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  • Julie Feng

3 Things I Learned Selling on Amazon

Image via Asana

During the winter following the pandemic, whether on my personal Instagram feed/discovery page or my YouTube homepage, I stumbled upon friends' and strangers' urges to find alternative sources of income  —  some of which were expensive, excitedly creative and inspiring to instigate.

I find myself to be quite a lazy person. For instance, I like to create Excel spreadsheets prior to my exams to avoid unbelievably long and hectic step-by-step calculations. I am also guilty of ordering too much takeout because the idea of washing the dishes after cooking tires me out. Simply said, I like it when things are automated, so the concept of fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) attracted me very quickly. For those who are new to the idea, FBA is essentially when Amazon ships your selected products to customers from its fulfillment centers and manages refunds.

The process of selling a product on Amazon is simple. It can easily be broken into five steps mentioned below. I will not go into detail explaining every step as there are endless YouTube videos that provide very detailed information on that process.

  1. Find a legitimate seller on Alibaba

  2. Order your first batch of products

  3. Have a white background ready to photograph your product

  4. Create your product listing using keywords

  5. Advertise accordingly using Amazon's marketing campaigns

Although the five steps may seem simple, how easily you go through them depends on three things: the product you select, how saturated the market is with this product, and any regulations enforced in the geographic market where you choose to sell the product. Whether you select a standard product with high consumer demand and low differentiation potential, or a niche product with low consumer demand and high differentiation potential, you will assuredly experience moments that will make you tell yourself, "Well, I think that is enough for today." For instance, Amazon's website physically refrains you from selling your product, thus directing you to Amazon Seller Central's customer service page. Speaking of 'enough,' I think it is time I start talking about the goal of this article. Here are some things I learned along the way:

There is no perfect product

As with all e-commerce platforms, sellers always want to set themselves the ultimate challenge of finding the best possible product: a product that is yet to be sold on the market and that will allow them to take on the prized label of a first mover, straying far from daunting competitors. Certain products are not sold in the Canadian or American markets, yet have made explosive sales in China. For example, exercise hula hoops have dominated the fitness industry in China.

Perhaps, this "unmet need" among North American consumers will only be met when someone has the confidence and capital to create the necessary advertisement and marketing for this product. However, creating a new product to satisfy consumers' needs requires a lot of time and money; therefore, inventory and profitability will most probably take a hit somewhere along the process. Rest assured, you can leave this job to the big people in the industry — that is, if you are not looking to disrupt the market or invest yourself fully into this project.

That being said, if there is no perfect product, what should you look for? Though there are many tips out there from professionals answering the previous question, save yourself some time, find a less generic product (so no false eyelashes or hair dryers), and make the product better. How can you make it better, you may wonder? This brings me to my second point: infographics and product pictures.

Infographics and editing can go a long way

Think of infographics and editing as the beautifully edited pictures below the title and the bolded subtitles throughout the article. Infographics give you an overall view of the article's content, whereas editing allows you to better understand what you are getting from the content. Essentially, pictures anchor consumers' attention, whereas infographics speed up the consumers' thought process from considering purchasing your product to confidently adding it to their cart because they know its exact benefits.

For example, "easy to clean," "heavy duty," "reusable," "non-toxic stainless steel," and "comfortable wood handles" are five descriptive terms taken from an infographic for an Extendable Marshmallow Roasting Stick product listing. This product has more than 2,976 ratings averaged at 4.6 stars. Although the terms "easy to clean" and "heavy duty" may seem like empty words, they can interestingly be attributed to a range of similar products sold under the same "outdoor and grilling accessories" category.

The fact remains that seeing these descriptive words gives consumers the impression that they are getting more value for their money. By including these keywords in the product description, you create a sense of comfort and safety for the consumer, thus making generic products  —  in this case, the extendable marshmallow roasting sticks  —  not so generic anymore.

The trick to successfully selling on Amazon is differentiating your product by cleverly using infographics and editing. It is costly and unlikely for you to come up with a high-profit, low-cost product that is unseen in the eyes of consumers. Instead, you can easily strip the ordinariness of a generic product by including eye-catching infographics.

This can also be done by photoshopping the product onto pictures free of cost. Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelance services, allowing customers to find the services they want at a minimal price without incurring any long-term costs. I like Fiverr as the platform holds both the seller and the user accountable for the experience and the transaction. Through this experience, I understood the importance of artists and how valuable they are in the creation, presentation, and delivery of a product.

Some may argue that photoshop is a skill that is easy to grasp; however, during this project, I had set myself a short-term goal. Going back to my "lazy" nature, I wanted to automate the process as much as I could, with the intention of leaving a small margin for profit. Besides, there are some exceptionally talented and agreeable sellers on Fiverr. They want you to have the best possible end product just as much as you do and are willing to work with you through continuous modifications.

Do not even consider quitting your project

Life is easy when people have backup plans for failed projects already orchestrated in the back of their minds; however, this may not always be the case. Failure at some point during the project is almost guaranteed, and quitting should not be an option. It is easy to quit when coming across obstacles. Some hardships I encountered include not finding the right product, not finding a shipping company, product listings not going through, and being ignored by the supplier and the Amazon Seller Central's Customer Service. This might be demotivating and will lead to thoughts such as "Perhaps FBA is not for me," and "Maybe it is time to stop working on this project." However, you must not give up.

From choosing the product to selling the inventory, the process took me about four months. During the course of these months, my parents told me, "I would not buy that if it were me," and "Don't count on us to help you advertise your product." However, the discouragement did not matter because quitting the project was not an option for me. I had already contacted a new supplier that sold the exact same product, created a different product listing, and asked someone to create an instruction manual.

In the end, if you set yourself to complete a project, there will be a sense of gratification that awaits you at the finish line. All of this is true if you acknowledge that you do not want this project to carve out your wallet, but I trust you on not getting yourself to that point!

Final words

All in all, there are a few things I learned specifically through the experience of selling on Amazon. This includes the importance of infographics, the importance of building attractive product listings, maintaining friendly relationships with suppliers, freight forwarders and designers, and managing your marketing campaigns in such a way that you don't end up generating negative profits. However, while those are useful skills to hold onto, they remain irrelevant to the world outside of e-commerce selling activities.

Throughout these four months, the most exciting part, in my opinion, was meeting all the talented artists who can monetize their work. I never fully appreciated the work put behind advertising banners or product images until it was time to create one myself.

In the meantime, I discovered an interest in managing products. Hopefully, I will be able to do the same as the people I have come across during this experience, notably the sellers whom I have come in contact with on Fiverr, and possibly even monetize this interest of mine.


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