#166 – Changes Have Come to Amazon

Episode 166 of the Serious Sellers Podcast features Bradley Sutton with the latest news and Helium 10 updates and releases affecting Amazon sellers.

Change is good.

It keeps us on our toes and makes sure that we don’t get too set in our ways. There are really very few places where change is as much of the everyday process as it is with selling on Amazon and e-commerce in general.

No one’s to blame here. When we imagine that the incredible rate of growth that Amazon had been experiencing has only multiplied since the coronavirus pandemic began, we can begin to understand why. It’s an ecosystem that’s struggling to adapt to exponential increases in participation.

Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Chief Brand Evangelist, Bradley Sutton presents the latest Amazon news as well as other events that affect the greater e-commerce marketplace. He also makes sure that you’re up to date on the most recent updates and releases from Helium 10.

In episode 166 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley discusses:

  • 02:00 – Amazon’s Earning Report Shows Doubled Year Over Year Profits to 5.2 Billion
  • 03:00 – Huge Increases in Online Grocery Sales
  • 04:15 – Bradley’s Brand Registry N/A Shortcut
  • 07:05 – Amazon’s Listing Quality Dashboard
  • 10:30 – How Amazon Buyers Can Find Out Where You Live
  • 12:45 – Location Transparency Might Also Be a Good Thing
  • 14:45 – Amazon’s Virtual Bundling Tool
  • 17:15 – Quantity Restrictions are Coming 
  • 21:00 – Amazon’s Warehouses are Filling Up
  • 23:15 – Reach Out to 3PL Warehouses to Add to Your Storage Options
  • 24:30 – Make Sure and Subscribe to Helium 10’s YouTube Channel
  • 25:15 – Helium 10 Also Has a Number of New Updates and Releases

Enjoy this episode? Be sure to check out our previous episodes for even more content to propel you to Amazon FBA Seller success! And don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to our podcast.

Want to absolutely start crushing it on Amazon? Here are few carefully curated resources to get you started:

  • Freedom Ticket: Taught by Amazon thought leader Kevin King, get A-Z Amazon strategies and techniques for establishing and solidifying your business.
  • Ultimate Resource Guide: Discover the best tools and services to help you dominate on Amazon.
  • Helium 10: 20+ software tools to boost your entire sales pipeline from product research to customer communication and Amazon refund automation. Make running a successful Amazon business easier with better data and insights. See what our customers have to say.
  • Helium 10 Chrome Extension: Verify your Amazon product idea and validate how lucrative it can be with over a dozen data metrics and profitability estimation. 
  • SellerTradmarks.com: Trademarks are vital for protecting your Amazon brand from hijackers, and sellertrademarks.com provides a streamlined process for helping you get one.

Transcript

Bradley Sutton: In this episode, we’re going to talk about the biggest news stories that have happened in the Amazon ecosystem over the last few weeks that affect you sellers out there. For example, did you know that Amazon buyers potentially can find your home address in 30 seconds? How uncool is that? Pretty uncool I think.

Bradley Sutton: Hello everybody. And welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10, I am your host Bradley Sutton, and this is the show. That’s a completely BS free unscripted and unrehearsed organic conversation about serious strategies for serious sellers of any level in the e-commerce world. And something that can be considered a serious strategy is keeping up to date with everything that changes in Amazon, namely the Amazon news and understanding how it affects you and how it should affect your planning, the new tools that are available either from Amazon or even Helium 10, that can help you in your business. This episode is going to be about the latest changes that we have been noticing that are happening in the Amazon ecosystem that could have an effect on you. Pay close attention. A lot of this stuff we’ve talked about in our blogs before, but some of it is brand new and it’s really important that you guys are kind of taking note of what happens.

Bradley Sutton: Because you know, some people say, the only thing consistent on Amazon is change. And that’s how it is. If you are under a rock, you wouldn’t have known about things a couple of years ago when brand analytics came around and how powerful that could be for you. You wouldn’t have known about the switch to Amazon A+ content and how you can utilize that. It’s important to understand and keep up to date with everything that’s changing in the Amazon ecosystem so that you can plan accordingly. Let’s just first start right off the bat with talking about Amazon’s earnings reports that came out last week. There was some like pretty crazy numbers that came out from that. For example, Amazon actually doubled its net profit year over year to 5.2 billion. This is up from 2.6 billion at this time in 2019. And this is after Amazon, supposedly the according to this reports spent over $4 billion into COVID-19 related costs. Imagine if COVID didn’t happen or if they didn’t have to spend that money, that profit margin would have even been bigger. It’s interesting to note that, Hey, e-commerce is on the way up. Amazon is on the way up. It’s a great time to be optimistic about the future of selling on Amazon. Another interesting part is about Amazon’s grocery business. All right, this is something that I don’t think a lot of sellers really look into, but again, because of the pandemic, all of a sudden more people were looking to buy their groceries online. If you have the manufacturing capabilities for that, this might be something to look into. You know, this is still an emerging market. According to one report, e-commerce accounted just for 2.6% of total US retail, food and beverage sales last year.

Bradley Sutton: However, the Coresight research Institute estimated that overall category is going to expand about 40% this year and account for about 3.5% of total spending in that category, you know, retail, food and beverage. And that might seem like it’s a small number, but guess what that number represents that is a market size of nearly $38 billion. This might be something that, you know, if you have the manufacturing capabilities or contacts with a factory or something that produces food, this could be something that you could look into the latter half of 2020, beginning of 2021, how to sell grocery on Amazon. What other Amazon related news has there been recently? Well, a lot of sellers are, have been complaining. They’re trying to make new listings, right? And if they don’t have brand registry, they’ll get this error message called “5665”, and this is something we’ve been reporting on for a couple of months now, but there’s different ways around it and they constantly change. Like what if you don’t have brand registry yet you are not completely locked out from selling your product on Amazon. There are different ways around it. What I highly suggest doing is in the manufacturer section, make sure to put the brand name, alright? And then if it allows you to put the brand name of the brand and go ahead and do it, but most likely it’s not going to allow you if you don’t have brand registry so in that place, put either like an N-A, you know, sometimes lowercase, sometimes capital or N.a, n.A. I mean, there’s different things. It’s really weird how sometimes on certain listings, one of these variations works and sometimes other ones work, sometimes I’ve even heard of people using TBD. And then what happens is, is that’s what your listening gets started with, right?

Bradley Sutton: That’s what’s going to show up in the brand. Sometimes if you have the brand name and the manufacturer, even if you have NA or not applicable right there in the brand name, it actually still shows the actual brand name because you had put it in the manufacturer’s section. If not, what you need to do is after you get your listing up, you can just go and create, make sure to create the packaging and submit to Amazon, pictures of the packaging that showed the UPC number, or perhaps the Amazon FNSKU that clearly show the brand name on the packaging. And it’s the actual item and send that in and usually you can get that brand name of NA overridden. And Amazon will go ahead and put your own brand name on there.

Bradley Sutton: We wrote a blog on this; if you’re looking, or if you’re listening to this, the website, we’ll put a link in the transcript on this, we wrote a blog about how you can do that with some screenshots. Another way without having the packaging yet is if you create a website of your product and on there, make sure to have the pictures of the product and clearly show the UPC number on there. A lot of times I’ve done that twice. Myself, Amazon has accepted that as proof, even if you don’t have the actual packaging there. That’s just one way that you can get around the brand 5665 error without brand registry. And especially those of you who are using the Project X method of doing test listings. In that case, I almost wouldn’t even care that there’s any in the brand because that’s the whole point of the test listing is you’re not trying to build a brand on it so you’re not looking to get conversions. You’re just looking on to get, to validate the impressions and the number of clicks you get. I wouldn’t worry too much. I would just launch with the NA as the brand, but hey, if you want to make sure it’s an apples to apples comparison, absolutely go through that process of getting the actual brand, even on a test listing. That’s something that we have noticed that a lot of our users have been worried about.

Bradley Sutton: Something brand new that just came out in the last, it’s kind of like a new tool to improve the quality of your listings is what Amazon called it. And you could see this in your seller central dashboard, or just in your seller central dashboard, do a search for listing quality dashboard, right? Listing quality dashboard. And this goes to all sellers, I believe. I don’t think you have to have brand registry for this, but it’s just a cool thing to show you. If you have some missing fields in your listing, you know, I’m sure you guys use our listing optimization best techniques that we did that one workshop you guys can see that optimizeyourlistings.com, where Karyn Thomas and I did a two hour workshop on the best practices for listing optimization, but we mainly just went over the basics there, you know, “Hey, get a good title, your bullet points, your images, your description, your subject matter and your search terms”. But obviously there is a lot more or fields in Amazon and some of these could be “mini-gamechangers” as far as your visibility, because a lot of these fields have to do with those filters that Amazon customers can use in the search results so sometimes, you know, you’re buying something on Amazon, right? Or you’re searching for something on Amazon and you see like 5,000 results. You’re overwhelmed. Like, “Hey, I want to narrow this down.” If it’s a TV, “let me narrow it down to ones that are 30 inches and below,” or let me narrow it down by– if it’s a Prime listing, “let me narrow it down by the color, by the brand”. There’s all these different filters that are out there, you know, by the material, by the occasion, like if it’s a holiday related and if you don’t have these filters or fields filled out in your listing, you’re going to disappear. Your listing will disappear when Amazon customer uses one of these filters. This is just a new tool from Amazon that kind of helps you to see where you might be lacking in some of those fields. Like some of the ones from project X. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have the dimensions in the accurate places. That was something that had told me that I needed to add. You know, I didn’t have the occasion, some of these, you know, the occasion being for party or for Easter or for Halloween or something like that. There’s other ones where I didn’t have the color. I didn’t have the color of the coffin shelf or the Project X egg tray listing. I didn’t think about that. Like that a wooden egg tray what do you think? Of course it’s brown, but Hey, even if there’s just one customer out of 200 that are going to use that filter for brown guys that adds up over a year of how many– of how much business you might be missing out on just by not having this really simple filter filled out.

Bradley Sutton: Guys make sure to check that out again, it’s called the listing quality dashboard. It’ll probably only take you like 10, 15 minutes to go through that once you get there, but it can greatly increase your conversions on the backside. When I say greatly increased. I mean, to me, 1%, that’s a great increase. All right. Because I mean, how many impressions are you getting weekly? You know, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, a 1% crease is something that is not something to be scoffed at so make sure to check that out. What other things do we have in the news that are going on? Well, one thing that was really a big one, probably the most viral blogs I’ve written and had over 1400 shares in the first couple of days of this blog was how Amazon buyers can actually find your home address guys in 30 seconds. All right? This– how this came up was it came out in a news story on Amazon saying how “Hey, eventually in September 1st 2020 Amazon buyers will be able to see your seller address”, which in many cases for you guys is your home address. They will be able to see that starting September 1st 2020, however, this is not September 1st, 2020 right now, right now, right this very second. Amazon buyers still can see your address or how so? Well, what happens is you can go to their storefront. So right now, like you go to a listing on Amazon, like go to the coffin shelf listing or whatever. Right? And then you click on sold by “How cool is that.” “How cool is that” is our storefront name for the Project X. It takes you to a storefront pre-page right. There’s nothing that you see on there right now. However, go to the very top on the URL page and you can do this on any Amazon storefront on amazon.com right now. And if you change that.com, for example, com.mx, you know, for Amazon Mexico, and then now you’re in the store front for Mexico, for them, you’re going to see our company address there. And for those of you, Amazon sellers, who, when you set up your Amazon account, you just set it to your home address. You know, you don’t have an office building, or you don’t have a mailing address that you use. You know, you want it to verify your utility bills and everything so you have to use your home address. Guess what? Any Amazon buyer using this technique can actually see your home address right now by doing this hack, going to the Amazon Mexico, or one of the Amazon Europe storefronts, if you’re selling an Amazon Europe, but starting September 1st, they’ll even be able to see that on the amazon.com website.

Bradley Sutton: This was a shock to many people who didn’t realize that. I mean for those selling in Europe or those selling in Mexico, this is old news. I mean in Europe and Mexico, you’ve always been able to see everybody’s address. This is kind of big for a lot of people are like happy about this change because it’s like, “Hey, you know, some of these fly-by-night companies, it makes it a little bit more difficult for them to operate under the radar”. There’s more of a paper trail here, you know, so maybe some bad players is going to weed out, but those of you who are selling on Amazon and you’ve got your home address on there, it might be time to, you know, open up a case to Amazon and say, “Hey, is it all right if I change my main address, you know to a different address, like maybe your work or your office address”, I don’t think you can really use PO boxes. I don’t use PO boxes in the sense of a post office box by the us postal system. I use a PO box for like, it’s a mailbox, et cetera, or UPS store. I mean, it’s an actual physical address. I’ve never tested virtual addresses. Some people were asking me about that. I’ve never tested that, but I use an actual mailbox for mine. Hey, in the really, really weird situation where there’s some disgruntled customer out there and they want to find out where I live, well they’re not going to be able to just from my Amazon seller central account, they would just be sent to my mailbox. Right? So that’s something that you guys who are concerned about privacy. If it’s your home address as listed there, you might want to start investigating how to get that changed in order for that, not to show up.

Bradley Sutton: And there are actually some other cool things that you can put up on that page. Make sure to check the blog, there’ll be again a link in the description to the helium10.com/podcast. If you find this episode on there, you’ll find a link to a blog where we went into a lot of details on exactly what you can and can’t see from the buyer’s side, what you can and cannot put in on the seller side. This is again, something that’s very important. Those of you who are concerned about privacy, to make sure that you can check that your home information is not on there. All right, what else has changed recently in Amazon? We talked about the brand 5665 error. We talked about how buyers can look for your addresses.

Bradley Sutton: Another cool thing, let’s go– that was kind of a “bad news”, I guess, you know, for some people, but we talked about this in June, but there’s a virtual bundle tool now so again, if you needed another reason to get brand registry, here’s another reason to get brand registry. Amazon has a virtual bundling tool where let’s say in one brand that you have brand registry for you’ve got two or three items. Like let’s say they are– let’s take the coffin shelf. All right. I actually just launched five new coffin shelves on Amazon. I’m testing, different colors, a pink one, a green one, red one, et cetera. Right? If I wanted to, I can create a new ASIN, which is a virtual product bundle, and I can make the components of it be single standalone ASINs. Now the difference between this and you know, what you’ve been able to do in the past. If you wanted to do a bundle of a product, that’s a separate ASIN, Yes, but you would actually have to package it together and send that separately to Amazon as separate inventory.

Bradley Sutton: You’d have to send them a package that included a black and a pink coffin shelf. Right? But now you don’t have to do that anymore. You can just create this virtual bundle and from the customer side, it looks like it’s one listing, Hey, this is a bundle. If you’re able to put a different image, you can put an image that has the chose, the black and the pink coffin shelf. Hey, this is the product you’re buying one package of a black and a pink coffin shelf. But what’s happening on the backend is that if somebody buys this bundle, Amazon goes and fulfills basically two single orders of your two single items. You know, the black coffin shelf and the pink coffin shelf in this example. It’s fulfilled separately and shipped to the customer separately. You don’t save any money on the fulfillment. You don’t save any money on the Amazon commission or anything like that, but it’s just a way to get another ASIN out there and maybe capitalize on a higher ticket price sale. It’s something that can help you to sell multiple units like of a certain product. You know, like that is, you know, maybe two different products like, Hey, pink, coffin shelf, black coffin shelf, maybe let’s sell a 18 egg tray or and a 12 egg tray together in the same bundle. You can now do that if you have brand registry. Again, go to the written version of this episode if you want to see the link or just go to helium10.com/blog and type in “virtual product bundle tool”, and that blog will show up. That’s a really cool announcement. I know a lot of sellers were especially looking forward to that.

Bradley Sutton: Now, going back to the, you know, “bad news”, for some sellers is in back in July, Amazon made the announcement that they were going to have quantity restrictions for brand new products or products that were dormant or that weren’t selling well and this probably has affected the sellers more than anything else I’ve talked about today. And basically what’s happening, let’s say from now until Q4 potentially, unless something changes. If you want to launch a new product on Amazon, that’s FBA, the max you can send to Amazon is 200 units for a new product, or maybe something that was dead, a product that was dead and you’re reviving, there’s no sales. In the beginning, you’re only going to be able to send 200 units. Conversely other products that you’ve been selling for a while, you’re only going to be able to send in perhaps a multiple of what your sales velocity is. And this is not set in stone because there’s a lot of different factors involved in it, including Amazon storage capacity.

Bradley Sutton: Like let’s say you had a product that you were selling 200 units a month, right? Amazon could cap what you can send in at once for replenishment to maybe around 600 units. We’ve seen that it’s sometimes a multiple of anywhere from two to four times what your monthly sales velocity is, is what they will allow you to do. But again, there is not a specific formula that you can use to determine what your capacity will be, because it’s also determinant on how Amazon’s capacity is at their warehouses and that’s a constantly fluctuating. And that’s basically the reason why this is happening. What happened during the pandemic was Amazon was taking a big hit because of all the shipping delays they had and all the blocks that they put on where you couldn’t send more inventory and if it wasn’t essential. So, you know, Amazon went out and tried to hire, or they did hire, you know, what, 150, 175,000 more employees and more delivery drivers. I know they’re constantly are trying to get more warehouse space. But the fact of the matter is, you know, as we talked about the outside of this episode is that there’s so much more business that Amazon is doing right now that you know, people are sending, you know, sellers are sending inventory at unprecedented rates to Amazon and it is filling up their warehouses. How many of you guys out there have been trying to replenish your orders either from China or, you know, maybe you have it in your 3PL warehouse and you just send in an order to Amazon and in the past, as soon as they receive it, like within two or three days, you’ll see it an active inventory in your listing. But now it’s taking a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks for them to check in. Well, what’s happening is because in a lot of these warehouses, Amazon just doesn’t have the room anymore to check this inventory in so they’re trying to– they have to wait until they get inventory out the door. In order to kind of like alleviate from this, they’re trying to limit the number that you can send in and they’re prioritizing the shipments that they know are not going to be sitting in Amazon for very long, because it has high sales velocity. Again, if you’ve got some decent sales velocity, you’re going to see your rates increase.

Bradley Sutton: What are some ways around that? Like, what can you do? You know, what does this mean? You’re not going to launch a product any time between now and the end of the year? No, you know, I’m not recommending that nor do I think that that’s necessary to happen, but what you have to do is you’re going to have to start considering using 3PL warehouses. For example, maybe what you can do is you can send in 200 units of direct from your factory direct to Amazon and if your MOQ was 1000 units, well, you’d want to go ahead and take maybe those extra 800 units and have those shipped to either your house or a 3PL, and then how Amazon’s capacity is working is, is once Amazon has shipped and delivered the product, it’s not in transit or anything that frees up a unit, right? In other words, let’s say you send in 200 units of your widget to Amazon and they ship and deliver, If it’s in transit, it’s still kind of counts against your inventory capacity, but they ship and deliver 20 units. All right, well, what does that mean? Now? Your capacity is still too high, a hundred, but you’ve got 20 available because now your usage is only 180 units. Then theoretically speaking, you’ll be able to send in to 20 more. If you are selling any velocity at all, it’s going to be kind of difficult for you to keep from running out of stock, because, you know, if you’re selling like 34 units, it’s going to take a few days, those 30, 40 units every day to kind of show up as available in your system so you’re going to have to keep very tight control over your inventory, especially if you’re using a 3PL or your own warehouse to try and hurry up and replenish Amazon so that you don’t run out of your FBA inventory.

Bradley Sutton: But that’s just another reason that if your 3PL warehouse can do it, or if you’re doing this from your own house and using like stamps.com or something to stick your own shipping labels, that you also duly have your items listed as a fulfilled by merchant. Again, I included blogs before that are in detail on how to run fulfilled by merchant listings. Just go to helium10.com/blog type in a “fulfilled by merchant” or “FBM”, you know, either one of those and you should see those blogs, but you know, there’s 3PL warehouses. Like the one we just had on the podcast a few weeks ago, Sean, from Kreassive, Kreassive.com. I don’t think companies like that are going to really be able to help you out. If you’re just launching a brand new product and your projected sales are going to be only like five units a day or something like that, they might not have the capacity to deal with smaller companies. But if you’re a larger company and you’re, you’re established, and maybe you have like, you know, five SKUs, 10 SKUs that you want to launch, and you want to run it all through a 3PL warehouse, reach out to 3PL warehouses like that, ask people in your network. “Hey, who do you guys use that you can recommend?” Kreassive here in California, but maybe you’re in New York. You want a New York, third party logistics warehouse, ask your friends, ask the Helium 10 Members Group who they’re using for 3PL.

Bradley Sutton: If you’re like me and you can you have the capacity to fulfill this from your own house? You know, I got a 2000 square foot warehouse behind my house. All the Project X items, I just ship to my house and then as I need more inventory, I send it to Amazon from here. If I ever run out, I have my listing never goes dead because I’ve got inventory on hand here with my fulfilled by merchant listing active, that could be switched over as soon as you know, the prime listing runs out the buy box switches just right over to my fulfill by merchant listing. Guys, this is something I wrote two blogs on this issue that I think you guys should review it’s about the quantity limits. Just put in like “quantity limits” in the search bar at helium10.com/blog to– I have some like screenshots and some breakdowns on how to manage this situation.

Bradley Sutton: But at the end of the day, guys, it’s not the end of the world here that Amazon put this restriction in. I mean, if anything, it’s a great sign to show how business is booming so much on Amazon that, you know, they can’t even– they don’t even have the capacity to deal with all these products that are trying to meet this increased customer demand that you guys could see from that earnings report where Amazon sales are way up. These are just a handful guys of the things that are going on in the Amazon ecosystem. As a reminder, we give breaking news every week on YouTube. All right? So make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, just go to Helium 10 search for that on YouTube Thursday, evenings, we launched something called the weekly news. Alright, so make sure to set a not a reminder, but there’s like, there’s like a bell that’s on YouTube videos where you can set it so that you’ll get a notification every time we come out with these, these news stories. And again, at helium10.com/blog, we also keep up to date a little bit more in depth with is going on in the Amazon ecosystem. If anything here was news to you, make sure to go check out those resources and get more details.

Bradley Sutton: On the Helium 10 side, we launched a lot of stuff last month that we’ve been kind of, you know, drip feeding you here on the podcast, letting you know, for example, the Alta that helps with financial, you know, financial credit lines and helping with your VAT and getting daily payouts from Amazon, make sure to check out, growwithalta.com for that. Another thing I’m going to do an in depth podcast about in a couple of weeks is our new historical keyword ranking alright historical keyword ranking. So, so valuable for those of you doing product research or the word research, that’s something I’m going to go a little bit more in depth on, in the coming weeks, as well as our new inventory management solution that we’re offering within Helium 10. Look out for those news bites too, because all of those definitely can help you scale your Amazon business as well. Again guys, please, if possible, leave us a review if you haven’t done so whether you’re listening to on Spotify or Apple podcasts or whatever platform you’re listening to make sure to leave us a review. And also too guys, I just launched a new Instagram, like a business Instagram page for me, and I’m going to be giving you guys snippets of the best podcasts. And I’m also going to give a lot of Helium 10 related advice on there. So if you’re on Instagram, make sure to follow me at @H10bradley. Make sure to give me a follow there and any feedback that you have about the podcast. You can leave it to my DMs right there as well. Well guys, hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you in the next one.

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