Sometimes your first product is a winner, sometimes it’s not - mine, I feel, was definitely not. Here’s what I learned and what I’m doing with new products.
Was it a total failure?
Ah product one, the first foray into the Private Label business model. Now, my product did sell, but it didn’t sell well. I was getting about 3 sales per day on average.
On a good day, I might get 5 sales (on amazon.co.uk and EU).
Now failure is a relative thing. I launched a sports supplement site in Moscow a few years ago and I literally had one order in months. I’m not even kidding. That that was much more of a commercial failure.
Can you imagine what it felt like to spend around 15 thousand dollars on inventory and get one order??
But I picked up some good lessons and moved on.
At least with my first Amazon product I was selling some units daily, not to mention to amount of lessons learned!
( FYI you can read about all the mistakes I made along the way in this fairly long post, charting every step of the way to launch).
But failure and learning aside, here are my take aways that might save you some time and money:
Problem one: horrible, horrible research
Now I took the proven private label course so I wasn’t acting blindly or anything, but damn, I was so eager to do something that I really didn’t take the time to understand what I was looking for when product researching.
There was no Jungle Scout then and no easy web browser tools like AMZ Seller Browser either.
The main thing I did wrong here was to look at the BSR in the sub category, not the main. Guys, always look at the main category!
As you can see: top level BSR = toiletbowl sales, category bsr = deceptive for noobs
If you don't use Jungle Scout or Unicron Smasher, you can get an idea of how BSR translates to sales volume by looking at the free Jungle Scout Estimator or the FBA toolkit (usually to have to double their estimates though ).
My next main problem was selling in the UK market. I touched on the difference between Amazon US and UK in this article, but basically, to have a decent sales volume for the UK (think 10 plus per day), you really need to whittle down a lot of options.
This was something I hadn’t really grasped back then.
Now, when I look for product opportunities, I end up having a ‘maybe’ for about 1 in 10. It’s more of a golden nugget hunt.
One of the most critically important parts of private labeling and branding is being able to spot decent opportunities - and even then, expect one home run out of 5.
Problem two: Things about the actual product
First up, I had to sell my product as a two pack and while that was fine, I would have rather been selling one for £15.
Going forward, I don’t really want to be selling like this - creating bundles, sure, but I’d rather have a one-item product.
Secondly, my product was glass and since I had two to a pack, that is double the chance of breakage.
I had them inspected with the prep and shipper in the UK, so I knew there were no breakages when they went to Amazon, but at some point down the line, units obviously started getting damaged.
Because of this, I would get quite a few refunds. Not loads, but enough that I thought “I’m not doing glass again!”
Problem three: I didn’t kill it quick enough
After my first 150 units sold, I foolishly placed another, larger order.
Part of this was probably because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy with the sales volume.
Plus, it’s easy to get ego attached to your products, you know, you can show people, oh hey, here’s my brand! Your logo that some Indian man made on Fiverr for 3 dollars is amazing, even though the BSR is sitting at 30,000.
It's hard to admit that a product isn't performing the way we want, especially when you only ever see screenshots of people making 10k in 3 minutes of launching their products.
Also, in a strange way, I kind of felt something like guilt as I had a great supplier and wanted to give them more business. However, this might be a cultural thing as I am also the kind of guy that says thank you, even after I get a terrible haircut.
But I really should have said, ok, time to move on instead of sitting there waiting almost a month for the next load. I should have been looking at more products, refining a list.
Which brings me to the last point
Problem four: Mindset and approach
I believe that, in the coming years, branding and creating a brand (along with the funds to sea ship bulk) is going to be what will keep you on top of the competition. A great brand, and margins that no new seller can touch = win.
But first, you need to know if a product will actually sell!
I went back and forth with samples. set up my test order and wait for that to arrive and get it to FBA. I lost so, so much time. Not to mention Chinese New Year, having to change suppliers because I didn't stipulate MOQ ahead of time and other fun.
Custom logos right away - the whole nine yards (and you can get clean, decent logos for 30 bucks, people really don't need to be spending hundreds of dollars on a logo for a garlic press that you plan on selling)
What i should have done was this:
Buy a test order of 20, 50 or 100 units on Aliexpress the day after I identified (or basically just blindly Pinana whacked in my case) my product and, within 15 days, I would have something to test right away.
I would have then quickly realised that the product was, frankly, a bit shit, and moved on to number two, money in the bank, wind behind my sales. Fail fast and fail forward. Faster you can crash through failures, the faster you will hit the major Amazon money.
If the product had been a good seller, I could have then quickly moved on to finding a stable supplier.
That’s why In 2016 I will be going extremely aggressive.
My second product is up to about 15 a day now, spread mostly over amazon de and UK. For the other potentials I have listed, I’m doing the 20-50 unit order right away. One is on its way and and tomorrow, I will be sitting down and probably spending a few thousand dollars on test runs for at least another 2 products.
I don't have lots of money and I feel the sweat beads when the debit card comes out.
But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not even that much of a risk. With Amazon, it’s hard to not sell stuff. It may take a bit of time, but i know if i list it, they will come. Amazon is the E-commerce field of Dreams.
The goal is to test fast and move fast. I’ll be focusing on multiple products at once, not just the one.
I’m also going to be selling in Japan and, frankly, I expect to launch a few duds there, but I know that, if i set up enough test runs, I will hit pay dirt, all while learning the ins and outs of Amazon JP.
So wrapping up, I hope this info has come in handy if you are just starting. If you had a failed first product, drop me an email and tell me what you learned too!