Originally published on July 16, 2018, updated January 17, 2020
I recently caught up with Brandon Andrews, Editor-in-Chief of Private Label Insider to learn more about how he got involved in the private label community. Our very own Liz Fickenscher is a regular contributor! Check it out here.
Becky: Do you currently sell on Amazon? When and how did you first get interested in working with Amazon sellers?
Brandon: I've been selling on Amazon since 2014. I started like many new sellers begin with retail and online arbitrage. But at the time, I was still working a full-time 50 hour corporate job that I hated, so the arbitrage model simply just was taking too much of my time to scale it to get the freedom I desired. I then uncovered the ability to import our own branded products, it was a game changer for our business. Once I caught the vision of being able to do a lot of the work upfront and see sales roll in month after month, I went all in and built a six figure business in 10 months so I could quit my job and start doing something I loved.
I first started working with Amazon sellers locally who were interested in what I was doing. I would get tons of questions from people about how I was growing my business so fast; even my CPA was shocked. So as I began sharing with people what I was doing, they also caught the vision and wanted in. After coaching my first client and seeing his business moving to a six-figure brand within his first six months, I knew I was on to something. So, I created a private-label course called Build My Label that hundreds have now went through with some pretty incredible results. But, even having my own private label, of course, there was no way I could be the expert at everything. So I saw the need to connect and bring the experts all in one place to create the ultimate resource for sellers, both new and experienced. Conference level content and strategies, but more frequently than just a few times a year AND for significantly less than what it costs to attend a conference. That’s when the Private Label Insider was born; the rest is in the history books.
Becky: What inspired you to build the Private Label Insider community?
Brandon: We all know and see the fakers and gurus selling high ticket courses and coaching programs that simply don't create results. I was sick and tired of seeing individuals fork over their credit card for thousands and thousands of dollars and still not get the information they need to be successful online. I also was noticing information and tactics been shared inside Facebook groups, blogs and through email that was simply not tested or tried; there was no data to prove or back up the approach. Not only was it frustrating for me as a seller, but I felt obligated to bring a dynamic resource to the private label community that they can trust. Please hear me out…I'm not knocking Facebook groups or blogs or emails, there are some good ones out there. But not everyone has had the opportunity to fully engage with many of the communities to know who the trusted sources are, especially if they are brand new to Amazon selling. The Private Label Insider helps bring a level of comfort and confidence knowing they are hearing from industry leading experts that share the stage on many popular Amazon conferences like the The Prosper Show, ASD, Retail Global, Midwest Ecom, Global Sources Summit and many more!
Becky: What is PLI and how can people join? Is the community only for folks who have already launched their first product?
Brandon: The Private Label Insider is like a conference on steroids. You no longer only get to hear from experts once or twice a year at a costly conference, but get to hear from them every single month through a high-quality designed, interactive digital magazine. It shares with you the most updated tactics and advice to grow your business. You can almost think of this guide and these experts as the advisory board to your business, speaking to the most important parts to start or grow your business. The insider community is fully geared for any stage of the private label journey - if you are just getting started or already have successful sales.
It’s super easy to join - you can visit our website and hit the subscribe button at the top. In fact, right now we are running a super secret special just for the communities of our contributors and partners like eComEngine. Luckily for you, if you're reading this, you get 70% off our normal subscription price. It's extremely limited and likely will not be available the entire month of July, so jump over and take advantage of it before your competitor does.
Becky: What's your best advice for private label sellers who are just getting started?
Brandon: My best advice for new sellers is to really think through your approach to building and launching your private label business. Selling on Amazon provides an incredible way to build a fast growing business, but as it has become more competitive, you really have to make sure your brand strategy is sound. Noticed I said BRAND STRATEGY, not product strategy. Some of the most successful sellers I know didn't just choose a product that had profit potential, they chose a brand with long-term profit. I’m talking about looking for a niche or brand of products that you can build out over time to continue marketing to the customers who love the quality of your products, your service and their overall experience. And within your brand, your product needs to have an edge against your competition in some way - it has to be different. Bringing a me-too product to the market will significantly decrease the shelf life of your product AND cause you to see your overall margins start to slip over time.
And because the Amazon marketplace is more competitive in today’s world, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a private label training course to guide you along the way or at each critical stage. I made a couple costly mistakes in my business early on and sure wish I would have had something fully comprehensive to guide me through the process. One of our partners with PLI (and a biz I happen to be involved in) has a great private training course called Build My Label that steps you through the entire process of finding, sourcing, launching and promoting your PL products on Amazon.
So between developing a brand strategy, getting a private label training course AND subscribing to The Private Label Insider - all these steps will give you a MASSIVE jump start to building out your private label business and realizing your dreams.
Becky: What challenges do you think private label sellers face today?
Brandon: I think there are two big challenges private label sellers face today.
The first challenge is control. When you sell on a platform like Amazon where you don’t own the customer, it creates a full dependency on that marketplace to produce sales. For many private label sellers, all or a large majority of their revenue comes from Amazon, which can create a deep dependency on them. And although it’s nice to not have to ship out orders by using Amazon’s FBA service or handle customer service inquiries, you pay the price in the commission you pay them. And you are also challenged to fully control your business. Amazon makes decisions of where they want your inventory shipped to, pays you on their time schedule, puts damaged returns back into your sellable inventory, suspends your ASINs or account without fully researching, not allowing you to access customer emails and more.
The second challenge folds into the first one, where you don’t have control of the customer since Amazon owns them. You MUST build your audience off Amazon to have long term success. If you look at some of the popular or growing brands on Amazon, they have focused some of their time and energy in building a following via social, product inserts or other ways. Your social fans are something you strive to build continually. Your email list is like gold as you connect weekly with your list that can also be used for launching products, encouraging purchases during Prime Day, etc.
Although Amazon can bring in crazy revenue for your business, make sure to have a plan to build and control your own audience. Do not depend on any marketplace to do it for you.
Becky: How do you think private label will change for third-party sellers on Amazon in the next few years?
Brandon: Private label in my opinion IS the future. eCommerce is projected to grow exponentially over the next five years. Amazon continues to dominate the online sales space taking more market share each year. Retail continues to die out with the closing of stores like Sears and Toys”R”Us, so Amazon MUST be a place where brands build a significant presence.
Over the next few years, Amazon will continue getting more competitive, but the product and brand opportunities will continue to be there. As more sellers shift some or all of their business to the private label model, it will be more important than ever for sellers to master how Amazon uses data to make decisions that impact the sales of their products. Understanding and staying up to date with the Amazon algorithm, advertising options and optimization, keyword and competitor tracking…the list goes on. The bottom line is third party sellers will need to be on top of their account and product performance to ensure their brands stay successful and continue growing.
I am most excited about how Amazon continues to enhance the ability for brands to create discoverability on their site. Through things like Brand Registry 2.0, Enhanced Brand Content, Product Listing Videos, Amazon Storefronts, Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) dashboards and so much more, Amazon continues to show their commitment to serve those building brands on their site.
Do you have any questions for Brandon? Would you like to see more interviews on the blog? Let me know in the comments below!
Originally published on July 16, 2018, updated January 17, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.