This week, I received a lovely email from a couple who are about to launch their own product on Amazon FBA and have been reading this blog for inspiration. As you can imagine, this made my day. This is the entire reason the blog exists and, if it helps just this one couple, that’ll be enough for me. (Although, if it helps more people, that would be great too.)
They asked for some advice on the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out. If you’ve been following along, you’ll probably have seen that I’ve made mistakes along the way. I have, however, learnt from them all.
If you’re reading this blog as you too want to start your own e-commerce business, I’d suggest reading this post first. I’ve covered most, if not all, of this already and I’ve added links to the detailed posts to pull it all together for you.
In no particular order, here are the things I wish I’d known when I started my journey as an Amazon FBA seller:
1. Be really clear on your brief when you get to the product sourcing stage. If you’re sourcing from China, you might find that a supplier’s listing implies they can provide exactly what you want – but, in reality, they can’t!) You can waste a lot of time in conversation with suppliers. Don’t get swayed. If they can’t meet your brief, move on.
2. Get samples of your packaging (if feasible). When I’d designed my packaging and sent it off to the factory, I wish I’d asked for a sample of the box or, at least LOADS of photos of the finished version. My initial box, once manufactured, wasn’t quite the standard I was after (slightly too thin and the bottom wasn’t secure enough) and I do wish I’d picked up on it sooner.
3. Get your listings professionally translated. If you’re planning to sell across Europe, get your listings professionally translated. It’s not as expensive as you might think and the end result will be much better than if you let Amazon do it.
- Outsourcing tasks as an Amazon seller (Translations is fifth on the list.)
4. Don’t be intimidated by shipping. I found the whole shipping thing so scary initiallym but I do wish I wasn’t so intimidated and had got more quotes, rather than let the supplier’s forwarder handle it. This can save a lot of money and you have more control if you have the relationship with the forwarder yourself.
5. If you’re exporting to the UK, get an EORI number before shipping! This caused me a huge headache with my first order, as I had absolutely no idea that I needed it. The post suggested here includes a link, where you can apply.
- So close, yet so far (Including a guide to importing and a link to the EORI application.)
6. Keep an eye on your inventory. You will probably know that my swaddles have been out of stock for a while now. This is a combination of the product doing really well and me not managing my inventory well enough to re-order at the correct point. (Plus, some factory shut-downs in China delayed things a bit.) Going forward, I will definitely be keeping an eye on my inventory management a lot closer and re-ordering much sooner than I think I need to. Delays, in my experience, seem to be inevitable, but stocking-out (for long periods anyway) don’t do you any favours as you have to start building up your Amazon ranking (where you appear in the listings) from scratch when your inventory finally does arrive.
- Amazon Inventory Management (this is Jungle Scout – not one of mine.)
7. Amazon doesn’t treat sellers in the same way it treats customers. What I mean by this, is don’t expect the same great website and fantastic customer service, etc, that you’ve probably experienced as a customer. I’ve almost been banned for allegedly manipulating reviews (I still, to this day, don’t know why), I had my listings suspended for being furniture (again, I still don’t know why), I’m currently trying to change my business entity from sole trader to a listed company – it’s taken almost a month and still no update – and I’ve had cases with seller support that took months to get answered. I’m not sure there is a solution to all of this – so just be aware of it!
Most of my posts regarding my Amazon woes aren’t useful – so I’m very pleased to have found one that is!
8. Finally, shipping always takes longer than you think it will. I don’t know why this is, but it seems to be a fact that there will always be a hold up somewhere along the line. I’m not sure if it’s me (but I’m assuming not, as I’ve used different forwarders and different shipping methods), but nothing ever arrives when it should.
And, then, there’s the inevitable wait for Amazon to actually process your inventory, which also adds some time. So, when you’re doing your inventory management (see above) bear all of this in mind and add on an extra week or two to give yourself some breathing space.
I’m not going to provide any useful posts for this (I’m not sure I have any), but there are plenty about me waiting around for my inventory to turn up – as a good example of what not to do!
So, there you have it. I’m sure as I get further along this journey there’ll be more to add. If you’re already selling, what’s the one thing you wish you knew at the start?