What are the biggest challenges new Amazon FBA sellers face — and who do they go to for help?
Jungle Scout’s Customer Support (CS) team is available 24/7 to help Amazon sellers get their businesses off the ground and tackle the ins and outs of FBA selling.
They’re experts, they’ve heard every question and challenge under the sun, and now, they’re sharing some of the most frequently asked questions they receive to help others in their selling journeys.
We’ll dig into some basic themes nearly all sellers struggle with, as well as some specific challenges that are puzzling sellers today.
Before we hand over the solutions though, here is the number one piece of advice our CS team can give:
Amazon changes all the time. So while it’s important to find the right product to sell, a dependable supplier, and an optimized listing, you also need to roll with Amazon’s changes to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Our tip: Don’t let that stress you out. Every other seller will also have to adjust, and there’s room for many to compete in the vast world of Amazon.
So let’s get to it! What did we learn?
“How do I start selling on Amazon?”
Taking it from the very top, many customers who are new to selling just want to make sure they are doing everything in order. Everyone is different; some of our users get their feet wet with product research, and others want to set up an Amazon seller account on Day 1.
- A tutorial video and a complete step-by-step guide will show you exactly How to Sell on Amazon in 2019.
- Check out the many different types of selling to get started with here!
- Factor in the financials with a breakdown of how much it costs to sell on Amazon in 2019
General account setup
We understand that filling in all the blanks on Seller Central can be confusing. Every piece of information you need for your business, i.e. your MWS key, seller ID, financial information etc, is located within Seller Central. It just takes a bit of poking around to familiarize yourself in order to find what you need.
- Walk through the entire setup process with our Amazon Seller Central Guide for 2019 and we’ll point out the main components.
Getting stuck in the product research phase
Have you experienced “analysis paralysis,” too? Because we have been there. Finding a product to sell is a major step, so make sure you’re considering the right information to make your decision and act on it.
- We can’t cure your condition, but we can sympathize and share some practical advice that might just be the kick in the pants that you need to get unstuck.
Listings and PPC
After many customers get through the general setup process, they are unsure how to set up a proper listing and campaigns to reach their customers.
An experienced pro on the Jungle Scout Market can prep your product listing for a cost, or you can spend time teaching yourself a few tips and tricks.
- Learn more about Amazon SEO to help you write your listing.
- Understand how to do proper keyword research to use in your listing and PPC campaigns.
- Take notes as you watch us set up PPC for a product listing.
Shipping and Taxes
These advanced aspects of selling can be intimidating for even the most experienced sellers. You might be able to set up your business by following a list of steps, but what about the more opaque costs and details?
While there is no one-size-fits-all shipping plan for every sell to follow, and taxes will vary based on marketplace, we can still shed some light to help point you in the right direction.
- Learn how to create a shipping plan with this checklist in mind.
- Follow this specific shipping scenario to dig into freight terms.
- Brush up on the basics of taxes, but make sure you research your location-specific laws.
What are the top issues puzzling Amazon sellers today?
In alphabetical order, we’ve organized specific customer inquiries by category that we feel all sellers could benefit from.
This won’t magically answer all of your questions, but that’s why we have our rockstar success team standing by. Shoot us an email at [email protected] to see if we can help!
Q – Will lowering the price of a product risk the seller losing the Buy Box?
A – Typically, having the lowest price is the key to winning the Buy Box (or BB), so lowering the price should not cause the seller to lose that coveted spot. However, there are other criteria that Amazon takes into account regarding BB placement. See Amazon’s “How the Buy Box works.”
Q – Can I run ads if I don’t own the Buy Box?
A – No. If you don’t own the Buy Box you won’t be able to run PPC campaigns or have HSA (headline search ads).
Q – How can I determine if my product needs to be certified, or have specific testing done?
A – In countries with an Amazon marketplace, there should be a government site that tells sellers what types of products need to be tested and certified before they are eligible to be sold in that country (ie. the U.S.’ Regulations, Mandatory Standards and Bans and the UK’s Products that need CE marking).
While it’s worth having an inspection done for quality assurance before the inventory leaves the warehouse, it’s also a good way to get further insight into any specific testing requirements for your product. An inspection company like Asia Inspection will also be able to give you advice on any certificates or lab testing that might be required. They are often a knowledgeable source of information that you can use as guidance. Finally, research your competitors. Do other listings mention any safety certification?
Q – At what stage of production should an inspection take place?
A – This should take place once production is finished, right before the goods are shipped. They are mainly inspecting for quality assurance, but you can also ask them to check for any testing/certificates that your product might require.
Q – Should I pay the balance before or after the inspection?
A – Negotiate with your supplier in order to pay the balance after the inspection is completed. It’s also a good idea to have it written into your contract that the manufacturer will replace all defective products that didn’t pass inspection at no additional cost.
Q – Is it normal for Amazon to take a long time (ie. more than a week) to replenish my inventory after the shipment has arrived at the warehouse?
A – If it is Q4 (October 1-December 31 of a given year), then yes. During the holiday season, it’s normal for it to take a while for your inventory to appear. During the rest of the year, restocking inventory happens more quickly.
Q – Do I need to register my company in order to create an Amazon Pro Seller account?
A – Yes, you will need a legal business prior to getting set up on Amazon.
Q – Are sellers required to have Commercial Liability Insurance?
A – Not that we’re aware of, but it is a good idea. If sellers shop around, they should be able to find a reasonable quote (eg. $1,200/yr for $500,000 of coverage).
Q – Do I have to pay taxes in the U.S. when I form an LLC as a non-American selling on the Amazon U.S. marketplace?
A – It’s complicated. If the LLC is a single-member LLC, it’s disregarded for U.S. tax purposes, and all profit/loss is considered to be personal income. In that case, they would be tax-free. If it’s not a single-member LLC, then they will have to pay taxes, according to the state where the LLC was created. Taxjar is a good software to help with this.
Linking a website to an Amazon store
Q – Is there a way to build a platform that connects my store and inventory to Amazon?
A – Yes, Shopify offers the possibility of linking their e-commerce platform with Amazon.
Q – If I list my product in Germany and France, will my listing be automatically translated into German and French?
A – Sellers are responsible for translating their own listings, and they are responsible for providing customer service in those languages as well. This is usually done by hiring a translator on websites like UpWork, and hiring VA’s (virtual assistants) to handle customer service.
Q – How can I market my entire brand?
A – The best resource for this type of question is our Genius Series. The archives have great articles regarding marketing strategies.
Q – Are there alternatives to Amazon for marketing my product?
A – To help your product launch on Amazon, you might want to try a Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness and sales. Even if you have the funds available, a Kickstarter campaign can reduce your capital risk and build momentum for your product launch. Furthermore, you can lean on backers to give you early reviews. Take a look at some of these other marketing strategies.
Packaging and Labeling
Q – Is there a specific label printer you recommend? Or is it better to get the manufacturer(s) to add the labels?
A – If the manufacturer can add the label, that is the easiest route since they already have the equipment. However, if that won’t work, or the seller prefers to do it themselves, a Zebra Printer is often used. Additionally, if a seller chooses to buy a printer, oCustomize.net will give them access to some software resources that can make labels both printer & Amazon-friendly.
Q – Do you have to follow Amazon’s rules around listing images (ex. image must have a plain white background (#FFF) & the product must be 85% of the image)?
A – Many sellers don’t stick to these rules and get away with it, and there are other rules too, such as no inset images, logos or thumbnails, and no excessive use of props that aren’t the product. However, because it appears that the detection process for infractions is automated, most sellers bend these rules a little bit.
But also bear in mind some basic marketing principles. If the images aren’t good, then sales can suffer. Having the main image take up 85% of the frame is probably for the best.
Q – Why is the quality of my listing picture so different than the image my photographer sent to me? They are the exact same image.
A – Chances are that Amazon’s compression is making the image look different in the listing. However, uploading the image as a TIFF or PNG file sometimes helps with that compression. If you’re not sure how to convert the original file (if it isn’t saved as a TIFF or a PNG), the photographer should be able and willing to send those new file formats.
Q – Is it better to lower a price to increase sales and continue with a set advertising budget per keyword? Or is it better to sell at the normal price and spend more on advertising?
A – If a seller is already running PPC campaigns that convert well, then it might be best to keep the price higher and win more sales that way, since decreasing the price may or may not increase sales. Even if it does increase sales, the question would be: will the increase make up for the loss in the seller’s profit margin, compared to keeping the price up and spending on advertising? The best way to find this out is to run a split test (using Splitly), and set up Splitly’s Profit Peak and let the machine learning technology optimize the price automatically.
Q – Is it better for a seller to set their own price per word for a PPC campaign, or should they use the suggested bid?
A – The suggested bid is just a guide to get a seller. Ideally, a seller is monitoring their campaigns to ensure that they are hitting the right ACoS (advertising cost of sale). ACoS should be as low as possible, and not go above the seller’s “break-even” point, which is the point where they have spent their entire profit margin on winning the sale through ads. If they have a keyword that converts well and has a low ACoS, then they may want to increase the bid and be more aggressive. If they have a keyword that performs badly, then it’s worth gradually decreasing the bid until it improves, or even pausing that keyword altogether.
Q – Should a seller spend more during launch or at the start of their PPC campaign?
A – Yes, and it’s worth noting this as an upfront marketing cost. We use this strategy to try and get more sales which will help to improve our rank (and thus, organic sales, which cost nothing). It also means that a lot of search term data is generated about what people are searching for on Amazon to find products like ours. During launch, PPC costs will be higher — probably 40-50% of the sale cost. Amazon usually waits until you’ve spent $500 before charging your card. Later, you can get Amazon to just take those PPC costs from your pending transactions, which is pretty convenient.
Q – My ACoS (advertising cost of sale) is around 100%. How can I bring this down?
A – First, you need to ensure that your product listing is fully optimized (a good resource is the Amazon Listing Optimization blog), This will play a huge part in whether the shopper converts to a customer. You should also check the price and make sure that you aren’t overpriced in comparison to the nearest competitors. Finally, moving forward you should download your PPC reports and dig into which keywords are performing well consistently and adjust your bids accordingly. You can read more about that in our Optimizing PPC blog.
Q – How do I get my product ranked higher on Amazon’s search results pages?
A – If you are running a promotion for your product, you should keep running it so that the current sales velocity doesn’t slow down. Next, you need to optimize your PPC campaigns (this is a good resource: Amazon Listing Optimization) and be more aggressive on your most important keywords. Finally, you should revisit your listing, including keywords. If your main keyword isn’t delivering a good exact match search volume, then we advise you to reanalyze which keywords you’re using for your PPC campaigns.
Q – Can I use a competitor’s brand name in my PPC ads?
A – It depends on where you want to do the brand bidding and whether you own the brand or if you’re a reseller. The idea is that on Amazon, sellers can bid on any trademark brand names and have the brand name in the product title and your ad will show up.
However, there might be issues if somebody reports them and/or they are a reseller of the brand. If a seller wants to bid on Google or Bing, then it gets complicated. If the trademark is registered with Google, your ads will be disapproved immediately after submission, and you will be required to provide proof that you are either the trademark brand owner or that you have permission from the brand owner to use the brand name (trademark usage consent).
Q – I just launched and was selling 1-2 units per day. Then I got my first review – a 1-star review – and I haven’t had any sales since. Will this affect my ranking and how can I fix this?
A – First, you need to read the negative review (if they left comments) and determine if the issue the customer had can be addressed in the listing copy. If customers are receiving something they did not expect, then this is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Second, you could ask family and friends (preferably by those who don’t live in the same area or have the same last name) to purchase the item and leave a verified positive review. You need to get some positive reviews for the product not only to start making sales but also to push this 1-star review to the bottom. As for the rank, that will be affected more by the lack of sales than the one poor review, so increasing sales needs to be addressed ASAP.
Q – Will reviews left on Amazon.com also be shown on other Amazon marketplaces?
A – No. A review left on a product’s listing in one marketplace will not be displayed on its listing in another market.
Q – All of the suppliers I’ve contacted said their MOQ (minimum order quantity) is 1,000 pieces. How can I get that down?
A – When sourcing on Alibaba, 500 pcs tends to be the minimum, but 1000 pcs or above is more common, especially if requesting something unique. And while it is sometimes possible to negotiate MOQs down, for orders under 500 pcs the better option might be AliExpress.
Q – I’m not getting responses to my questions from potential suppliers. Do you have any recommendations on how to get that info?
A – If they are using an RFQ (request for quotation), they may want to try contacting suppliers cold. RFQs, especially if you use Alibaba’s ranking system, can really narrow the results, and manufacturers can be lazy. They see an RFQ and their first thought is that there’s going to be too much competition. This template is a good start when reaching out to potential suppliers.
Q – Does Amazon only accept trademarks from a marketplace’s local authority, like USPTO for the US?
A – Yes, the trademark must come from the marketplace’s local authority, unless it is an international trademark. In that case, it would be accepted at all Amazon stores. “The international trademark registration system is called the Madrid system or Madrid Protocol. It is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), located in Geneva, Switzerland.”
(from the article: How do I register a trademark or service mark internationally?)
Q – Do I have to have a website in order to register a trademark with the USPTO?
A – Yes, but even a simple company info page will satisfy that requirement.
Q – Should I go for a unique trademark for each product, or should I use a generic brand name (like Jungle Creations) and aim to register several products using the same trademark?
A – It’s a personal choice. However, by trademarking a generic brand name, and creating a brand family, it will be easier to cross-sell and (potentially) up-sell in the future.
UPC and FNSKUs
Q – Can I get my UPC from somewhere other than GS1?
A – We do not recommend using any third-party site. Amazon is cracking down on codes and added to their Terms of Service that you must use a GS1 barcode. Better to be safe than sorry.
Q – Do you need a new UPC and/or FNSKU if the product is already branded and packaged (ie. for wholesale and arbitrage items)?
A – No. If you are reselling a product, you don’t need to add a UPC. However, there are conflicting reports about whether or not you will need an FNSKU. To be on the safe side, if you are selling FBA, then you should use an FNSKU too, as that’s how Amazon tracks products in their warehouse.
Q – Do you need to have a UPC and FNSKU if you are selling private label?
A – When you create your own product listing for a private label product, you do need a barcode – UPC in the US and EAN in Europe. Without this, you cannot create a listing and get an FNSKU. And all products need an FNSKU. You can either label this yourself, pay your supplier to add them or pay Amazon a fee to do it.
VAT (value added tax), other taxes and duty fees
Q – Can I start selling on Amazon if I don’t have a VAT number, but do have a validity date to prove the process has been started?
A – Yes, it is possible to start selling once the seller has a validity date. And sellers set a validity date when they fill out their application, so they can use the date they entered into the application themselves for importing and selling products until their registration number is assigned. If they can’t remember the date, they can try and get the date through HMRC.
Q – What is the difference between import duty and import VAT in the UK?
A – The import duty is a 12% fee applied to both the Product Cost & Shipping Cost. Import VAT, on the other hand, is a 20% fee, which you can ‘claim’ back if you are VAT registered. Since every single product sold in the UK is subject to a 20% tax to be paid to the HMRC (UK government), it’s important to account for this cost in your profit calculations to understand how much profit you are truly getting for each sale. If you are VAT registered, then the import VAT will be deducted from your final tax bill – you pay it upfront, like a deposit, and then get it back. Great out this great article from DHL to learn more about these duties.
Have more questions?
The experienced (and, humbly, awesome) Jungle Scout Customer Support team supports Jungle Scout customers with all their questions. The global team spans eight countries and 10 different time zones to bring you service 24/7. Reach out to them at [email protected]!