Is The Cell Phone Accessories Market on Amazon a Viable Business?
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, April 2015 - Volume 16, Issue No. 7
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Online Sellers
I have had a lot of readers ask me is there any way to automatically create eBay listings from your Amazon listings. Well now there is a way. It's a new system called Joelister. Joelister imports your entire Amazon inventory and prepares an eBay listing for you. All you have to do is click on a button that says Edit and List, edit your listing, set the price and then click the button to make the listing live on eBay.
Joelister also has an automatic fulfilment capacity. When an item sells on eBay, Joelister goes into your Amazon FBA account and creates a fulfilment order. The system is pretty new and there still may be a few bugs but I have used it for about a week now and so far have not seen any issues.
A new enterprise system for making your multi-channel selling launched recently. The company is called Skubana and I wrote about it in my blog. This is a very interesting service for any multi-channel seller.
It seems there are a lot of new third-party tools and services coming on the market lately. Another new one is Ecomdash.
Ecomdash is a web-based, automated multi-channel inventory control, sales order, purchase order, catalog, listing, warehouse, drop shipping and shipping management software designed especially for small business. Basically they "connect the dots" between channels, customers, shipping, orders, warehouses, and suppliers.
Ecomdash is designed to handle very complex inventory needs as well as high-volume operations. They are best known for their robust inventory management software and the following unique product identification features:
Their goal is to make it easy to sell across multiple channels whether that is their own website and one other marketplace, or multiple marketplaces. You get a central dashboard that allows you to pull your listings from eBay and easily list them on Amazon and then notifies each marketplace when an item is sold. This way you don't have to worry about overselling and the system keeps an accurate read on your inventory needs.
And right now they are offering a special - Two free months to try the system out. Just use the coupon code SPRING15
SOURCING TRIP TO CHINA - I mentioned this in a previous newsletter. Well we are not yet ready to roll it out -we are still gathering pricing information on hotels, food and bus transportation. But we have made one decision.
Rather than go to just Hong Kong and the fairs there, we are moving the event to Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) for the Canton Trade Fair. The Canton fair is larger and frankly more important. And Guangzhou is only a 2-hour train ride from Hong Kong.
Arrangements are still up in the air, but coming together soon. What I can tell you now are the following things:
As soon as we finalize the costs we can decide on pricing for the trip and open registration. So just watch future issues of this newsletter for details. We hope to have registration open and set up by the middle of May.
So far we have about 15 people who have emailed us that they are interested. If you want to get on this no-obligation list, please use the contact us form to send us an email. The people on this list will get early information and first chance to sign up before all the spots are gone.
Need Help Around the Home? Introducing Amazon Home Services. That's right - Amazon is getting into the home services business. Here is what the press release said:
Price Fixing on Amazon - Yes it does go on, but it's highly illegal. Just last week the U.S. Justice department filed their first case against an online seller - An Amazon poster seller who was contacting his competitors to set prices. I know it's frustrating when someone is constantly under pricing you, but you must resist the temptation to contact them. Any such communication between sellers is a violation of both Federal law and Amazon policy.
Lets get started with this month’s articles:
In terms of sales volume and velocity, cell phone (and to a lesser extent tablet) accessories are one of the hottest product categories on Amazon. But like anything good in life, the devil is in the details.
First let me relate my experience. When you read this you might think, "OK that's not for me." But you could be wrong as everyone approaches things in a different way.
About three years ago when I was at the ASD wholesale trade show in Las Vegas I kept running into vendors who were selling cell phone cases, headphones, chargers and other gadgets for cell phones and tablets. I was so impressed with the variety of stuff available I thought to myself: "I ought to try this."
I placed a few orders right at the show, but mostly I collected catalogs and price sheets and took them home to study.
The first thing I learned is that cell phone cases were most likely not a viable product. At prices under $10, the selling price was too low for an FBA seller. Remember - Amazon has that $2.02 pick and pack and handling fee. If you sell something for $10, those two fees represent 20% of your margin gone before the other fees are factored in. So I started looking for higher priced items. I went with headsets, Bluetooth speakers and iPad cases with Bluetooth keyboards. I also bought some different smaller accessories including chargers and bundled them to sell in the $19.95 range.
The good news is the products sold really fast. I was stoked. Then the other shoe dropped. I started getting returns. Big time! After a couple of months, my return rate on some products was in the neighborhood of 25% --and overall in the category it averaged about 14%. As you can imagine that is a real profit killer.
The amazing thing was, many of the returns were coming back with the boxes never even opened. People would get the product, look at it and just return it.
I have spoken to other sellers in the electronics category and they have all told me the return rate in electronics is high, but I wasn't expecting it to be that bad.
So after about a year of that I stopped ordering products in the category and just moved on to something else.
Now you are probably thinking: "Why would I want to try this?" Well as I said above everyone is different. It may have been the products I was selecting, or how I was describing them (I do tend to "sell" my products in my listings).
Just because I did not succeed with this particular category doesn't me you can't. After all there are hundreds of sellers in that category - many of them very successful.
I suspect the trick to overcoming a high return rate is to have tons of SKUs and sell large volumes. That is the only way I can think of to overcome the issue of high return rates. So my best advice if you want to enter this market is to go wide -not deep. In other words have lower quantities of more SKUs rather than large quantities of just a few SKUs.
If you are selling on eBay or Amazon - you may not realize it, but you are self-employed. You may also have a job that pays you a salary, which means you are part-time self-employed. If this is your situation, or if your online business is your only venture, what do you need to know to be self-employed -and be successful at it?
The first step is to realize that you are both the boss and the employee. When you work for a company, your boss sets the tasks and gives you your marching orders. He or she may even set your goals for you -or if they are a good leader they work with you to help you set your goals. But as a self-employed entrepreneur you have to do all of this.
The first thing that most newly self-employed individuals struggle with is the self-discipline to do this. Every day (preferably in the morning) you have to think through all the stuff you need to accomplish - write it down and then start doing it.
If you choose to just wing it, you will look around one day and everything will be falling apart. It really takes a lot of discipline to do this - but it is absolutely essential if you want to succeed.
Another big factor is time management. It is one thing to set out your list of tasks but you have to manage your time and resources to make sure everything gets done. This is harder than it sounds. It's easy to become distracted by phone calls, Facebook posts and emails. One of the things I do is set a schedule for answering email and the phone.
I rarely answer the phone before 10 or 11 AM - I just let it go to voice mail. I spend the first hour of the morning reading and answering email from the previous day then I stop and don't go back to my email for at least 3 hours.
In the meantime I am doing all the tasks I set for myself that morning. On any given day it could be anything from working on this newsletter, to product sourcing to creating shipments to FBA among numerous other tasks.
The hours can really add up so try and divide your tasks into things that you can outsource to a virtual assistant. Another thing to do is invest in automation. For example I use a feedback service to solicit feedback. Since I am selling 30 to 40 items a day it would take quite a bit of time each day to email every customer requesting feedback. By automating this simple task I can spend my time on more important tasks that make me money.
Besides a lot of self-discipline the other criteria is learning how to pay attention to all those pesky little details that beset every business. It might be inventory control, doing taxes (both sales tax and quarterly estimated tax payment), or just organizing your files and paperwork so you can find things. But not doing these things can really add up and cause problems.
Another critical area is cash flow management. A lot of people focus on margins and profits -and those are important. But not paying close attention to your cash flow can really get you in trouble. Almost all new businesses run a negative cash flow in the early days - that is normal. So make sure you have enough cash to weather the storm until your cash flow turns positive. Be careful going into debt - that is another thing that can sink a new business. Debt is like a guerrilla fighter that can sneak up on you and attack you when you are not looking. (See next article about financing your business).
Lastly, is learning to take responsibility for everything. And, I do mean everything. One of the fastest ways to fail in business is to blame your mistakes and shortcomings on others. We all know that Amazon and eBay are not your friends, but it is their sandbox and if you are going to play in someone else's sandbox you have to play by their rules - no matter how unfair or silly you think those rules are. Blaming your problems on eBay and/or Amazon (or your vendors or other things) is a sure way to fail.
Once you decide to quit your job and go full time one of the things you will need is health insurance. Since your income will be pretty low the first year you may qualify for a subsidy under ObamaCare -but once you start making good money you will find out just how expensive health insurance is. One organization that can help you is the National Association for The Self Employed - NASE. You can get information on their benefits here. They also offer a lot of other discounts on products and services for the self-employed. (Note - I am not endorsing them - just providing a link to their services).
So far a lot of the things I have dealt with sound like negatives, but there are many positive aspects to being self-employed. First of all I like the idea that I am completely responsible for my success or failure. My commute consists of walking up the stairs and sitting down in front of my computer. I no longer have huge gas, parking and dry cleaning bills. And if I want a raise, I don't have to ask for it. I just work a little harder and longer.
I can take break anytime I want and I decide how big or how fast I want my business to grow. I set my own goals. While you are struggling to start your business and get it to profitability, you may not appreciate these things. But, as your business stabilizes, you will realize how good it feels not to answer to others and be the master of your own destiny.
The single best way to finance a new business of any kind is with savings - money that you set aside for that purpose -not your retirement savings or college savings for your kids. But realistically not all of us can do this. So what are some other ways to get into an online business?
Of course - one way is debt, but that is a really bad idea. I use debt to finance purchase of inventory that I know 100% will sell. But going into debt to start a business is reckless. You have little or no idea what will sell, and what will not, and what your real costs are going to be. Charging thousands of dollars to your credit cards until you know absolutely what will sell is dangerous.
When you are in business you have to learn to take -and manage risks. The trick to managing risk is don't take any risk that if it went south would kill your business. Instead take lots of small risks, because if they go bad you can usually survive them.
The next place people often look is getting an investment, or borrowing money from family and/or friends. This is also not such a great idea. Take money from a friend or family member and all of a sudden you have an unsolicited partner giving you advice that you will feel compelled to listen to. The problem is the advice is usually coming from someone who had very little understanding of your business. And if your business doesn't make it, you have lost a friend or hurt a family member. All in all -not worth it.
If you can find an investor unrelated to you who is looking at this as a professional investment that can be workable -but those folks are really hard to find.
So what does that leave us with?
If you don't have any savings there are still ways to do this business. The best way is called "bootstrapping your business." This means nothing more than starting with a small amount of money and reinvesting all your profits back into growing your business
More than likely you will need some type of job to pay your bills while you start and build up your business, because bootstrapping means you have to keep reinvesting your profits back into your business to grow it. If you start taking profits out of the business to live on, you will not be able to grow the business or it will grow very-very slowly.
I have heard of folks doing this on Amazon starting with less than $200 and building a $50,000 a year (in profits) business within a year. But they are the exception. Starting that small I would guess it would take the average person about two years to accomplish this.
What if you don't even have $200.00? Two hundred dollars is not a huge amount of money. Look around your home for things you just don't need or use anymore and sell them on eBay. Or have a garage sale. If you can raise $500 or more, that is even better, because you can start with more merchandise.
What to sell?
When you have very little money you aren't really ready to start buying goods in bulk from wholesalers. Most folks in this situation start with something like used books they can get from yard sales and library sales and thrift shops. Or they do retail arbitrage. Buy things on clearance sale from stores such as Target and Wal-Mart and flip them on Amazon.
Its not a good long-term strategy but I always see goods selling on eBay for ridiculously low prices that you can buy and double your money on Amazon. And vice versa - but I typically see many more underpriced items on eBay than I do on Amazon.
This is a guest article by Christian Martin from AMZ Tracker - a third party service that helps sellers optimize their listings, target and track new keywords, and evaluate the effect of optimization efforts. At then end of the article Christian gives you links to AMZtracker if you want to evaluate their service.
Here is Christian's article:
To paraphrase Steven Pressfield, "Turning pro is a mindset. The problem is, we're thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don't show up. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The Pro thinks differently."
There are over 2 million sellers on Amazon, but not all of them are pros. Many of them are hobbyists, or part time sellers, or just looking to make a couple of bucks. All of this is fine, if that's what you're looking for. If you want to quit your job, and make a full time living on Amazon, it's time to turn pro.
What makes the difference between an amateur and a pro?
The amateur lacks a plan of attack. He (or she) doesn't research his product niche before ordering from the manufacturer. He doesn't optimize his product listing to rank for his desired keywords. He feigns helplessness, instead of doing everything in his power to grow his keyword rank gains, enter profitable niches, and cultivate a mass of positive reviews.
So, what does the pro do differently?
For one, the pro uses better tools. He knows it's worth it to invest in tools, because, like a prospector buying a pickaxe, he knows that tools make digging for gold all that much easier.
The pro researches his niche BEFORE investing any money. He makes sure to choose a product that is both profitable, and not overly saturated. He evaluates his competition, and creates a plan of attack to beat them.
He's works diligently on his marketing and optimization by targeting the right keywords, optimizing his page, growing his rankings, and taking full advantage of his photos.
He responds to every customer complaint immediately, and does everything in his power to make the customer happy. As Zig Ziglar said:
"You can have everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want."
So which do you want to be? Do you want to sell on Amazon part time while you work at your 9-5 during the day? Or do you want to turn pro, go full time, and create not only an income, but also a life selling on Amazon?
When it's time to turn pro with your Amazon business
Three things pros do differently:
If you can implement these three characteristics of a pro into your Amazon business, you’re going to see your traffic grow, your rankings improve, and you’ll grow sales as a result. While it may seem overwhelming to tackle all of this on your own, there are tools to help. One such tool is AMZTracker.
AMZ Tracker - A powerful new Amazon Seller Software
AMZ Tracker originally started out as a simple Amazon rank tracker, but the need for more became apparent. It has since evolved into a robust Amazon selling software designed to do one thing; improve your Amazon sales.
Whether you want to track your competitors sales, evaluate a niches profitability, or improve your products rankings for keywords, we’ve got you covered.
You can use AMZ Tracker to optimize your Amazon product listings with our one-click on page analyzer, target and track new keywords, and evaluate the effect of optimization efforts.
We've recently added negative review notifications so that you're notified immediately when you receive a negative review. Since reviews are such a big problem for so many sellers, we've created our own Amazon Review Club, where you can trade discounted or free product in exchange for honest, quality reviews for your product.
You can also send custom, white label email reports, conduct in depth keyword research, and teach Amazon which keywords to rank you for with our Super URL tool.
We're adding new features everyday, so visit AMZ Tracker to sign up and see for yourself how easy it is to grow sales in your Amazon business with our full set of tools. Click here to get a free 7-day trial, and an extra 10% in additional features for the life of your account.
Not ready to sign up for an account? Sign up for our newsletter to get the Ultimate Amazon SEO crash course, and learn exactly how to optimize your product listing to rank for the most popular keywords. Sign up for it at AMZ Tracker.
My first article was about selling smart phone and tablet accessories, so here are a few sources to get you started if you want to go that way.
iCella sells a wide range of accessories for all the popular brands of smart phones and tablets.
Dream Wireless is another large company in the cell phone accessory market and iCella's largest competitor.
Chic Buds are unique earbuds that are specifically and intentionally designed to meet the exclusive needs of women and girls.
Cirago sells a large line of iPad, iPhone and smart phone accessories including Bluetooth products, cases and the very hot iAlert Tag which secures your iPad and alerts you if you forget it and walk away. Also helps you find your iPad if you misplace it. Or if someone walks away with it you can follow him or her and retrieve it.
OK - now lets look at some other product categories.
Amanda Shi Los Angeles is a contemporary women's wear brand that draws inspiration from vintage and heritage classics. While distinctly modern in silhouette, the collections echo the elegance and glamour of decades past.
Cabana Boys Inc. sells fun decorative wine glasses that will liven up any party, or social event.
DEMDACO sells several gifts, fashion, decorative, plush and skincare lines.
Regimental Colours sells old fashioned, all wood, toy soldiers and cannon from the US Civil War. For playing, collecting, and learning.
The Circle 21 Candle Company sells a line of candles made from recycled wine bottles.
Merritt International is an importer and distributor of contemporary tableware products.
Alpen Bling, Inc. sells a line of rhinestone stickers for cell phone or almost any hard surface. They are fairly low priced but lend themselves to bundling.
American Linens sells linens and towels in the Dollar Store and up market.
BePe Baby sells a line of unique baby booties and toddler non-skid slippers.
Abbeville Press specializes in publishing high end books on art, architecture, photography, design, travel, lifestyle, and media.
Aspen West only sells one product. They were established in 1984 to distribute and market "Where's Mom Now that I Need Her?" Surviving Away From Home" survival guide. This book alone has sold over one million copies and still selling strong.
Gems2Behold specializes in wholesale beads including Murano glass beads, Venetian beads, Swarovski crystals, glass beads and jewelry supplies for jewelry making.
That’s all for now – See you in two weeks.
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
© 1999- Harry McGrath, Inc., DBA Skip McGrath, Auction Seller's Resource and Vision-One Marketing. All Rights Reserved.
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