Originally published on January 14, 2020, updated March 18, 2020
What Amazon software tools will you use this year to help improve efficiency and streamline your workflow? We have three very special guests who will help you decide which tools to consider, how to budget for them, and options for managing them for the most success. You'll learn:
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
What’s in your tech stack? If you’ve heard the phrase but don’t know what it means, don’t worry — you’re not alone. It’s important to learn more about this as it can impact the success of your Amazon business.
As a seller, you’ve probably already figured out how hard it can be to do everything on your own. Even if you’ve got a team, manually tracking fees, managing inventory, and other tasks can be exhausting or even impossible. Plus, you run the risk of making mistakes when everything is done by hand.
Choosing the right combination of tools, or finding your own “tech stack,” can be a crucial step towards being more successful — especially when you’re just starting out. When you ensure that your foundation is stable, you create the framework you need to build and grow. This webinar is a must-watch for anyone who’s trying to find the right tools for their business.
Paulina Masson, founder of Shopkeeper, has worked hard to create a list of over 200 Amazon seller tools. While her reviews are candid, informal, and easy to read, they’re also very personal. For this reason, she encourages everyone who uses her list as a guide to do their own research.
One suggestion Masson offers is to look for tools that are intuitive, rather than jumping on the most popular or established tool in a category. Sellers should look for software that offers the features they need in a format that’s simple to use.
“Large sellers and small sellers need different types of features,” she explained. “It’s important to take this into consideration. Some features are critical to use, and others are just nice to have.” In the webinar, Masson details what she feels are the six critical tools every seller should have in their tech stack and addresses hot topics such as keyword research, inventory management, and customer service solutions.
Many sellers want to be completely hands on, adding a personal touch to every aspect of their business. While this is admirable, it’s not realistic. Cindy Thomason, founder of bookskeep, suggests asking yourself the following questions: What do you want to automate? What takes the most time? What reports do you need to make good decisions?
With these answers, you’ll be better able to narrow down the tools you’ll need in your tech stack. “You don’t just want to use the latest tool,” she warned. “You want to set your business up to perform in the way you want it to work. Do a human task audit and figure out what you can automate.”
One common issue she sees with clients, however, is that they move onto something else and forget that they are paying for software they no longer use or need. To prevent this, Thomason recommends doing a quarterly review of your subscriptions. You can even use accounting software to find and assess the tools you’re paying for and remove anything that isn’t necessary.
Even if you have every conceivable tool, it can sometimes still be worth calling in outside help. As Eric Stopper, Amazon Consultant at BuyBox Experts explained, “The businesses that actually put someone in the role to manage those tools do better, regardless of the tool. A really good driver can take any of those boats across the ocean.”
One good example relates to content creation. After using a tool to find the keywords that are relevant to your category, Stopper suggests that sellers try to write a listing using them. What he sees with clients is that most people find it very difficult to include them all. That’s why calling in an expert can make such a big difference.
There are a lot of Amazon tools out there, and it can be hard to know where to begin. Thomason recommends identifying what task you’re trying to accomplish and starting with the simplest tool in that category. Then, as your business grows and you get more comfortable, move up to something more complex.
One great resource? Facebook Groups. Masson suggests subscribing to various eCommerce and Amazon seller groups and then using them like a search engine. Don’t be shy, either. Ask questions and read all the comments. You’ll still have to test things out to make sure they work for your needs, but gaining insight from fellow sellers is a good place to start.
Liz: Hi everybody. This is Liz from eComEngine. I'm so excited to have our first webinar of 2020. This one's about Amazon seller tools and managing your technology stack in 2020. I have Paulina Masson from Shopkeeper here today. Cyndi Thomason from bookskeep and Eric Stopper from Buy Box Experts. Without further ado we're going to get started. We're going to talk about how to choose the technology you need as an Amazon seller, how to pay for it and where managed services come in. Let's go.
Liz: I was thinking about this and I was thinking as everybody kicks off the year and they are thinking about their budget, they're thinking about what they can manage by themselves. They're thinking about whether they need a VA, or need managed services and I thought this was a great team to assemble so that we could hit each one of those talking points and answer any questions you have. First, a little bit of housekeeping. Like I said, this is going to be recorded. It's going to be sent to you via email after the webinar.
Liz: If you have questions throughout the session, go ahead and submit them in the Q&A window in Zoom rather than the chat because it's just easier to manage in the Q&A and we'll filter in some questions during the session too so that we can cover all of them and then at the very end we're going to do a Q&A as well with all the panelists. Let's get started. I talk to a lot of Amazon sellers every day and I don't always talk about just our tools. We talk about their pain points and what's working and not working for them in terms of productivity, profitability, and having less stressful more productive days and what comes up a lot is what you should automate, what you shouldn't automate, where to slow down and do things manually, and how to choose the right resources and tools for an Amazon sellers business.
Liz: Paulina, I really, really wanted you to be here today because you've spent a tremendous amount of time compiling that big list of seller tools, which impresses me and you've got your smiley faces and your frowny faces and I always try to make sure I have a smiley face on ours, but talk to me a little bit about what your reasoning was for creating that resource. And in your day to day you talk to people every single day. Just talk to me a little bit about your view of Amazon seller tools, what you think technology should be for different types of sellers and how that list came to be.
Paulina: Hi everyone. Thanks Liz for inviting me. So yes, I did compile a long big list of over 200 tools and services for Amazon sellers and most of them I did review myself. Being an Amazon seller, I did connect my account, I tested it out, some of them just for an hour, some of them for a week or longer and some of them I actually still use. That list that I have on shopkeeper.com it's very, very, how to say, personal. I started with the bookmarks, right? I would find the tool that I like and I bookmark it and I bookmark another one and then it became just this long list of bookmarks that I thought somebody else could use it as well. I actually created a nice big blog page with very candid reviews. It's not formal descriptions of the apps, but very informal intentionally candid. So I say, "Oh I hate this about this app and I love this about about this app." It's easy to read and it's easy to review.
Paulina: Now when I was choosing there was one big problem because when you are comparing separate tools in the category, let's say email marketing software, you are actually looking at the first impression first and then you go by the features and I realized later on in the beginning I thought that it's important to have many features that I would have as many as possible for the price that I'm paying but the more apps I tested, I realized that more features sometimes means that it's not the best and if it has the most features in the category, it's often the most complex option and the hardest to learn and the hardest to comprehend and quickly, easily, comfortably use later.
Paulina: It's not always about the most established tool that is in the category. It's sometimes about the tool that makes you like it the most. For example, in the email marketing category there is... I'm saying email marketing, but I mean feedback software, right? I know that Feedback Five, Liz, were the first movers in the category, is that right?
Liz: That's right.
Paulina: You will always need different set of features if you are a large seller or a small seller. When you are researching other people's opinions, keep in mind what size of seller they are because the larger the seller you are, the more different types of features you will need. When there's a lot of schools they might not fit on one page and you need a lot of sorting and filtering options and a lot of work to do with the big data and big numbers. It could be that the software that I like might not manage all of your thousands of schools? So it's always a personal opinion but today I'm ready to give you my personal list and from what I hear all around from... I talk to software founders a lot. I do a lot of interviews with them. I have a good feel of what is popular and what are those most critical ones that people use and which are just nice to have categories in terms of Amazon tools.
Paulina: By the way, about the email feedback software, Liz I have a question for you. There are so many of those and recently Amazon has restricted quite a bit how many times you can contact the buyer and also there's this new button that appeared request a review. Does that make the email feedback software somehow different? You will start using it for a different purpose. Is it still for the same function?
Liz: I think that... so first of all it's still totally within Amazon's terms of service to use Buyer Seller Messaging to request your reviews. The Request a Review button is a new feature. I think that people are still testing that out. It's just a different way to request your review. It requests actually a review and feedback at the same time, which is kind of interesting but I still believe that a reputation management tool is useful in that you can send your buyer-seller messages... you can send your review and feedback requests via buyer-seller messaging, but you can also monitor reviews, which I think is a vitally important part of reputation management for a seller, especially a brand or someone who's just selling their own ASIN.
Liz: And this is also a great way to research competitor ASINs too, so that's pretty much for everybody and I think that things are changing in the industry. Things are changing with Amazon, they are kind of cracking down on bad actors, but at the same time they're also cracking down on terms of service and it's vitally important again to follow Amazon's terms of service when you're using buyer-seller messaging to request reviews but I do think that testing out the request a review button is worth it. I've heard some good things. I've heard some not so good things and I think that Amazon is trying to figure out the review situation.
Liz: They know that reviews are important, they know that they're important for consumers because Amazon is consumer first customer obsessed but keeping them honest, keeping them on the up and up is really important to Amazon and that's why I think they've introduced Vine to third party sellers. That's why the Early Reviewer Program is still going strong too but I think it's still worth it to ask for reviews, and I do think that in the next couple of months things are going to become clearer.
Paulina: I personally am still using the email feedback software, but I don't use it for requesting reviews anymore. I am actually asking... like for example, I sell this sort of like a bag, which is not really defined what it's for. I ask people, what do you use it for? And then I get nice uses and then I could actually go later and adapt those uses to my listing and add them to the copy. You can use it for this, this and this so it's sort of like a marketing research tool, that's what I'm doing with that at the moment, but it's still a part of my critical stack. I guess I'll jump in and tell you what is my tech stack that I use and what I see most sellers are doing in terms of which ones are critical categories and which ones are nice to have.
Paulina: Nice to have, I mean like there is an app of some kind but it's not so important in the beginning. It's not so important in the end, is sort of interesting one to have. For example, one of them would be Splitly. Splitly where you can split test your titles or your prices and things like that, so this one... I'm a little bit against split testing the prices. This is another topic. It's just I don't think it works if you don't have enough statistical significance so it only works for very high volume products. Splitly would be a nice to have software, right? Or like a hijack and monitoring tools there as well. If you have brand registered with Amazon you know you have less of the problem with that.
Paulina: Things like shipping software like ShipStation. You will only need it if you are doing the FBM, you are fulfilling yourself and you need the labeling and shipping solution. Things like repricing tools, again, those are only working for arbitragers. It's not for private labelers. There are some software that is not on the critical stack of that private label seller. I'll tell you the critical stack that I have written down here and those are the ones that I use and I will mention some names of the software that it's the consensus of a lot of sellers in the Facebook groups that I am in.
Paulina: Now, why I am judging from those Facebook groups, I actually joined over 200 Facebook groups just to have my private search engine on Facebook. If you join all of these groups, what happens is when you enter any keyword on Facebook search, something like some fee name that you've never heard before that showed up on your seller central. You enter that and then you select on the sidebar, the filter only show from my groups all the posts and then suddenly all these sellers are discussing that fee you've never heard before.
Paulina: On Google, this one doesn't even show up but all these private groups have a lot of information that suddenly now you made yourself the private search engine about Amazon information. That's where I get a lot of my info about different tools that people use for the software choices and I'm biased and personally interested, I run the software so I'm curious what's happening in that world as well.
Paulina: Number one, the first one on the tech stack, the most important category is keyword research that most sellers need in some way and one of the... there are free options like Sonar tool for example but the strongest one in the category is Helium10 these days. They are really good. They have even keyed down some new words in the language. They have a tool called Cerebro and I've heard someone at the conference saying, "Oh, I Cerebro-ed these key keywords yesterday." It has become a verb even. That's how strong they are and they're really good at it.
Paulina: Number two, a second part in the stack is inventory management. If you are very small and you have your own solution of some kind, like a spreadsheet, I often see sellers boosting it up with Gorilla ROI, which is simply if you have a Google Sheet with existing formulas for your inventory management, Gorilla ROI will just let you pull Amazon information into the cells, so it's going to be like a formula equals Gorilla inventory. Check the inventory in stock for that cell so you don't have to manually look it up.
Paulina: Basically you are boosting your spreadsheets. Of course, other strong players is RestockPro and it's not because I want to promote Liz, but actually on Shopkeeper we have a page with the inventory management, but it's very basic and simple. We just have there because it is needed for other features and very often people are asking me for more features than that and I always send them to RestockPro just because I feel like it's the strongest one.
Paulina: There are other players there as well. InventoryLab, some other ones, but it's up to you which one you choose in the end. PPC management is the third one on my stack and it's very, very important because these days the key way to launch a product is to just run PPC on it, so it's the best way to launch and after you launch to consistently have good organic rankings and so on, I recommend everyone should do a PPC. And to run PPC yourself manually do it, it's a lot of work, a lot of research. It will take you two months learning curve so it's best to use some kind of solution.
Paulina: ZonTools tools used to be the most popular in the category, so that allows you to manage it yourself. You have a lot of ways how you can edit, add things, get keywords, helps you with everything but there are also solutions like automating everything from A to Z, including the research of keywords and creating your campaigns and so on. One of those is the one that I like is Profit Whales, but those in this category, there are many, many, many different players and you really have a lot of choice in there. Like I said, just use your own a choice from that but these two are the most popular.
Paulina: The fourth one on the stack out of the six that I have is the profit business analytics of some kind, accounting tool, so some way to manage your numbers because you need that, right? You can't survive with just... you can survive with the spreadsheet while you have two ASINs but after that you need some kind of automated solution to pull all these fees from these 72 different reports from Amazon. Shopkeeper is one of those and there are many other players. There are Seller Legend, Fetcher, Hello Profit, players like that. In essence in this category, you will start with the three trials, three tools that you are testing, test them side by side and just feel which one fits your needs better.
Paulina: The number five on the critical stack is sales tax software. You will have to have Xero or QuickBooks or just work with an accountant, which will directly pull your reports from Amazon and then add your other business expenses and file the taxes for you, and number six on the stack. The last one on mine is the customer service solution. Some kind of a way to connect with the buyer. Either you have this email feedback software like I'm doing marketing research and you could connect with the buyers for that or you have an agency who is going and commenting on all the reviews that you do and helping you with that. You have a VA working on that, so some kind of customer service solution. You can use apps, you can use agency, you can use so-and-so. That's really important on your stack because customer service and our business is very important.
Paulina: Now... so there's six of those, the critical ones. And then once you become a larger seller, then your needs grow. You can then use a reimbursement software to pull reimbursements back from Amazon for miscalculations of fees. You can start tracking your rank and you can use loan services like Payability or StoreFund. You can start using account management service agencies for larger sellers and so on. Once you grow, it's a little bit different, but those core six are the most important and the tools that I mentioned are the most popular in the category.
Liz: Awesome. Thank you so much Paulina. That was great information and I do recommend... we'll put a link, I don't know if you have a link that we can pop into the chat with the big list of seller tools, but if not, we'll send that out in the email to you guys.
Liz: That's how I actually met Paulina. I was like, this is amazing and then I've been fan girling ever since then. Once you decide about your personal stack, what you need for your business, it can be really difficult to wrap your head around the cost versus the reward and Cyndi is an expert on finance. You've published a lot of really wonderful content around how Amazon sellers can be profitable, how to think rationally and smartly about your finances. What do you tell sellers, Cyndi, about working technology into their budgets and what sort of things do they have the hardest time understanding and what kind of guidance do you give sellers when they're talking about technology.
Liz: I think you're still on mute.
Cyndi: My dog was barking. I had to mute myself. First of all, Paulina's list is great and just to have that resource to be able to not have to just go shooting in the dark, so to speak, but when I work with my clients, I want them to really think about what they want to automate. They really need to go back and think about the human tasks that they're doing. What takes the most time for them? What reports are they going to need to be able to make good decisions. You want to be... not just having the latest thing or because somebody said it in a group. You want to be sure that you're setting up your business to perform in the way you want to work. You may be really strong with numbers and some of the numbers pieces or you're more comfortable doing yourself, whereas some of the other software helps you because it's not your strong suit.
Cyndi: I always say, do a human task audit. Look at what you're doing, look at what your VA's are doing, figure out what you can automate from the standpoint that will get yourself in a position to make the most out of that investment that you're going to make. Then once you've tried out two or three, a practice that I recommend for my clients is to go back and look every quarter at what technology you're paying for. I recommend using an accounting software program like Xero or QuickBooks online and coding all of those subscription cloud account or cloud software subscriptions to one place so you can easily go back and look every quarter, what am I paying for? Am I really using it? Have I moved on to something else and just forgot to cancel it.
Cyndi: Kind of auditing your subscription account on a quarterly basis puts you in a place where you can get rid of those things and quit paying those subscriptions when you're not using them anymore.
Liz: That's great advice. Do you encounter a lot of sellers that you first meet that are paying for a whole lot of things that they're not using? I mean, is that a pretty common ailment in the seller community?
Cyndi: It is. When we work with clients to help build in profitability in their business, we audit their operating expenses. Typically we can cut somewhere around $1,800 a month out of their operating expenses and the big places are subscriptions and education and training and so those are two places where I think as entrepreneurs we're always trying to learn and to try to grow and we see these new tools and we think they're going to be wonderful but the reality is we have a small amount of time to actually get in there and test and try things and... so we have good intentions of subscribing to things and then we never follow through and so it's time just to cut them out. If you make it a practice of looking at them every quarter and cutting out the dead wood, it'll just save you some money.
Liz: Just this morning I canceled three different food tracking apps that I was actually paying for and I never track what I eat.
Cyndi: Feels good, doesn't it?
Liz: It's not seller related, but I was kind of taking a lesson from, okay, what are we going to talk about today? Maybe I should practice what we're preaching here, but-
Paulina: You know what I do with the software to budget a little bit? Actually before even signing up while I'm on trial, I email the founder, not the support team but the founder asking for a startup discount and they do that with all of them and I know it's maybe not ethically the best way to do it but it gets me a discount for the years to come and I really appreciate it, especially when I'm a bootstrapped business, right? What I do is, I email and just say, we are a small startup. Could I get a discount for the first year of my subscription with your tool because I really love your tool. I don't like all of these other guys and we are going to promote you whenever we can, so something like that on my email and very often I do get a discount.
Paulina: It's usually about 10 to 25% off for the year on top of their annual discount and it's... it's 50/50, sometimes they don't give anything and sometimes they do but those that do, it's really nice. Then you have a lower monthly cost and every little bit helps.
Liz: It's great advice.
Eric: I think, yeah, that is good insight. There was a software recently that I signed up for and I got a personal email from what seemed to be the owner of the company and if you work in software sales, you know that they send out these sequenced emails, right? To keep you engaged and to always... not looking at Liz, but they're great because this one was really personal and it seemed... it was connected to the CEO's actual email and in addition to being able to ask for a discount, I just had a direct line, right? Like the guy was there to answer my questions so I tried it out. I emailed him and he got back with me and said, "Yeah, we're trying to build something great and we need help."
Eric: All these software companies, they really, really want to know who their love group is and so if you're wondering if a tool is right for you, I wouldn't be surprised if Greg Mercer from Jungle Scout got on the phone with you or... I know Liz is always happy to talk with people and so just try, and don't use their marketing copy as the only indicator as to whether or not the tool be good for you. Reach out and find the company. I just wanted to add that to Paulina's opinion.
Liz: That's great advice.
Paulina: Also... one more thing before we move on. There is also coupons. The bigger companies like Helium10 or others-
Eric: Always coupons.
Paulina: ...they will have coupons. You can search... just Google Helium10 coupon and you'll find some available that are there so that's another thing that I do a lot as well.
Liz: That's great advice too, and a lot of times at the beginning of the year or around Black Friday or some sort of event, there's usually some sort of discount with certain companies. Eric, I asked you here because a lot of our customers and a lot of sellers choose an agency like Buy Box Experts to manage their Amazon accounts, including their software tools. There are benefits to having a partner who can help you through choosing technology. I know you guys do that, but you also inherit a lot of customers that are already using technology. I'd like to hear from you about that. Like when do you say, "Hey, not that one." And what's the learning curve for your team in terms of learning new tools, and just talk to me a little bit about how that works in a managed services space.
Eric: Yeah. We are in a constant effort at all times to build a better team. At every moment we are looking at the best softwares and a lot of that honestly comes from these inheritances as you named them. Like a company will come in and they say, "Hey, I'm using LandingCube." This was a year ago, I think the first time that I'd heard about them and I said, "Okay, what the heck is LandingCube?" And so I looked it up and it's this really cool tool that allows you to create these Amazon branded landing pages and so the account managers who are working with people who really want to understand who their demographic is, who maybe don't know, they use a tool like LandingCube to be able to capture some information from that customer before they bounce on to the Amazon actual listing page.
Eric: It's kind of serendipity. Like we have these... all these clients that come in and they have their own stack and there are some who have been very deliberate about the tools they choose and there's some who got advertised to and they just went with it, right? They went with the first thing that was shown to them and they've never really learned to use it. In every single case, the businesses who actually like put somebody in the role to manage those tools does better almost regardless of the tool, right?
Eric: If you have Jungle Scout or Helium10 or Seller Labs, like a really good driver can take any of those boats across the ocean. Now my personal preference right now is Jungle Scout. I think that they've built out an incredible tool, but I know that we have members of our team that use Helium10 and Seller Labs and so they provide data and they're playing with a lot of the same kind of sandbox of numbers and sales and some of them are plugged really well into the API, but really it comes down to the driver.
Eric: There are a lot of people who come to me and they wonder, "Hey, is this data accurate?" And I go, "Why are you looking at that particular piece of data? Why are you looking at this keyword?" Like why is this important to you? And they usually don't know. It was just the first one they looked at and they didn't do their research, they didn't watch YouTube videos, they didn't read the mountains of PDFs that these companies provide and if they would just do that, then almost any of the tools would be great for them in their business. I don't know, does that answer your question?
Liz: Sure. That's a particular use case I know you're talking about like keyword research and advertising and that kind of stuff but you guys, for any given seller, will manage their reputation management software, their inventory management software. What does that look like when you've got account managers and you've got a seller that comes to you and they're using a whole technology stack, like six tools like Paulina talked about. How familiar and how quick do you have to get familiar with those tools and how do you sort of scale that given that you guys are probably the biggest agency that works with Amazon?
Eric: Yeah, that's a good clarification. We have separate teams that use different products. We have an account management team, we call them growth specialists, right? Because the idea is to grow the account in whatever means necessary within the terms of service and so that's a team of, I don't know, 60 or 70 account managers and then we have a graphic design team. The graphic design team, a lot of the tools that they use are basically just seller central. They'll run reports to see who is playing in the same area but usually they can just look at the advertised listings under a listing and get a good idea for like who else is playing in that client sandbox. But they do a ton of research. They look at which competitors are making the most revenue because that either means they're spending the most on advertisements or they have a really high conversion rate and it's typically both and so we want to take the things that they have done and apply them to all of our clients and so we do a lot of spying, right?
Eric: We do a lot of looking at other competitors and taking a page out of their book and making it better, so that's like the graphics team. Then we have the content writing team, and I know the content writing team who's doing like the title, the bullet points, the description, the backend metadata and the enhanced brand content pictures, the search terms, all those things. They pull a lot of those keywords directly from Amazon and so we're in the account, we have access to it. We look at which words have made sales for the client and phrase match campaigns and then we'll apply those to the actual listings. We'll run reports in Helium10 and Jungle Scout depending on the writer, and they'll come up with a list of keywords that are relevant for their category and it's kind of interesting.
Eric: If you've ever tried to do this, when you write a listing, get a list of these keywords reported by any of these tools and just try to write your listing with them, right? Just make some assumptions and just try it out and you'll usually fail to include all of them. It's very difficult but that's content. When somebody comes in with something that we've never seen before though, we typically will say no, like we're not going to manage that for you right now, but we'll play with it and see. Some people come in with like a ChannelAdvisor or one of the other tools that allows you to like centralize where your descriptions are coming from, so it posts to like eBay and Walmart and Jet and and Amazon and UK and Australia, right? It just goes down the list.
Eric: Typically we only play in Amazon. We actually are only making changes in Seller Central and so we'll say like you can take those changes and apply them to your ChannelAdvisor, but that's just not scalable for us to be able to do that. We leave that to them to manage all of their other online marketplaces and then we have an advertising team and the advertising team uses the most tools. Kenshoo is the best advertising tool in our opinion in the industry right now. Their reports are the best. Their analytics are the best. Their adjustment tools are the best. Their tracking is the best and so our team is tied into that so every client... they're going to be using Kenshoo.
Eric: And again though it is about the driver, if we were to use Sellics or Teikametrics or any of those advertising tools, which we have, our team can use those, right? Can learn how to... and it's typically pretty quick because most of the interfaces are relatively similar but if you just set it and forget it, you're doomed. You're doomed. You got to play it every day. You got to have somebody assigned to it and so I think the way that we've been able to incorporate these tools into business comes into the fact that we are playing in it every single day.
Eric: It doesn't matter what somebody brings to us. At first we're going to say, let's learn about it but then our team catches on just by virtue of their job. They're trying to grow these sales and so whatever you got, like we're going to use it to sell across the ocean, whether it's a tugboat or a giant cruise liner. You know what I mean?
Liz: And Eric, what did you say the name of that tool was?
Liz: We had a question. Somebody asked about that. You guys also manage FeedbackFive accounts too so that's-
Eric: Yeah, and that's like a standard, right? Like of course use Feedback Five. There's no reason to use anything else. It's all super clean. I love the custom email templates that we're able to use. I've designed a couple for myself. Like in one of them I sell dog collars on one of my Seller Central accounts and we have like the top banner just says like, "Hey, good boys leave reviews." It's kind of almost a guerrilla marketing tactic to not actually ask for a review, but just to make them feel like a jerk if they don't leave one. So, yeah
Liz: Could that be considered coercion?
Eric: Is it? I've always wondered. Like they haven't their-
Liz: I don't know - if you're not providing a link and you're just saying you're kind of a jerk for not leaving a review, maybe it's funny and not bad.
Eric: I always use that QR code. If you don't include that Amazon QR code in like anything that you're able to send to the customer post-purchase, how do you know that... that would surprise me because it's provided by Amazon and I've never seen seller performance get mad about it.
Liz: Eric, if you guys find a space where there isn't a tool already apparent, which is probably not the case because there's a tool for just about everything, but what does the research look like? And Cyndi, when a seller comes to you and says, "Okay, I've done my analysis and this is my pain point." How do you recommend they research tools? Let's have a little discussion about how you do your research. Like for me I think I would just look up Paulina's list but if I didn't know about that, how would I go about this?
Paulina: My list though is not extensive. For example, I don't even have Kenshoo. Eric you mentioned it. There are so many tools. Yes. Okay. I will. I have another hundred tools on my to do list that I still have to add to review because I only add those that I review personally. There are a lot of more out there and the way I even find them, just like I mentioned, I use Facebook groups. I research and then people... what do you guys use? What's better? Helium10 or DataHawk and then they are comparing the two and then I see all the other suggestions in the comments and grab those from there. It's a good idea to use some kind of resources list. I'm not the only one online. There are more.
Paulina: As a guideline, it's hard to read the list and decide which one's better. You will still have to test it yourself because like I said, you can have different needs and very often you will come in looking for it. What already is some kind of solution of your own. Because people often before we need a tool, they create their own in-house mini solution of some kind. Either a spreadsheet or something little bit like for example, calculate the profit. Okay. Amazon fees, eBay fees and shipping.
Paulina: Once you realize there's 72 more line items there, then you go and look for the tool. It's like always you start with a little... you start emailing with the buyers and responding to the comments yourself first. Once you get into the volume game, then you start looking for tools. Like Eric said, it's about the driver. It's about your decision, what you like. You will still have to do the hard work of testing it out and choosing one.
Eric: I completely agree and your Facebook search engine that you created, genius. I think... I'm writing a book called talking to robots, specifically about advertising like algorithms and all of that, and what you've done is you have instructed Facebook to provide you the correct answers. The seller feedback like help section of Amazon is junk and if they're listening to me like call me up, I'll tell you exactly my problems with it so that they can fix it, but do that kind of research. I would instruct everybody to get in the Facebook groups and use that as a search engine because that's great. I had never heard anybody do that in the past.
Eric: Now as far as like research, right? When somebody brings me a tool, every software company, when they launch a product, they've created a video. Watch the video, watch the whole thing and watch it on normal speed and you'll learn pretty much all the basics that you need to know in order to start playing with the tool but I do agree with your estimation of scale, right? Start hitting the request a review button if you're a little Amazon seller and as soon as that becomes an issue, then start looking for automatic review software, right? Like that's kind of the system of equations.
Eric: You don't hire an intern to do a job that you wish that you were doing. You hire an intern to do a job that you're already doing and then once that intern is not able to do it, then you hire an actual person to do the job and then when that person is not able to do all the jobs associated with that, get them to hire another team member. Right? Just play with everything first and most of these things have free trials too, so I would hit those up, definitely.
Cyndi: And I would just add to that. I do recommend people do the Facebook research because there's just no... there's nothing like people that are already doing it, giving you some feedback about what worked and what didn't, but start simple and kind of what Eric was talking about. You hire the intern, ultimately you get to the team member. Start with the thing that's going to do what you need in the simplest way and then you can get fancy later. You don't want to start trying to be fancy with everything. Start simple, get it working, then you can progress with it.
Liz: Paulina made a great point earlier about... depending on the type of seller you are, there are different software tools that are better for you. I know that I've had conversations with people where they tried RestockPro, which is... I love RestockPro. I'm an unabashed fan of RestockPro, is my favorite of our tools. I'm not supposed to say that but I will. It's good for people who are working in replenishment, people who are ordering inventory and selling it on FBA and if you're not doing that, if you're more of a retail or online arbitrage person, it's not going to be as helpful as it is to someone who's regularly replenishing inventory from the same suppliers, same manufacturers.
Liz: I'll say go use InventoryLab because it's perfect for you. I've used it. I used it when I was an RA seller. I think it's great for that. It depends on where you are in your journey and what type of seller you've decided to be and then as you grow or as you change your business model or whatever, then you have to reevaluate. Cyndi's recommendation that you sort of assess every quarter, what am I paying for? What is it doing for me and what could be better? How can I optimize my situation? How can I optimize my business? Optimize my life? I guess we all do that. I think we should all look at what we're paying for every quarter, not just our technology stacks and sellers, but everything. Like I deleted those apps off my phone today and said I'm not going to pay for those anymore but I think that being smart about automation is great, but like Cyndi said, getting fancy right out the gate is not a good idea.
Liz: We have some special offers and I'm going to open up the Q&A. I think this has been a really good discussion and if you have questions, just bring them on. I'm going to share my screen for a second because we've got the special offers up there and that way you can see them. This is the panelists in case you missed our names at the beginning. I'm Liz Fickenscher with eComEngine. I talk to people all the time about software tools and selling on Amazon and Paulina is the founder of Shopkeeper. She's got... Paulina why don't you tell, I won't.
Paulina: It's a profit dashboard. It pulls the 72 different fees from different reports on Amazon Seller Central and calculates your profit real time. Every few minutes you get an update on that data.
Liz: That's awesome and Cyndi is the founder of bookskeep and Cyndi, why don't you do a little intro and tell about the course that's coming up.
Cyndi: Okay. Well last year about this time I launched a book called Profit First for Ecommerce Sellers and over this past year we've been working on developing that content into a course. I've got a lot of questions from people. We tried to respond but it just seemed like some of them needed a little more hand holding so we've developed a course to help them go through the process of making sure their Amazon business is on the path to profitability and... so we're launching that on February 15th and we're offering a discount for anyone that wants to sign up for that. The course will be 9.97 and the discount is 25% for anybody that signs up using a coupon code called ecomengine.
Liz: And I'm going to show that on the next slide. I just kind of wanted everybody to see our headshots and there's Eric and it's like one of the cutest pictures I've ever seen but Eric, why don't you tell a little bit about Buy Box Experts and then we'll go to the promotion side, start answering questions.
Eric: Sounds good. Buy Box Experts, we are currently the largest Amazon only marketing agency and our offer is... we have a team of consultants. I'm on that team and we're doing these advertising audits and we usually charge a couple hundred bucks for them but only because of the webinar. For the next two weeks they're going to be free and I hesitate a little bit because they're incredible, right? Like we help you see first of all that you're not bulletproof and that everybody is trying to steal market share from you. We want to show you how much money can be made just by making simple adjustments in your advertising.
Eric: Sometimes it's as simple as moving from automatic to phrase match campaigns and just doing that across the board and then letting Amazon kind of anoint you with more sales. We're doing that for free. Come to the buyboxexperts.com website and click on the free analysis button and you'll be connected with me or a member of our team.
Liz: Awesome. This is... and for eComEngine, if you want a 30 day free trial with any of our tools, just contact me, email@example.com. We can talk about whether it's a good choice, it is. But I also... I'm getting lonely posting on Facebook. If you like us on Facebook, if you don't already, I will send you a link to claim some free swag, so there's the link like us and anybody who likes after this webinar up until the end of the day tomorrow we'll get a link first from free swag, and Paulina if you want to talk about your offer.
Paulina: Yes. Actually whoever's listening guys don't leave yet because I'll give you something awesome. Usually the software gives like... our regular trial length is 14 days and software founders usually give... okay, we'll give you one month free trial or two months. I will give you to those who are listening, six months free trial. Okay. It's especially good if you're a beginner or you just want to test out that type of software. Profit analytics. What you have to do is just as it says on the screen, you have to enter the coupon code STRINGRAY180 in the chat bubble. There's is little chat bubble that appears on shopkeeper.com in the corner. Write nothing else, just type in that text and then one of our support staff will get back to you and upgrade your account to be VIP good for six months free.
Liz: Awesome. That's great. We have a couple of questions. I know somebody asks about the QR code, Eric.
Eric: I am sending it to them right now.
Liz: Oh you are? Okay, great. Do you want to just say out loud for listeners that aren't in the chat?
Eric: Yeah. I have a QR code and I've been trying to share it in the chat, but it's not letting me upload it. It's literally just an image that Amazon team provided us and all you do is you put it on like your product inserts or your box or in an email and when you scan it, it takes you directly to your recent purchases on Amazon and prompts you to leave a review and so that's provided by Amazon and so anyone who wants to get ahold of that, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it's... I think that's in the chat too so you can email me there.
Liz: Awesome and does Buy Box Experts work with Amazon seller Europe accounts?
Liz: Yes. The answer to that is yes. This is a question that came in. Does anybody have any specific experience with auto parts on Amazon?
Eric: We do.
Liz: You do?
Eric: That market is getting bigger because of Amazon's B2B. The head of their B2B team is a guy who, I'm forgetting his name, Daniel Leach is at Amazon on the hard lines team but there's another guy who runs an outfit out of Austin and all they're doing is they're just calling Amazon businesses like B2B businesses and getting them onto Amazon. They're trying to like solve the chicken and the egg issue where there's not a lot of demand for after market automotive parts, but they're trying to create that demand by bringing more people on and they've grown it from $1 billion Amazon B2B to $11 billion at the end of last year and so this is one of the markets that we're actually looking at, especially like Tesla and Subaru and Mazda parts because like their sales have shot up and everybody's looking for kind of DIY fixes, but also like business owners are starting to purchase large quantities of aftermarket auto parts for their stores to offer as mechanics or whatever they are. So yeah, come and talk to me. I'd love to hear the situation.
Liz: It's email@example.com.
Eric: That's right.
Liz: That's Eric's email address. We had a question earlier that I think we'll be good. We do have a new one that says I'm a reseller of other people's brands so I'm having to constantly look for new opportunities. A lot of the research tools out there are for researching new products or brands themselves. I've tried Jungle Scout but I found a lot of their data on competitors and product opportunities wasn't very accurate. Can anyone advise on a good tool to find and research possible opportunities by looking at other resellers?
Paulina: When I went through the tools, there are a lot of reseller based tools. So it's like a separate niche on... my list focuses on private label sellers, but there are many tools that do search for wholesale opportunities for online arbitrage opportunities. I guess this is a more difficult question than I can answer. What about you Eric? What do you think?
Eric: I mean the resell end game is... I've honestly always... I've trusted Jungle Scout. I would wonder what the category was and understand what the inaccuracies are and how they and how... it looks like Tracy was able to determine those inaccuracies. It might be something that we need to talk through. Maybe we need to look for a different search term and evaluate the competitors for that specific search term. It might be that the term that was used is a less frequently searched one and so it's just aggregating random data from a bunch of different sellers who are appearing for that keyword.
Eric: My default after Jungle Scout is typically Helium10 and then after that would be Seller Labs and then after that would be probably the Unicorn one. You guys know what I'm talking about. Unicorn Smasher I think is what it's called.
Paulina: Yeah, but Unicorn Smasher - don't trust the data. The data is like... it's like the formula is exposed on the source code on the website and they just use like super basic. There's no magic to it. It's actually fake data almost, so don't trust that one.
Liz: Tracy, email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I've got a couple of ideas for you and a couple of Facebook groups that I want you to join. Email me and I'll hook you up with some people that are doing the same kind of selling you are. Somebody has asked, are PPC automation like Zon.Tools with a new product is better to launch with automatic campaigns, then apply Zon.Tools or better to use... Is it better to use a tool from the day of launch - can you clarify that question?
Paulina: I will just give you my feeling. Without you doing yourself the campaign first, without you understanding what it is, Zon.Tools will not be useful to you because you will not really have a feeling yet or you'll know what you're doing or why it's even needed. First, you always always have to do some campaigns yourself, run it, feel it, try to optimize it and then use a tool. From the beginning it's not useful. You have to start it later once what you know you're doing and why you need that tool.
Eric: I agree. I agree. Anytime that you start a campaign on Amazon, I'll always do an automatic campaign just to see what the robot once wants to do with the listing that I've created because that's all it's doing, right? It looks at your title, your bullet points, and it just comes up with words based on other people who are ranking for the same keywords that are present in your listing and it just like blasts you out to a bunch of different phrases and sees how it goes.
Eric: So yeah, run your automatic campaigns for like a week. Put a modest budget in there so that you can collect some data and then run your reports and see which keywords came out of that and then put those into a manual phrase match campaign and then continue to keyword isolate. Now, when you're using a tool, typically you want to have tried a lot of these things, right? Like you've already done some automatic campaigns and you have some data for the tool to go and look at but you should also... as if you were a salesperson at a trade show booth, right? You should know the things that people are searching for that should lead to you.
Eric: You should understand how people search for your products just by making some assumptions and so before I would mess with any software, I would create an automatic campaign and I would create a manual phrase match campaign and I would put all of my assumed keywords into that phrase match campaign, run them for a week and just see how it goes and then I would use Zon.Tools or Kenshoo or Sellics or any of these guys.
Paulina: It's also useful to do reverse ASIN search on your own. ASIN like usually we do it on competitors but do it on your own reverse ASIN search and then you'll get pretty much similar results to what the tool would give you. Yeah, it will be useful to see what Amazon thinks of you and you'll have your work pretty much easier for you with the keyboards.
Liz: That's great. Cyndi, is your book available on Amazon?
Cyndi: Yes, Amazon Kindle version, paperback and audible.
Liz: Awesome. If you get a second, can you pop a link in the chat?
Liz: And we can link to that in the email that we send out to you guys after tomorrow.
Eric: There's another question in here. Since we're talking about PPC, quick thoughts on phrase match versus broad match versus exact match approaches. In March, Amazon made an algorithm change that I'm pretty sure rendered broad match campaigns essentially worthless. We were running broad match for some of our clients and then March, April came around and then just everybody lost sales, everybody lost traffic. They were passed up by competitors and so then we switched to pretty much just using phrase match, but the difference between each of them is a function of where you want to appear in like the funnel of somebody buying your product, right?
Eric: At the very bottom you should be bidding on your brand name even if it hurts to have people click on those but if competitors are bidding on you, you should be fighting for that territory. That's like very bottom of the funnel, right? Like my brand name plus Subaru like logo for my front radiator like that's a really long tail keyword. That should be phrase and probably some exact... You should be finding every conceivable way that somebody can search for that term and you should appear at the top. If it's you, you should try to fight for the top but then there's other words that are top of the funnel and that's your broad and automatic campaigns.
Eric: You're bidding on pretty much everything that has to do with your products or that doesn't have to do with your products, and so you'll spend a lot of money at the top of the funnel as we call it. If you just run broad and exact, but you typically want to do what's called keyword isolation where you start at the top and then you move down that funnel. I don't know if anyone else has some thoughts on that process?
Paulina: No, you're the expert on this.
Liz: It's great advice though. We had a question earlier about what are some ways to win the Buy Box other than price and Eric answered seller performance score and FBA. We got a great resource, Becky if you could pop a link in the chat and we can also include that in the email to everybody. That's a Buy Box resource. It's got a lot of information about the Buy Box. Obviously Eric works for Buy Box Experts, you should talk to him too, but we've got a free resource that we can shoot out so you guys too. We have a question.
Liz: Does anyone have a suggestion for a business analytics tool to show Seller Central on a centralized dashboard? We are using Grow.com but it seems they've run into major issues lately.
Paulina: I like Klipfolio. It's a similar solution, I guess. It's like... for those who don't know what we're talking about, is just different data from all kinds of places like your Google Analytics data, your sales from Amazon, your all kinds of business stats that come into one dashboard. Grow has a connection with Seller Central. Klipfolio doesn't, but what you can do is if you have your Google Sheet and you're using Gorilla ROI to pull the data from Amazon, then you can have a Zapier connection, which creates a dashboard. It's like a long process and I'm a software developer so I like that type of solutions so there's a very long work around, I guess Grow will eventually just fix the issues.
Liz: I think that's a great hack though. If you have questions, email@example.com.
Paulina: Hack exploits.
Liz: That's great. Well, listen. This has been great. A big thanks to Cyndi, Paulina, Eric. You guys have been awesome.
Liz: If you've got any questions for us after the fact, feel free to email us and have a great day. Thanks everyone.
Liz Fickenscher is the Industry Liaison for eComEngine and works with sellers and industry partners to identify pain points, understand the changes within Amazon's TOS, and provide helpful information to the seller community. She is happy to moderate this webinar and its fabulous speakers.
Paulina is an Amazon seller and a founder of Shopkeeper. She calls herself a ‘numbers girl’. Her favorite topics are optimizing profits, pricing strategies, cash flow management and ways to save on Amazon fees. She manages the big list of Amazon tools and talks with industry experts almost every day.
Eric is an Amazon consultant for one of the largest Amazon marketing agencies in the world, Buy Box Experts. He is a business owner, a writer, a product development and ideation expert, and the host of the Buy Box Experts Podcast. He is a proud husband, father, and AI enthusiast.
Cyndi Thomason is an author, Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional and fantastic resource for eCommerce sellers. Her bestselling book, Profit First for Ecommerce Sellers, has helped many Amazon sellers understand how budgets and planning can impact their success on the marketplace. Founder and president of bookskeep, Cyndi devotes time speaking at eCommerce events, educating sellers on smart money practices.
Originally published on January 14, 2020, updated March 18, 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.