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EXECUTION E-Commerce Brand Kick-Started By The Pandemic

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AdamBoyd

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Okay, so I deliberated over creating this thread for a few minutes. Then, I thought - just do it. Everyone needs accountability, right?

I'm a 25 year old social media and marketing freelancer and long time entrepreneur/business enthusiast. I've tried my hand at many things including selling t-shirts from my bedroom at 16 to owning a pizza restaurant in my home city. I now earn a comfortable living having built up a pool of good clients who trust and rely on me to help them grow their businesses - especially online, but I feel my enthusiasm for business, in general, helps build good relationships with people.

Obviously though, despite the freedom of having complete control over my day, this isn't very fast lane and I'll never lose that burning fire in my belly to grow a much bigger business - heck, why would I want to lose it?

And so, I'm always on the lookout. You may have read my other thread on potentially buying a business - Getting My Hands On a Baby Boomer's Business. This is still something I'm very much interested in and I highly recommend reading Buy Then Build - Walker Deibel if you've ever considered buying a business.

In the meantime, I've decided to launch a brand on Amazon as I've spied an opportunity as people start to return to work after the pandemic.

Now, this is something I have tried (and failed) at before. So this time, I wanted to be held accountable. I haven't decided how much detail I'll go into on the actual product itself, but I will try to give as much information as possible. As I said, I have experience selling on Amazon - but no more than anyone else could learn after a few months of selling.

So - here is an overview of how it has gone in the first few days.

I came up with a general brand idea (I'm a marketer, remember?) and went looking for an existing product that I could buy and modify. I remembered that I was buying a product that could work when I owned the pizza place, so I went straight to my old supplier's website. I did a bit of digging and managed to find where they were buying the product from and it turned out it was a manufacturing plant not too far from me. I ordered a sample to my house immediately.

While I was waiting on the sample being delivered (2 Days), I got to work on the branch. If all went well with the sample, I knew all I would have to do is create my own brand and I could sell the product completely unmodified. Straight over to Fiverr.com and set out a job specification for a reputable seller who had good reviews for product label design. I was a very difficult buyer on Fiverr as I requested about 8 modifications to the label. However, this was so important because it was the branding that was going to make or break this product. I knew if I could get that right, people would buy. As I said, the product is relevant to people going back to work whilst still dealing with Covid.

I want to highlight this though, as some people may not know how easy it is. I spent a couple of hours and £28.72 getting a fantastic label designed that will be the basis of my entire brand.

It's amazing what can be done on Fiverr.

Anyway, after I was happy with the label, I just had to wait on the sample. When it arrived, there were a few niggling issues that I would have to sort out with the supplier. However, on the most part, it was a good product and I knew I could use it. The lid didn't look like it was properly sealed and the liquid had dripped down the bottle a little (more clues). I certainly couldn't have the product arriving to customers like this. These problems can be fixed though - the main thing is that the quality of the product is good.

I sent about 50 emails back and forward with the supplier, thrashing out the details. I got a good price and I found out about accompanying products that could also be bought from them. They let me know that if I spent just over £1,000 in stock (not much), then they would actually put my label on the bottle for me.

This was interesting. I have fulfilled orders myself whilst selling on Amazon. I recently sold over 1,000 units of a particular product and the process of fulfilling the orders from home was a nightmare. Packing, labelling, sending - it's not fun. And then the problems with delivery. I'd love to just send it into Amazon FBA and let them deal with it all, especially as it works out more profitably. So it was great that the manufacturer would label the product for me. This gives me the option of getting it sent directly to an Amazon warehouse.

However, could I trust that the bottles would be clean? Would the labels be on straight? Am I prepared to just blindly let the supplier send products into Amazon? Not yet.

So, I decided to order 10 units to my house and I ordered labels from an online printer. Let's see how this goes first. I'd rather get a feel for handing and sending out the product and then decide whether to go down the route of FBA.

I'm writing this a few days in. The 10 units arrived yesterday and they all needed a little clean up. Good decision as I wouldn't have wanted them arriving to customers like that. The lids were also blue, despite the lid on the sample being white. Just small issues.

In the meantime, I had already created product images (Fiverr again) for less than £20, created my Amazon listing, researched all my keywords and completed the description etc.

Once I knew the 10 units and the labels were en route to me, I listed it for sale. I set quite a long delivery time (3-5 days) to give me time to receive the product, clean it up, re-label the product and arrange collection with a courier for next day delivery.

10 sales on day 1 - total of 5 orders with one customer ordering 5 units.

Day 1 Sales - £249.90
Day 1 Ad spend - £10
ACOS (advertising cost of sales) - 4%

Wow. My product was still in the depths of Amazon's catalogue and I had already sold my entire first order from the supplier. As soon as the 10 units arrived, I tried to sort out some issues with the supplier and then ordered 60 more.

Day 1 was Thursday 14th May. On Day 2, I sold 12 units with ACOS still around 4%.

This morning (Day 3), I have already sold 6 units and I need to start preparing the shipments to be collected by DHL on Monday.

32986

Very small numbers, but a great start. I've sold other products on Amazon - some at much higher volumes than this. However, I have a good feeling about this one. Customers are ordering multiple units and I can see that they are business accounts. That is exactly who I had in mind when I came up with the brand.

I have built a very basic Shopify account and I'm going to see if I can start selling directly to customers without Amazon. That's something I haven't done before.

I will update this thread as often as I can. I have 60 units arriving on Tuesday. DHL will be coming to get the 10 units I already have and send them out to my first customers on Monday. The product is quite heavy (around 6kg each) and I'm used to shipping smaller items, so I will keep everyone up to date with teething problems (they always occur).

One of the main reasons I thought to start this thread is to get insight from everyone. Sometimes a new set of eyes can come up with a simple, but great idea that I didn't think of. So, all feedback is welcome.

Hopefully, this thread will help me stay laser focussed on progress.

Apologies for the length of the first post. Thoughts welcome!
 

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biophase

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It will be hard to make money on a 6kg product with a $25 price point. Amazon FBA will be charging you $5-$8 just for fulfillment and $3.75 commission. You may be better off shipping it yourself.
 
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AdamBoyd

AdamBoyd

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It will be hard to make money on a 6kg product with a $25 price point. Amazon FBA will be charging you $5-$8 just for fulfillment and $3.75 commission. You may be better off shipping it yourself.
Shipping it myself actually works out slightly more expensive. I've used cheap couriers before and it causes more problems than it's worth in savings. I take your point though. Shipping is a big cost to build into this product as it is heavy, but the maths works.
 
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AdamBoyd

AdamBoyd

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UPDATE

Okay so after selling a further 11 units yesterday before 3pm (Day 3), I ran into a major problem. At this point, I'd like to add that I'm sure this will be the first of many problems.

I received a notification from Amazon yesterday around 3pm to tell me that my account has been deactivated.

Oh dear...

This has happened because I had access to a large stock of hand sanitiser when the lockdown measures were first put into place and I managed to sell quite a lot of it on Amazon (at a fair price, might I add). However, Amazon started to really crack the whip with sellers of Covid sensitive equipment. So, we you combine this with multiple delivery problems caused by using the low cost courier mentioned in my reply above - it lead to account health issues. This was around 3 weeks ago, but it seems they are just getting round to punishing me for it.

So, huge hurdle number 1 - work with Amazon to get my account reinstated.

I'm currently on the Amazon seller support forums getting help from people with more experience than me in submitting what Amazon call a 'Plan of Action' to prove to them that you have resolved issues and they won't happen again. They won't let you sell until they are happy with your Plan of Action. I have already submitted one which has been rejected this morning.

On top of this, they also hold any funds that you have in your account until they are satisfied with your Plan of Action. I have around £2,000 in my account at the moment. I can see form the forums that it's not uncommon for this process to take quite a while.

I better get to it.
 

biophase

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Shipping it myself actually works out slightly more expensive. I've used cheap couriers before and it causes more problems than it's worth in savings. I take your point though. Shipping is a big cost to build into this product as it is heavy, but the maths works.
You are saying that it is cheaper for you to ship to Amazon's warehouse, pay storage fees and have Amazon fulfill, than you just shipping the product to the customer yourself directly?
 
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AdamBoyd

AdamBoyd

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You are saying that it is cheaper for you to ship to Amazon's warehouse, pay storage fees and have Amazon fulfill, than you just shipping the product to the customer yourself directly?
Yes. This is because Amazon can ship products for much less than I can based on the volume that they are sending out.

It works out marginally cheaper to send it straight to them. I could get my supplier to label the products for me and send them straight to Amazon instead of delivering to me.

However, I'm not sure if I want the supplier to see my label because then they will know I am selling on Amazon, what price I am selling at etc. So, for the time being, if I decide to give FBA a try, I will continue to have the products delivered to me to clean up and re-label, and then I'd send them to Amazon - this adds the extra delivery cost of actually shipping products from me to the FBA warehouse. The supplier can drive a couple of pallets there in their own van, whereas I would have to pay a courier quite a hefty sum to come and collect it pallets at a time.
 
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AdamBoyd

AdamBoyd

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UPDATE

So after 4 or 5 appeals and hours and hours of writing POAs (plans of action), my account was finally reinstated and I was immediately able to withdraw my account balance of around £2,000.

My listing went live again and I sold a further 10 units.

My advertising cost of sales remained at around 6% for the whole of the day and things were looking good. I put some time into other keywords that I can target with advertising and ordered another 60 units from my supplier.

Just after I placed the order and sent the payment, I got an email from Amazon notifying me that my listing had been removed due to a trademark infringement.

WHAT??

I created a brand from scratch and it turns out there's a company with a presence in Germany, UK and US with the same name as my brand that sells very distantly related products online. They noticed my product and filed a complaint about my brand new.

The logo, colour scheme, and look/feel of the brand was completely different, but unfortunately, I used the exact same word as them when choosing a name for my brand.

I should have researched more and made sure the name I was picking didn't already exist in the marketplace. No one's fault but mine.

So, for the past 2 days I have been working with designers on Fiverr to edit the brand, then subsequently order new labels and get the main product image changed.

I am now waiting on approval from Amazon to sell under the new brand name that I have chosen. Don't worry, this time I made extra sure that it doesn't already exist.

I have been waiting 2 days now and this is a process that doesn't normally take this long, so hopefully I will get an update soon and I will be back online selling the product.

I just keep telling myself - If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
 

Knicks

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UPDATE

So after 4 or 5 appeals and hours and hours of writing POAs (plans of action), my account was finally reinstated and I was immediately able to withdraw my account balance of around £2,000.

My listing went live again and I sold a further 10 units.

My advertising cost of sales remained at around 6% for the whole of the day and things were looking good. I put some time into other keywords that I can target with advertising and ordered another 60 units from my supplier.

Just after I placed the order and sent the payment, I got an email from Amazon notifying me that my listing had been removed due to a trademark infringement.

WHAT??

I created a brand from scratch and it turns out there's a company with a presence in Germany, UK and US with the same name as my brand that sells very distantly related products online. They noticed my product and filed a complaint about my brand new.

The logo, colour scheme, and look/feel of the brand was completely different, but unfortunately, I used the exact same word as them when choosing a name for my brand.

I should have researched more and made sure the name I was picking didn't already exist in the marketplace. No one's fault but mine.

So, for the past 2 days I have been working with designers on Fiverr to edit the brand, then subsequently order new labels and get the main product image changed.

I am now waiting on approval from Amazon to sell under the new brand name that I have chosen. Don't worry, this time I made extra sure that it doesn't already exist.

I have been waiting 2 days now and this is a process that doesn't normally take this long, so hopefully I will get an update soon and I will be back online selling the product.

I just keep telling myself - If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Really sad you're experiencing this many roadblocks. With so many success stories (especially on YT) one could assume this endeavour is easy. Just don't stop pushing, there is a speedway behind the tunnel. Keep us updated.

Have you any sales through Shopify yet? If so, how do you gain trust, so that the buyer actually buys on your platform? I'm in a somewhat similar boat. Just started selling on eBay and AMZ and will open up shop with my own store based on WooCommerce in the future. Don't know when to go ahead whit this plan, since AMZ has the sales volume already built in and can be a great kick starter.

And what do you do for marketing? Only PPC or also SEO and other organic stuff?
 
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AdamBoyd

AdamBoyd

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Really sad you're experiencing this many roadblocks. With so many success stories (especially on YT) one could assume this endeavour is easy. Just don't stop pushing, there is a speedway behind the tunnel. Keep us updated.

Have you any sales through Shopify yet? If so, how do you gain trust, so that the buyer actually buys on your platform? I'm in a somewhat similar boat. Just started selling on eBay and AMZ and will open up shop with my own store based on WooCommerce in the future. Don't know when to go ahead whit this plan, since AMZ has the sales volume already built in and can be a great kick starter.

And what do you do for marketing? Only PPC or also SEO and other organic stuff?
Thanks! As of last night, I am now back up and running with the product under my new brand. I received an order for two units this morning. I'm sure there will be many more difficulties to come, but hopefully my listing is in place permanently now.

When I set up my Shopify store, it was all done under the previous brand that I have now changed.

I designed the store etc myself and it looked pretty basic. I ran an ad campaign on Facebook and tried to get set up on Google shopping but I found that quite difficult.

I spent £70 on Facebook ads and generated one sale. I then discovered the sale was from a customer in Nothern Ireland so I had to cancel the order due to the extremely high shipping fees due to it not being on mainland UK.

I have to rebrand the Shopify store now and organise a new domain etc to match the new brand. I think I will spend a few weeks building sales on Amazon and getting brand registered etc before I start setting up my own site again.

I got some good feedback from an amazon customer yesterday who suggested an accompanying product I could bundle with my existing one, so I'm going to work on that over the next few days.

Once I get going with my own site again, I'm going to spend a lot more time on it. I rushed it this time around and if things are 100% right, I can image you could just end up throwing money away on ads that won't convert.
 

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