Amazon generally isn’t the place to be launching new types of product, unseen before type stuff, especially if you are a private label seller.
But sometimes you can and by god sometimes, it works!
The product I'll be writing about was a brand-new type of Kickstarter product I was selling a year ago (I’m not fussed about revealing as the manufacturer started selling against me anyway).
So , here are my tips and thoughts on taking something brand new and launching on amazon.
Step one – the product
Around October of last year, I noticed an American friend of mine in Moscow had launched a Kickstarter campaign for a product that a couple of Russians had bought the rights to (the product existed before, but the creators/inventors had less marketing finesse than one of Donald Draper’s fictional illegitimate babies). So these Russians decided they could buy up the product rights and market it better.
The Kickstarter campaign went off big time and paid for the first production run.
The actual product is called Tesla Amazing, here’s a link. It’s a basically a sticky note that uses a static charge – basically the same effect you get when you rub a balloon on your head.
When I saw that people were loving a product which was, basically, a post-it note, I figured the concept had been tested and my private label brain said: “hey, maybe I could get a couple of hundred and float them on amazon”.
So I emailed the owners to see if they would let me try out a test batch – with no moq and a product ready to ship asap, I thought it would be a good test
As usual, I started with a risk-busting 200 or so units and started to think about how to get sales on amazon UK (anyone who sells on amazon UK knows that the depth is nothing compared to the US).
The first thing I did, as usual, was create a good, optimised listing (my original listing is no longer visible anywhere) using nice pictures from the promotional material to really show what the product did.
For positioning and keywords, I decided to focus on sticky note and post it because I figure, I want to get in front of people looking for post-its and that sort of thing (this is most important on the PPC side of things).
In the title, to squeeze in post-it, I even said ‘better than a post-it note!’. Although I had to remove that later on because the company that makes post its, as it turns out, complained and the listing was suppressed. The lesson, be careful when using brand names on the front and back end (customer search terms field).
For reviews, I did a small review-promo givaway for just 15 units (which is no longer a viable strat, as you probably know).
Finally, because the product was totally unknown in the UK, I ran a facebook video ad targeted to the UK, optimised for views with a link in the text section to the amazon store. The good thing about this is that you can set facebook video ads so that you only pay when someone views 10 seconds or more – a lifetime in today’s micro attention span, ADDH millennials.
For the actual video, I basically just used the Kickstarter promo reel with some different music and a few text inserts and a call to action at the end and where to buy.
The video had a lot of shares and some viral action going on with people commenting, tagging their friends and all sorts so it was good product awareness.
I wouldn’t typically do this with every product, but these notes had novelty value so was a good fit for video.
If you have something new, it’s really important to visually show people what it is and how it works, so in these cases, video ads are great and quite cheap if you target them properly.
Keys to a good video
Where some people have a face for radio, some products don’t need a video. So, if you have a garlic press is generic and doesn’t do anything different or special, no amount of video will help.
But if you actually have something with a twist, a simple facebook video can blast your product to a whole new level (whatever platform you sell on).
A good example of a product with differentiation and branding done well is this thing - https://www.missioncritical.cc/products/babycarrier a simple baby carrier, targeted to men with nice marketing and a nice spin.
Even if 10 Chinese sellers copy the product exactly (which they probably have already), they don’t have the branding or the touch of innovation that the original has - and that’s really important for success anywhere.
How did the product sell?
Generally, the product did ok, considering nobody had ever heard of it before!
Over the few variations I set up, it would bring in about 10-20 sales per day, mostly spread over amazon Germany and UK (some days Germany outsold the UK – I was running a tagged video ad to Germany also).
The margin was smaller than I would like and I had set up a bundle with the single item acting more as a loss leader (because I would make more off a 2 pack), but the fast, cheap shipping and super light product made up for it.
I figured with time, and more brand awareness, it could grow bigger. I was planning some local media outreach but didn’t get that far.
What happened next?
By about March, after a restock, I noticed sales in the UK had really dropped off and when I checked, I saw that someone had created an almost identical listing (thankfully they obviously didn’t know how to list on my listing), right down to the bullet style and formatting.
It was the very obvious hallmark of a private label seller, yet the price was so low that it could have only been the manufacturer.
It was also pretty clear that, whoever the seller was, they were screwing up some of the PL basics because their price was so low that it was classed as an ‘add on’ item and after FBA fees, they would have been LOSING money (I notice a lot of new sellers miscalculate their margins).
Anyhow, although they weren’t on my listing, when people clicked my PPC ads (on which I was getting about a 5% - 7% acos), they would then see the other offer that was literally half the price of my item and go and buy that instead!
So basically, with no proper optimisation, they were getting sales off the back of my sweet advertising pounds.
Fortunately, Germany was still selling about 15 a day and, while the manufacturer asked me to take down the DE listing (because they had an exclusive distribution deal there), I just carried on until I ran out of stock. Since they sandbagged my other sales, I didn’t feel too bad about it.
So, the start was good – the end was bad, but hey, could have been worse.
Kickstarter and funding PL products
For most things in the private label world, you don’t need to worry about Kickstarter – all you need to do is find and item and bundle it, differentiate it, source fast and launch with a low moq to test it.
(although I’ve seen some examples of people doing stuff like this, which is against kickstart ToS - https://www.reddit.com/r/shittykickstarters/comments/3gm8xj/raising_460k_with_a_050_product_sourced_from/).
But if you really have an idea for something unique or special that doesn’t have much data on amazon or looks a bit unconvincing, by all means, try crowdfunding - it might be the monetary and exposure you need to really have a hit. Just make sure you get brand registered and, hopefully, brand gated right away!
When you come to do your keyword research and set up your PPC campaigns, remember to research and target the most similar product/keywords so you can catch the attention of your target customer (about whom you should have a pretty good idea).
If you’ve had any success with private labeling and Kickstarter and would like to share some tips, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d love to do an interview and article on it!