandise. To respond to this problem, a number of smaller companies offer “in state” warehousing and fulfillment services so you can participate in FBA without your merchandise ever leaving your home state. If you are a seller in Michigan, for example, check out Port City Fulfillment Center (www.portcityfulfillment.com).
And if you do have to collect sales tax in another state, TaxJar (www.taxjar.com) will do the paperwork for you.
Still using Google AdWords to find the right keywords for your product listings? MerchantWords has an inexpensive database of the top 20 million Amazon keywords.
Many Amazon sellers are looking to sell their own branded or “private label” merchandise online. The key to private label success, according to MillionaireDrive CEO Danny Hausmann, is to “choose items that weigh less than three pounds, can be priced between $20 and $300, are durable, small and easy to pack, and have no obvious liability risks.”
Sam Cohen (www.amazonconsultingexperts.com), a $10 million a year Amazon seller, advised attendees to “back up the truck” on merchandise tied to this year’s new Star Wars movie, which he predicted would leave the merchandise sales records set last year by Disney’s “Frozen” in the dust.
Speaking of “frozen,” many speakers at SCOE offered tips to attendees on what to do when Amazon shuts down your selling account due to a perceived infraction of one of their many rules. According to Amazon seller coach Bob Willey (www.sellercoaching.com), the key is to make sure your e-mail to Amazon’s dispute resolution team contains the words “buyer satisfaction”. Doing so sends the signal you are a conscientious seller and, according to Willey, “there’s a greater chance your message will reach a sympathetic support person.”
The next SCOE will take place October 2-4, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. If you sell on Amazon, book your reservations now.
Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of Small Business Survival Guide, The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book and 15 other books. Follow him at @cliffennico.