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EXECUTION Starting out Exporting with Amazon FBA

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Hassen

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Hi everyone! Been lurking a bit and in fact started trying out FBA before I found this forum. Almost finishing reading the book as well. This place looks chill, and I was pretty inspired by the progress thread of @BusinessBen so I've decided to make this post.

A bit about myself and my situation: I am a young Manchu woman from China, & currently what I'm hoping to do is to bootstrap selling some generic items in a niche that targets females, and gain some capital before I figure out what to do next. My monthly salary right now is $800 and it's considered a very privileged wage where I live, so obviously I don't have a lot of capital starting out.


In my niche I face a lot of competition from Chinese sellers, some selling identical products as mine, but they usually ship from HK instead of using FBA so I feel I stand a chance, even if they often sell in bundles and frequently at a lower per unit price than where I price my items.
Their listings are also commonly poorly made with lots of misspellings, so I figured that's an area I could improve on as well.
I don't really worry about competition from domestic (US/North American) sellers because lots of my items are quoted as twice the price on Alibaba than the quote I could obtain by dealing directly with manufacturers who do not themselves export. If I'm careful with product selection, I can bar enough US sellers from entry as their margin would be too small while outcompeting the Chinese ones using FBA and optimised listings.


What I've done so far, is I have four different items sitting in my FBA inventory, all on my own new listings, and it's been 2 or 3 days since I put the keywords in and they've started to show up on page 2 and 3 of the search terms, but no sale yet. I didn't have the time or energy to figure out the listings earlier.

I'm probably going to order and send in some more inventory for another product I've been eyeing soon, but right now the sales or the lack thereof are bothering me a bit.


Stuff I'd appreciate some suggestions on:

-Going forward I plan on polishing up the listings as much as possible, as soon as possible; I've realised although the photos are clean-looking, real and zoomable, they aren't all that appealing on a search page. Gotta improve on that and write some more descriptions too.
And then I'm considering throwing some Amazon PPC ads at them, Y/N? How do people usually launch their new listings on Amazon? All the FBA private labeling material I've read make it sound like everything automatically sell out once you get a new listing all for yourself and have no competitors on the same item details page.

-Do I go ahead and send in more inventory for a new product now, or wait until I've figured wth I'm doing and get at least one sale? It's in the same niche, but not the same type of products as the once I previously sent in.
My reasoning for doing that now is my cash sitting around wouldn't have much better use anyway, and the earlier I get one more product in the earlier it can begin to sell, and I can take more advantage of my first month of pro seller status. Penitential downsides would be spreading myself too thin and being too optimistic while I should focus on getting at least one sale to validate the need and buying power of the niche, and to validate this whole FBA thing would work out and I'm not just daydreaming.


So other than fixing the listings and using Amazon's PPC ad, an idea I've got from reading up around here is that I'm going to do some marketing on Tumblr. Not as a company or for a brand or anything, but just interact with people in the niche, maybe post a photo or two of my stuff, and then do a giveaway with coupons to boost my sales rank on Amazon. Since it's a female niche, and Tumblr's user base is skewed towards young females, and doing giveaways is a pretty common practice among them for celebrating events such as gaining a certain amount of followers.

I'm not going to build a website or mailing list just yet, since I'm only selling generic for now.
No Facebook, Google ads or Instagram promotion in the picture, even though Instagram is especially popular with women, because all of these are banned in China and can only be accessed through proxy.


Basically my action points for now:
- fix up listings, including photos, descriptions and keywords for some products
- order new product?
- make a tumblr account and interact within the niche
- once the listings are done, switch to pro seller status, do Amazon ad and tumblr coupon giveaway promotion

One last question: do I throw ppc at my listings now, or switch to pro only after I sell 40 items a month and justify the switch? I feel it's a catch-22 right here.

Anyway, thanks for reading and sorry if my thoughts are too jumbled. I'm both excited, and worried.

Edit: spelling.
Edit: clarity.

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NECST

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Would you be willing to link to you ads? not sure if that is allowed. Do you do anything on twitter etc?
 

Hassen

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Would you be willing to link to you ads? not sure if that is allowed. Do you do anything on twitter etc?
Sorry, I was probably not very specific. I meant the sponsored products option if you are referring to the "Amazon ads" I mentioned.

No plan for Twitter as it is banned in China.


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Kerin

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Could it be that the reason you aren't getting sales is that people are not actually needing your products? Did you do much research into what people are actually searching for and using this to determine what products to sell, rather than choosing products you think will sell?

When you do find products that are selling, rather than selling them generically try branding them under your made up label - this will help differentiate your products from your generic Chinese competitors and will make your products appear reputable from the customer's point of view.

Good luck.
 

Hassen

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Could it be that the reason you aren't getting sales is that people are not actually needing your products? Did you do much research into what people are actually searching for and using this to determine what products to sell, rather than choosing products you think will sell?

When you do find products that are selling, rather than selling them generically try branding them under your made up label - this will help differentiate your products from your generic Chinese competitors and will make your products appear reputable from the customer's point of view.

Good luck.
The product I'm the mostly hopeful for has several sellers selling identical ones, and the one with the buy box of the listing I'm tracking sells several a day, which is a level I think is high enough to have acceptable inventory turnarounds and low enough for it to not draw everyone into the competition and drive profits down. This specific seller ships for free from HK, so I price a bit above them with FBA. Now I think of it, perhaps I should have listed under that listing so that I might even get the buy box, but instead I used a made-up brand and created my own listing. I also packaged the product with my own logo. I'm honestly not sure if I made the right move with that. Should I always create my own new listing and brand the product, or should I sell under other existing listings when it's likely I'll get the buy box?

I just started tracking the other listing, which sells also this product, that I've seen on the second page of the most popular relevant keyword search, to see how well that one sells... But they do have a category sales rank of 9k, and <100 in the subcategory. This keyword has an estimated monthly search volume of 19k. The products with ads for this keyword have rather simplistic listings that look like the sellers didn't put a lot of time into them, so I'm hoping the ppc price wouldn't be too high. I'll know when I finish polishing up the listings a little more and then I'll just start trying out ppc ads.

The new product I'm thinking of has its keyword at 380k, so I think I'm going to go ahead with it soon. Even if my current inventories all fail, I've learned my lessons from them and I'll just keep trying until something works. I'll admit, the first product I selected I did do it out of wishful thinking and not based on research. But I got smarter with each new selection I made.

Thanks a lot for the advice and encouragement!


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Hassen

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Quick update:

-upgraded my account to pro seller and set up my first ads to see what happens.
-going to figure out the coupons to give one to a friend to test & see if it helps give the product a sales rank.
-opened a Tumblr account. Still trying to grasp the site in general & it's made trickier that some functions don't seem to load in China. But it's getting me to give more thoughts to who my target group really is.
-found the new product I'm considering to be in a restricted category. Going to get around to applying to be approved to sell in the category soon. I think it's a good thing since it raises the bar of entry and stirs away some sellers who don't want to bother & maybe a good number of international sellers.


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Kerin

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Should I always create my own new listing and brand the product, or should I sell under other existing listings when it's likely I'll get the buy box?
If the listing ranks well and no one else is selling via FBA then I'd say go for it - tag your product onto it and get some sales coming through the door. However, know that someone else could come along and just as easily use FBA like you and snag the buy box from under your nose. Ie. it isn't a long term strategy however like I said it's a good one to get some capital flowing.

Won't hurt to give it a go - add your product to the generic listing and have your private label listing running at the same time. Your generic product will make money for you in the background while you do what you need to do to rank your private label listing at #1 spot.
 

Hassen

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If the listing ranks well and no one else is selling via FBA then I'd say go for it - tag your product onto it and get some sales coming through the door. However, know that someone else could come along and just as easily use FBA like you and snag the buy box from under your nose. Ie. it isn't a long term strategy however like I said it's a good one to get some capital flowing.

Won't hurt to give it a go - add your product to the generic listing and have your private label listing running at the same time. Your generic product will make money for you in the background while you do what you need to do to rank your private label listing at #1 spot.
Thanks! Will do exactly that.


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Hassen

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Hey, after setting up my first ads, I got a click! lol

The effective bid shows up to be more than the maximum I've set though, so I'm not sure what's up with that. I set my default bid low just to see if I could get any data on what the front page bid might be once I set up ads running, but Amazon still returns the front page bid info as N/A. The campaign manager is down for maintenance right now so I'll take a closer look later and maybe increase the default bid.

Found a product that looks good for selling generic, will order inventory once I create a listing and shipment to make sure nothing unexpected comes up (gated category, hazmat material.. etc).
 

Hassen

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Got another click yesterday, and another after I tweaked the ads a bit, raising the bids. Added another product to the ads. It does look like the demand was the problem: I am getting the ads shown hundreds of times a day & clicks happen about once for every 150 times the ads are shown. I figured the search traffic is not that high, and I should look into more popular stuff to source next time. It turned out fun to monitor the ads stats though haha.
I'm going to increase the bids further since the search traffic isn't so high. The estimated first page bids come out too & they do turn out to be fairly low, so this category is not terribly competitive when it comes to ads. As I do believe my products are of the higher quality in this category, I'm going to continue to run ads to hope they sell.

Created a coupon promotion, now waiting for it to become effective so I can ask friends to buy & essentially get them for free. I'll try asking for positive reviews if they do like it.
 

Hassen

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Have a few items in reserve right now, not sure what that means. Guess just have to wait & see.

One friend liked the product & ordered one through the coupon. Also promised to leave a five star review.

Finding target audience & interacting with them on Tumblr have proved to be much harder than I thought. I have 4 followers on my account now. It is also difficult when so many of Tumblr's users are based outside of the US & therefore not very helpful to my goal, which is to host giveaways through coupons to boost sales rankings. However I do come across some Tumblrs set up specifically for brand promotion & I am trying to learn from them.

Working on gathering material to apply for the gated category & polish up existing listings.

Ordered new inventory good for selling generic.

Edit: grammar.
 

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Hassen

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Looks like I got one sale (other than from my friend) finally! And it's a different product than the one I got my friend to purchase. Now both have high sales ranks. Not sure if that one sale came from the ppc ads though, the system appears pretty slow when it comes to showing data.

Added all my products to my ads, because why not?
Also the product receiving fewer clicks got a sale, so I lowered the price of the other product a bit to see if that would help it sell.

Still polishing up the listings, especially the images, to make them look more appealing and legitimate.

Now that I have an order pending, I've also signed up for automatic customer communication, to ask for feedback from the buyer.

Working out the shipping with the suppliers for the new inventory...

Gathered material for applying for the gated category, will wait for Monday to use the scanner at work since the one I have at home is a bit faulty at times & harder to operate.

Have 14 followers on my Tumblr account now.
 
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Hassen

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The order showed up in my seller panel finally, and as it turned out it didn't come from the ads... Now this is frustrating. I lowered the budget for the ads which I had increased yesterday.

I applied for the gated category and got approved in 10 minutes!
I am trying to create a new product listing, to no avail yet. The product creation page just keeps marking the areas I've entered value as missing vital info, but then the "save" button goes through somehow anyway & there's no new product in the inventory page no matter how hard I look for it (it's definitely not in the inactive filter either). Gonna try adding product by uploading.
As soon as I get a listing up I'm going to order inventory. There's another product in this gated category that I just found too, will take a look at the keywords & see if they are in demand, & then maybe order a few just to test the waters.

Installing extensions on my browser to make it easier to use Tumblr.


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Hassen

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Created the listing & ordered inventory & researched the other product before deciding on not ordering any.

Doing some calculations to see how many I should sell in a bundle. I'll probably create at least two different sized bundles to test stuff out.


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Cembo

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Have a few items in reserve right now, not sure what that means. Guess just have to wait & see.

Make sure to check the box "Include pending orders" under Orders -> Advanced Search. That way your pending (reserved) orders will show up as well.
 

Hassen

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Make sure to check the box "Include pending orders" under Orders -> Advanced Search. That way your pending (reserved) orders will show up as well.
Thanks! Was just wondering how to achieve that. Much appreciated.


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Hassen

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I've decided after this round of inventory gets shipped in (I have four products chosen, might do a few more bundles than that) I'm just going to wait around a bit, learn more about copywriting, polish up the listings & tweak around the ads, & not send in any more inventory unless anything sells well or source any more products until I learn something new. I'll just let the FBA stuff stall a bit as I put time into writing an infoproduct I've had in mind for a long while & also try my hand in self publishing. I'm already an online (unpaid but with an audience) authoress for a very small niche just for fun & have been writing for enjoyment for many years & need to do more writing practice anyway.

Maybe I'll make a new thread at that point.


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Hassen

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Wow, goodness, my mind is blown by my own stupidity.

I just realized as I updated the listing through the parent listing, the children listings (variations) weren't updated. I just fixed it, and am still working on improving the listings. There are a few that obviously still need a little write up & better pics.

Got another sale. Still it didn't come from the ads, so I stopped the ads altogether for now.
 

Cembo

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Wow, goodness, my mind is blown by my own stupidity.

I just realized as I updated the listing through the parent listing, the children listings (variations) weren't updated. I just fixed it, and am still working on improving the listings. There are a few that obviously still need a little write up & better pics.

Got another sale. Still it didn't come from the ads, so I stopped the ads altogether for now.

For me, the sales that came from the ads didn't show up in the advertising manager right away. I once had a sale from an ad and it took 3 days until it showed up there because it hadn't been shipped yet.

So maybe your sales come from the ads. You will only know when your order is completed.
 

Hassen

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For me, the sales that came from the ads didn't show up in the advertising manager right away. I once had a sale from an ad and it took 3 days until it showed up there because it hadn't been shipped yet.

So maybe your sales come from the ads. You will only know when your order is completed.
Hey, thanks a bunch!

My previous one sale def didn't come from the ads then & it still puzzles me. I'll see if this one did when it gets shipped. For now I stopped the ads anyway to fix up the listings - there was one product that was getting a very low click to impression ratio & I just realized today that by the aforementioned mistake the actual listings of the variations were showing up with literally nothing but the pics! No wonder haha.


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Hassen

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For me, the sales that came from the ads didn't show up in the advertising manager right away. I once had a sale from an ad and it took 3 days until it showed up there because it hadn't been shipped yet.

So maybe your sales come from the ads. You will only know when your order is completed.
oh lol, it turned out they did come from the ads, and for me it doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether the orders are completed (one has been for a few days, the other pending atm) but the ads stats are probably refreshed once a week or something. They now both show up and I'm going to restart the two campaigns that brought these two sales & see how that goes.

I've also found that my manual ads brings in fewer clicks than Amazon's auto ads, but a much higher conversion rate, but it might be just for this one product. I'll experiment with it further.

It seems lowering the price a bit did help with selling though. Looks like (from the "customers also viewed" section on the listing details page) the customer even viewed an identical product that's priced cheaper & then decided on mine! Probably because mine lets them choose the variation they want & is shipped from Amazon. Now I know I do have a competitive advantage!
 

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Hassen

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My generic inventory arrived!

I haven't done a bundle before, so this time I've got something to learn again!
 

Hassen

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Ordered some packaging material to create the bundles.

Was thinking a bit about taking up freelancing again... After all, the exchange rate would make even $15/hr favorable. Decided against it. Will instead work on my own projects & not use "getting some practice & extra cash" as an excuse to trade time for $$$. I already have a full-time job & there's no heavy financial burden on me atm. My salary provides enough for me to live on & invest in my projects. I might need a larger lump sum in the near future for some private reason, & it's more than what I can save up with my salary now even if I saved every penny of it, but either I'll borrow from relatives & pay them back or I'll have figured out how to earn that money needed through my efforts outside of my job by then, if I focus on trying, failing & fine toning it to try again now.


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Hassen

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All my inventories & the packaging material have arrived!
Have sorted the inventories & decided how I want to bundle them, will check with amazon's packaging guidelines again then get right to it!


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Hassen

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Packed up some bundles. I made them the same as a listing on Amazon with a few other sellers selling on it, none of whom using FBA. I'm expecting to get the buy box once my inventories are sent in to Amazon.

My friend genuinely likes the earlier product and gave me a 5-star review, & I've already got another sale of it!


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Hassen

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Sold three more since then & it does appear the automatic ads aren't doing me any good. Paused it for now. Might try with another product once I'm confident about the listing.


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Hassen

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Another sale. It's going really slowly but it gives me hope that I know what I'm doing works & I only need to find higher-demand/entry items.
I'll finish the bundling & hopefully the labeling too this weekend.


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Hassen

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I've been steadily getting sales every other day, but according to the advertising report the last time any ad generated a sale was the 7th. I knew the stats are updated slowly, but this time I figure it's a bit too slow & maybe really the recent sales didn't come from the ads. Paused the ads for now to see what happens.

Another product with a half finished listing got a sale too...

Haven't really been able to do anything for the past two weeks since I worked on weekends. But atm I'm feeling more optimistic & will get to work on the listings in a sec.
 

Hassen

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Finished polishing up the listing for a product & put up ads for it. Now just to wait & see.


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Hassen

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Well, I'm beginning to get the hang of it. After the initial launch which I put up PPC ads, the ads gradually stop bringing in sales but the organic search begins to, once the sales rank has gone up. The product I've disabled ads for is selling more or less at the same rate & the new listing I put up ads for is now getting some sales.

I've made more than $100 in profit by this point, though $40 went to last month's pro seller fee. But keep in mind my salary currently is only $800, so that $100 ($50 of which Amazon has paid into my bank account) is still sort of significant to me & I'm seeing potential here, finally knowing that this model could work, if I know how to work it.

A few more listings that I've never put up ads for are getting the occasional sales too. I'll probably finish the listings this week. I'm working on getting done the listings & the shipments of new inventory, which I hope to finish bundling by this weekend as well.. Progress has been slow because day job has been brutal. Didn't get home until midnight for the whole week last week.

Checking my seller central is now what gets me out of bed in the morning though! lol


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