Amazon Case Study #3: First 3 Weeks Update

I have been naughty lately and not updating regularly! I have a couple good excuses: I went out of town because a hurricane hit our city (we were fine and our home was too, thank goodness!) and I’ve been totally immersed in getting my first product moving and getting the future products lined up. But I’m back now!

When I put my product online three weeks ago, I wasn’t expecting to make any sales besides the ones from friends that I coerced into getting and leaving me a review (shh, don’t tell Amazon). I was planning to make my first sale once I started a “launch campaign” where you steeply discount the price and a company ensures you “sell” the necessary amount of product to land you squarely on the first page of listings. A new product typically starts out in the Amazon abyss- about 20 pages in where products go to die. It’s perfectly typical for a product to go without a single sale the first few months if the seller doesn’t go to any lengths to market it.

Imagine my surprise when, in the midst of harassing a handful of dear friends to buy and review my product (so I could start out with a solid 5-star base; this is standard practice, I swear!) I saw an unknown name pop up in the list of sales I’d made. I did a double take and tried to figure out if maybe one of my friends had a secret alias. Sure enough, I’d made my first real sale! I wanted to send my first customer a thank you card; her purchase made my whole week. I kept it professional though and asked her for a review, and to put a cherry on top of the experience she did leave me one (to put that into perspective, it’s usually about 1% of customers that leave a review).

I figured selling one product was a weird fluke from some kind of Amazon guru who had somehow found my listing. To be honest, I couldn’t even find my listing- that’s how much competition I have. Well, a few days later I made another sale! After that day, I seemed to keep selling one a day, and then the consistent sales seemed to have a small snowball effect- now I’m consistently selling at least 5 per day, with a record of 11 in one day! I still struggle to wrap my mind around the fact that this is really working.

You can see in the graph below, the from the 15th of August until the end of that month (in red) sales fluctuated between no sales at all and one unit (the days where it was more, there was a purchase from a friend). Now look at the trend in blue– much more healthy, right?? It’s going downward today because it’s not the end of the day yet, but I’ve had four sales and I’m confident it will be five by midnight, as people seem to shop in the evenings (I know I do).

Now, before I oversell my success, I have to put a few disclaimers on what’s happened. First of all, I have my product set at break-even price or even a little below, so I am not currently making a profit. I am playing for the long game, so my goal for now is to boost my product rank and creep closer toward that elusive front page, and hopefully get a few more reviews in the process.

Another disclaimer is that I did do a few pay-per-click ad campaigns on Amazon, and ran a campaign on Facebook with coupons as well. I have to say that neither were very successful, as I only seemed to make two extra sales from the Amazon campaign and maybe one from Facebook, so that’s still a work in progress (I will definitely explain how to do both in future posts, once I’ve gotten the science down!). I wish I could say that either of those were a magic sales bullet, but for now ads have been quite a big expense (so far the Amazon PPC has cost $161 and Facebook around $45, which is a lot to spend for very little results!). I’m not sure if running these campaigns has boosted my product ranking.

To sum up what I’ve learned, if you want to learn anything from my last few weeks, it’s that you can make sales even in a “saturated” market, and that the most important factor in the beginning besides a solid listing (I’ll get into that more later) is the price. I dropped my price a dollar and I think that coincided with the beginning of September when sales really picked up. You aren’t likely to profit in the beginning and it’s more helpful to have a break-even price or one where you profit very little (don’t drop too low or you could start a pricing war and then everyone loses) than to pump money into advertising.

I will soon be doing a launch campaign to aim for front page, but I realized soon after getting my product in stock that I actually needed to order another shipment immediately if I want to maintain the momentum I hope to get from the campaign! Now I will be waiting impatiently on the next shipment to be close to arrival before I begin the giveaways.

I will keep you updated on my progress! I am selling for $8 below the average selling price for my product (and some sellers list a similar product for a whopping $23 more than my current price). If I can manage to get to the point where I can even maintain my current 5 sales a day, for $5 more than my current price (still below average) that will make $25 profit per day, or $750 per month, or $9000 per year…and that’s quite a modest (albeit long-term) goal! Do you see what a great opportunity this business model is? What could you do with an extra $9000 per year? For me, that would cover traveling abroad with my family of four every year without any worry about the plane costs, and a bit of change left over!

Next post I will discuss how to create your brand!

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