Product Diagnosis: 10 reasons why your sales may suck
Clickbate-esque title aside, if you’re just starting out with private label and not seeing sales take off, don’t worry, you’re not in the minority.
But, understanding why a product might not be selling is the hard part - after all, the nature of the beast means we can't go waltzing into the seller groups and share our product with thousands of sellers and say “um, can someone take a look pretty please….”
That’s why in this article I’m going to help you Sherlock Holmes it up a bit and look at some of the common problem areas - without you having to share anything with me.
Before Jumping in: If you have launched in the last 1-3 weeks and aren't selling much at all
Don’t panic! It can sometimes take a while before it becomes apparent that your product is, in fact, a rogue turd in the proverbial punchbowl.
A brand new listing, with no sales history, no seller feedback, no reviews, no nothing, will take time to index, rank and get traction. Despite what you read, it can take a few weeks to get a listing ‘cooking’.
Presuming you haven't launched your product to a list you built around a brand, getting reviews is about as tough as ever, so be patient.
Before you start despairing, exit panic mode, go ahead and switch on ppc (yeees, even with no reviews) and if, after week one or two, you’re not at least seeing some sales, lower the price incrementally until you do.
The goal is to start getting some kind of sales, traction, and signals to amazon’s algorithm. When things pick up a bit, you can start gradually putting the price back up.
But new launches aside, I’ve divided the problems into the fixable and the terminal, so let's dive in.
1. You might just have a traffic problem/seasonality
The first thing to look at before you crack open the antidepressants is your order items V sessions - this is to check to see if you have a conversion problem with your listing or whether your listing is simply getting less traffic than before (hence fewer sales).
Head over to reports > business reports and look at the sessions over time. If you see your sessions have dropped over time, but conversion rate is about the same, then your listing and product are fine - you are just getting less traffic to the listing.
You might be getting less traffic for a few reasons: one could be that your product has some seasonality to it (which you can confirm with a quick look on Google Trends) or another issue could be the type of product has become less popular - after all, most products have a certain life-cycle.
Here's the important thing: if you see your sessions are about the same, but your conversions have gone down, then the problem is with the listing and we need to investigate further.
2. Is your listing optimized?
This is a tricky one because, quite honestly, a lot of people don’t even know what a properly optimized listing looks like. It could be the Dunning Kerr effect, who knows, although I see non-native English speakers often run into trouble with listing copy (otherwise known as Fiverr listing syndrome).
Bad copy aside, to get an idea of how to do a good job on your listing, you can check out this beast of an article.
Without a properly optimized listing, your ppc will be flaccid at best and, at worst, cost you a ton of money. You see, that listing needs to send the right signals to amazon’s algorithm, which then helps you get in front of buyers that, if the price and copy are right, will convert well.
So the fix here is simple - rework the listing.
3. You have bad reviews / a recent 1-star review
If you have a bulk of bad reviews, you should have already been castrating your supplier BUT, if your reviews are solid for the most part, a recent negative review can really affect sales.
Just yesterday I got a 1-star review on a product I recently launched that was doing 8-11 sales a day with just ppc.
Unfortunately, because that key first review was 1-star (from a customer who wasn’t using the product properly), sales dropped to 0. One seller customer review, minus £1000 pounds profit from my beautiful pocket every month.
That’s the game though and there’s not much you can do apart from maybe leave a nice comment by the review so other potential customers can see you’re all about the support.
If you suspect it was left by a sneaky competitor, click on the reviewer name and check their review history. If it looks suspect, report the review to amazon and see if they remove it.
While you’re checking things, make sure you check your seller feedback too and get negative feedback removed as sometimes customers read this too!
4. You’re getting killed at PPC
As a lot of new sellers have a terrible ACOS starting out, I’ll mention this briefly. Usually, there are two main reasons for you to get smashed by PPC: the first is simply because your listing isn’t optimized (see point 2) and you don’t have any / many reviews.
Fixing these problems and managing your ppc properly over time will usually get the acos down (have a look at my course if you’re confused by ppc, it’s less than $40).
The second problem is normally because the price point is uncompetitive and product oversaturated, in which case, if you have no wiggle room to lower it, see point 3 in the ‘Terminal’ section.
5. Your listing got deindexed
When a new listing hits amazon, it takes time the algorithm to index it - which basically means process the listing to ‘understand’ what the product is, based mainly on the category nodes and keywords in the title and bullets.
As you start making sales via certain keywords and ppc, amazon starts to have a picture of your product, the terms it sells well for and the kind of customers that bought it.
So as time goes on, your listing builds up a history - this is a good thing.
But, sometimes, for whatever reason, the listing can get de-indexed and amazon won’t recognize your keywords (FYI you can check what keywords you are indexed for by typing your asin in the amazon search bar, followed by a keyword. See the above image, but be warned, copper mugs are done to death already).
In this case, just reach out to seller central and they might be able to fix it quickly.
One thing I have noticed and seen quite a bit is that a listing can get deindexed after an update to the title or bullets.
So, if you decide to update your listing with new copy etc, your sales might actually drop off quite a bit for some weeks - which is not nice!
Just another reason to make sure your listing is 100% ready BEFORE you go live with your product.
6. You have a hijacker
I won’t go into this too much as I have a whole article on it here that you can read, but needless to say, if you see sales tank, check you don’t have any new sellers on your listing (I use Listing Eagle to automatically monitor my and client listing so I get a text if anything goes down).
With hijacking, the best cure is prevention - so brand registry and brand gating as soon as you have a branded product - this will stop anyone else from selling on your listing and taking the buy box.
Here’s some good news: - these things are all fixable
If your product is seasonal, you can just wait it out, if you lack reviews you can build them over time, if you suck at ppc, you can learn it or pay someone to do it, if your listing is poor, it can be rewritten, if your images are low quality, you can get them redone.
But alas, not all issues are created equally. Below you’ll find some of the situations that probably warrant you throwing in the towel and starting fresh with a new product.
1: You chose a product with not enough depth in the market
When you use Jungle Scout (or some equivalent), you should see that plenty of sellers are making money - not just the top three or four.
This is a pie, and you need to make sure there are enough slices for everyone!
So, when researching, click the estimated revenue tab at the top to make it easier. In this highly creative example of nipple clamps, you can see what low-ish depth looks like (although this could be worse for sure):
If you run the numbers again on your product and see that the top 3 sellers are barely doing above 5k in sales, you can’t really expect your sales to ever be great.
In a low-depth scenario, even a fully optimized listing won’t be enough to make you money. You might grow to be a big fish in a small pond, but if your pond is, in fact, a trailer park, then it might be time to try a better product opportunity.
2: You saw good depth, but underestimated the competition
We all get carried away with the JS estimates sometimes and you think ‘hot damn if I can just get a little piece of that action…’.
Take for example this screenshot for ‘whey protein’, looks like a juicy amount per month right? But look at the competition (the review numbers)! A new seller, especially on a first product, would get murdered!
Every existing seller you see has an accumulative advantage over you and, hijackers and fuckups aside, they will only get stronger over time - increasing their order size, getting more competitive pricing and riding the scale of economics on a sea of new sellers’ crushed dreams and tears.
A few years ago it was a lot easier to ‘out-optimise’ a lot of untrained sellers, but these days, forget about it.
This is an arms race and now we all have nukes. Private label sellers are EVERYWHERE: selling every kind of product imaginable, listening to the same podcasts, using the same criteria, same software and using the same sourcing sites.
Chronic competition also leads to more dirty tricks and higher PPC costs so if you find yourself in this situation, you have to reevaluate what you want.
Competitive types tend to hold out to try and force things to work, sticking with the product longer than they should but really, you have to ask yourself: for how long do you want to be in a pissing contest with a police riot hose?
3. You didn’t differentiate & your pricing isn't competitive
If you launched a product that, basically, looks the same as all the others, you are most likely in serious trouble already. As a new seller, with a new product, you are in the absolute weakest position possible.
Just ask yourself, why would anyone choose your new, no-review product, over any of the main sellers? What value is there for the buyer? (hint, it sure ain’t an Ebook you got an Indian man from Fiverr to write! - use ebooks for list building, not value adding).
So from the start, you must, must, must find some way to make your product stand out, whether it’s a bundle, multipack or design change (even colour). Think how your product looks on the search results page - does it stand out? It should!
If you are at least a bit unique or different you can compensate for the lack of reviews because, technically, you are in a different psychological space. You’re not just a salt grinder, you’re a salt grinder + handy salt grinding accessory, by default your only competition is now other salt grinding bundles!
But another equally bad problem that comes from lack of differentiation is usually an uncompetitive price. The bigger boys already have a pricing advantage because of the economics of scale, something as a new seller you just can't compete with.
This is why, when you do your product research, it’s important to get proper quotes so you have a full idea of what your landed costs should be and how they stack up to the competition.
If everyone is selling for $15 and your landed cost + FBA fee is $11, you’re not left with much room for ppc, discounts and much of anything else.
4. The niche got oversaturated
Sometimes, when you’re in product research phase, you see a decent opportunity so you start getting samples, logos designs - the whole 9 yards. But after launch, you notice sales aren’t so great, your PPC is off the charts (in a bad way) and you see tons of other new sellers with, basically, the same product.
Unfortunately, with the popularity of private label, this happens a lot, sometimes quicker than others, but usually, once the balance tips and the price wars and oversaturation start, the product becomes a dud for all but the very first sellers who built up a good review base.
When to quit and when to persist
This is a tricky one and varies from person to person, product to product and to answer it, you need to get introspective.
For me, I stay emotionally detached from the product, like an elderly wealthy white man with a son in boarding school, I am merely ‘fond’ of my products. My rule is, if the product can’t make a steady 4-7 sales per day, making me at least £4 profit, it gets canned.
If the product gets oversaturated over time, I still kill it, because hey, we can’t live in the past! I did it before and I’ll do it again! :) (if you want to read about my first canned product, you can here and then some other ones I killed here).
Another thing here is: don’t invest your ego in the product because if you do, you’re likely to stay attached longer than you should and beat yourself up more than you should.
Dust yourself off and get back on the horse.
Bonus: How to ditch a non-seller
When you reach the stage where you say, ‘fuck this, I’m done, I just want to move on to another product’, you have a few options.
Lower the price to break-even / do a big sale
The obvious goal here is to just get the sales going and dump the product, usually with a juicy price-cut. It doesn’t even matter if you lose money, the goal is to just get rid of the product and maybe if you’re lucky, break even or just take a small loss
Do a promo
Another way to move units fast is to set up a $1 promo and just use a service like Jumpsend to get the units moved as fast as possible - be warned though, this option can be more costly as you will still be paying the FBA fees
Place a destruction order
You can get amazon to destroy the units for you - but since they charge the unit price to do it, first lower your unit cost to like $0.20 (which will pause the listing as amazon gives you a ‘too low pricing error’) then place the destruction order and it will be cheap.
So that about wraps this article up.
As always, I hope you found something useful and if you have any questions or would like me to grief council you as you ruthlessly destroy your first product, just drop me an email and I will provide you with a manly, perfectly sculpted shoulder to cry on.