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Here are my two cents as an Amazon seller.

>Niche is wallets/purses

Purses and wallets are quite competitive. The material cost isn't too high and they typically sell for quite a bit, but marketing is a huge challenge and being able to feel the product is important to buyers.

Another issue is that the factories manufacturing your product are competing directly against you on Amazon, which is sometimes true for any given product, but definitely true for something as fairly undifferentiated as women's purses.

I know many people who have failed here. It seems the only way to succeed in this niche is to either be the manufacturer, middleman, have some unique differentiator either in brand (tough to market such a difference as purses/wallets are infrequent purchases) or in the purse's utility itself, which will require a custom (and expensive) run.

>20% margins

These margins are way too tight for Amazon. You simply cannot stand out from the other 10,000 generic women's purses with such a budget.

Listing products on Amazon is the easy part, getting eyeballs is hard. Advertising is very expensive, and doubly so without a trademark.

>Buying codes off eBay

This is pretty risky. What would work better is if you apply for GTIN exemption. It's very easy to get and you don't even need UPC codes.

>Now i need to come up with a 5 bulleted list and description for my product

This is one of the most important parts of the page. You know your product and the target audience best so it's critical you write this yourself.

>Shipping direct to FBA with no intermediary QA

Yikes, there's no guarantee that what's inside those boxes is going to be anywhere near the same quality as your sample.

>[After shipping] I will use this 1 month period to do some research about marketing.

This likely going to be one of your biggest expenses. Using the advertising tools, you can get a rough idea of your costs before ordering product.

Edit: Removed all caps, substantially toned down/removed needlessly aggressive phrases.




So, yes, this person is a total noob, and his/her experiment is obviously going to fail.

But the author expects that option. It's an experiment. The blog post talks about spending 3k to 5k on the experiment, which I presume is not a lifechanging sum for the author. The experiment will fail, but apart from a bit of lost money there's not a lot of risk.

The problem is when people do the same thing, but don't consider the fact that they are inexperienced. They think they have it all figured out and spend their life savings on it. They sell their home, take another mortage, and end up with mountains of debt, and a product nobody wants.

It doesn't sound like that's what the blog author is doing.


If anyone wants to get their feet with with FBA they should look into used book reselling. Don’t even splurge on the pro membership until you sell enough. Use the fba sellers app to scan all the books at goodwill/library sales and get the ones with decent profit and rank.


Why do you suggest that?

I sold used books back in the day (not FBA; at one point I had 10000+ books kicking around my house, gotten mostly from estate sales and craigslist "a science fiction fan has died, and I don't want the books" posts) This was before it was common to see people with barcodes at booksales.

I wrote some software to do pricing (I used regexes to read the REST API call returns rather than proper REST libraries. lol. And it worked) and to go from mass market paperback barcodes -> ISBNs (the hardcovers usually have the ISBN on barcode, the mass market paperback have a weird system where the first bit of the barcode is a publisher specific prefix, second part is the last part of the ISBN. When you see a prefix you don't know, I had the system ask the person inputing to manually type in the barcode, then I knew that publisher prefix.)

I guess the lesson was that most books not only sell for under a dollar, (you make about another dollar in shipping? More if a user buys more than one thing from you, but I don't think amazon has a system to encourage this) but most books just don't sell, even with 10K books, if you didn't add new inventory, you'd sell a book or two every two weeks, once the in-demand books sold, which would happen within a few months of getting a new load of books. (note, uh, it wasn't like there were a lot of expensive books kicking around unsold... nearly all the more than a dollar books sold during the first few months. After that, it was all penny books that didn't sell. I think the problem was that the books would sell, but that the market wouldn't bear a price high enough to ship them one at a time. If amazon had a way of getting users discounts if they bought in a way that allowed a seller to aggrigate shipping, a lot of those could have been moved.)

(I mean, my goal wasn't to sell books, my goal was to write a platform. And... maybe there is still room for that? I mean, amazon is terrible for selling those books nobody wants to pay money for (and a lot of those are super popular books that people want, it's just they are also super common, and you aren't going to get $4 or whatever for a book that was a book of the month book that everyone's mother has a copy of.); the buyer has to pay like $3+ per book, of which the seller gets to keep like a dollar, but because there's no encouragement for the buyer to buy all from the same seller, even if the buyer buys a lot of books (which is common for those books; As a child, I was known to go to those friends of the library booksales and come home with my body weight in books at like $0.05 to $0.10 per) - so I think that if you figured out how to make it more like the friends of the library situation, and pay less for shipping, you could move a lot of these books. But another lesson, for me, is that you want to work with someone doing the actual selling, actually doing the selling is a lot of work and gives you all sorts of urgent problems and ends up taking away time from platform development)

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see a lot of lessons here for FBA; i mean, in that market, pricing and reputation are important, but you don't do any advertising or ad copy. (maybe I would have done better had I done so? but the amazon platform doesn't have a lot of room for that.)

I mean, the FBA play I've wanted to do is to look for the things that I buy and love that amazon doesn't sell, say, like Jovy brand Fruit roll-ups (which are there but even the bulk packs are like 3x what you pay in the store) - of course, uh, grocery is traditionally not super high margin, and people are way more price sensitive of groceries than other goods, and considering the... issues of FBA, I would have to sell in large bulk packs, and even then I'm not sure what kinda margin I would get out of it, so I haven't tried... but I kinda don't think most of the bookselling lessons would be applicable. (other than, I guess, that you have a minimum per-unit price because shipping, and that at that minimum price, there are a lot of things that you just can't move.)


There are a few companies that basically buy bulk lots of books sight-unseen for little above scrap and do their best to sell them at-scale, even for a penny (but pocketing some chunk of the $5.99 or whatever shipping fee):

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/magazine/a-penny-for-your...


Yeah, it's a business that could work. I was just trying to point out that at that level, the shipping fee dominates, so if the platform encouraged the user to pick multiple books from the same vendor, that would vastly increase either the margin for the seller or decrease the price to the consumer (and probably drive volume up for the seller)

The complaint I'm making about the amazon system is the shipping fee is paid per book, with no discount (at least when I looked last. I haven't sold a book for more than a decade, and nearly all the books I buy are on the kindle.) for the customer buying more than one book from the same seller.

When I was doing it, sometimes you'd get lucky; some kind soul would buy a bunch of books from me at once, and I got to ship it out at once, and I got to keep most of the shipping surplus.


There’s some books that actually do very well. I’ve got a friend that consistently flips .50 to 1.50 books for 20 bucks or more. If you send them in bulk shipping isn’t all that bad considering the weight alone. Books that end up doing well are the harder to find domain specific ones, such as art books.

I say it’s a good start because it doesn’t require much starting capital, let’s you learn the fba system such as creating labels and shipping. And if you’re getting a well selling book it won’t stick around long enough to have storage fees.

Funny enough I know someone else that purely flips older blank media like vhs and casset tapes. Apparently really good money if you can source new ones still wrapped.


Great idea to scan the books in the bargain bin.


Only problem I didn’t mention is there’s a couple companies that have partnered with goodwill and libraries to buy any book their system says ok to. So some goodwills will scan all the books they get in and grab the good ones before it even hits shelves. So there’s obviously money in it.


> You need to do more research before you hop in!

Does he, though? Maybe to him the experiment is the research. It's ok for you and him to have different approaches to learning. As long as he's comfortable with losing his investment, let him learn from his mistakes.


You're right, everyone is free to experiment as they please. I have removed that needlessly harsh comment from my original post.

My concern is that Amazon will shoot first and ask later. If you get suspended for violating the rules on Amazon and your plan of action is denied, then that's it. There's no second chances. No "stealth" account that will get you back to selling long term.

That is why it's so important to research first, and act second. There is no undo.


I think starting out private label with such low margins is a bad way to "learn" FBA and I have in the recent past as a consultant managed ad campaigns for one of the top sellers in the wallet category on Amazon for a period of a couple years.

The better way to learn FBA is to sell third party one way or another. That way you don't have to learn Amazon and learn starting a brand at the same time. It is easier to learn Amazon independent of all the difficult issues involved in both building up a brand and building up an ASIN. It is so much easier to make money with pocket change startup costs by just selling popular products or popular brands that are not locked down.

JungleScout and similar tools are also extremely misleading to new sellers particularly now in a crowded marketplace.

So many things can go wrong with a shipment also.

You can easily start a profitable but very small FBA business with nothing but an introductory 0% rate business credit card that you pay off every month to avoid winding up in a nasty situation. $5,000 or less would be ample and the only business plan you need is "buy a few units of something, if it sells well, buy some more units of it, and if it stops selling or you get into trouble selling it go sell out of it and find something else."

Starting a brand from nothing is really expensive and challenging particularly if there is nothing that fundamentally unique about the product.


I think you may have missed the most important part about failure and learning at the beginning.

I found this article really interesting.

I will add some of my own advice to your own valuable advice above:

After having sold a few thousand products via Amazon, I would recommend trying to ship and fulfill yourself, it's not rocket science. You will save $10 per product. You'll find that spending an hour Packaging and shipping 10 items will quickly pay for your time. Request the supplier to package the goods in untaped individual boxes. This cost adds pennies per product and saves you a lot here when reshipping.

Your points about doing QA in China is very valid, Alibaba even offers reputable QA inspectors as an upsell to your product purchase.

It may be worthwhile to find something that is selling well and list it New below the cost of the "sold by Amazon" version. You'd be surprised how many customers take the cheapest option over the fba variant (as long as shipping is quick and free). This way you do 0 marketing.

Marketing is important, but once you have critical mass and a good product you can relax a bit and coast off the reviews and Amazon algorithm to get some residual traffic.

Put up YouTube videos. These are the first things that come up in the search results when somebody searches for your product, free SEO and marketing. They will show the product in greater detail than Amazon product images and consumers will feel good seeing that it exists outside of Amazon.

Source premium packaging from other manufacturers on Alibaba. This can be very cheap and you can even cheat and send it to your product manufacturer for pre-packaging and ship it all together. The same notes about QA inspection apply. I've done this for complementary products like cables and bags.

Consider registering your trade mark, this is cheap and prevents your supplier or one of their other clients (ie their buddies) from at least copying it straight up and selling it on other marketplaces once you've done the hard work of making a coherent product page and videos.

Now, the hard part - customer service. Making sure you are responsive, that you're messaging properly post-sale and post-delivery and that you are responsive to Amazon's requests as well.

Doing your own fulfillment is a learning curve, and maybe you want to learn the ropes with FBA before jumping in, but really, giving >100% of your margin to Amazon for them to pick-and-ship is a bit heavy. At minimum I would list the product for FBA and new with free shipping at -5% so you can recoup a bit on those "direct" sales.


My mom’s business sells both ways, seller fulfilled and FBA. You’re leaving money on the table, the stark majority of Amazon’s users are Prime and want their 2-day shipping. Her volume for any item is 3-20x for the FBA version.


Exactly this. I have sold both ways (seller fulfilled and FBA). Not only does FBA end up being basically the same price due to the large discounts Amazon gets, but you also get the 'prime' checkmark on your listing, which can be worth a significant amount.


Virtually every size product is cheaper to ship FBA than shipping yourself. In what universe is it not only cheaper, but $10 cheaper to ship yourself?

Most items cost less than $10 for FBA to ship. FBA fees for a 13 pound item is just under $10. There's no way you're getting $10 in savings unless you're doing massive volume and shipping really massive items (like 50LB) or with large dimensional weights


It says $13.81 FBA cost. https://i1.wp.com/fbaexperiment.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/...

You can easily ship a light purse in domestic USA for $5 if you have a business shipping account with a carrier. Making $8 with FBA per sale vs $16 by shipping yourself when you already have boxes is pretty simple.


If it's $13.91 cost as in the screenshot, then it's not light. My guess is they have the wrong dimensions there and that's why the fee is showing so high - they don't include enough information to tell. But something that's $13.91 FBA is not going to be shipped for $5.


Yeah I think it's wrong too. There's no way a single purse costs almost $14 in FBA fees.

This 4 piece purse set is only $7.01 in fulfillment fees: https://amazon.com/dp/B07DS52Z28


I totally understand your frustration here, but I’d ask how else you propose learning the skills that OP needs?

OP’s approach makes sense to me. They don’t seem to expect to actually make money, rather they view the whole thing as paying for a valuable lesson. You seem experienced in the work OP is doing, how did you learn?


Great question! I should have led with this more constructive comment.

When I started, I would read through several FBA related forums on my commute home from work, including a few Facebook groups and the official Amazon forums. There is also the official "Seller University" videos by Amazon and the accompanying help docs. (Some people buy courses, I did not, but to each their own)

When I was confused, I would search various forums. Almost every single time, I would find the answer asked in almost the exact same phrasing I would have used, and when I couldn't, I just asked.

My response was partially because it would have saved OP a lot of headache. Simply searching "what should I budget for advertising" leads to a huge number of fantastic insights.

Thanks for the question. I could definitely stand to be more constructive, and I appreciate you giving me the chance.


Do the exact same thing he did with one big exception:

Buy name brand things at the grocery store and resell them. Don’t put a ton of money into brandless Chinese crap expecting to make money.


Agreed.

I'm involved in selling high volumes of name brand, licensed manufacturer products on Amazon. Zero advertising and we move a lot of units.

We compete with Amazon, but we're also well rated enough to be in the Buy Box. People know the products and will buy it if they want it.

Getting this kind of product can be more challenging, but as a starting point, it makes more sense.

All I do is list the products with inventory, and between Amazon FBA and Seller Fulfilled Prime, we mostly just worry about product selection, availability and pricing. Of course, accurate SKU details, descriptions, images, etc are important, too.


For managing pricing do you make your own software or use one of the many SAAS tools out there? I used to work for SellerEngine and we found that at a certain level virtually all of the big sellers were deeply reliant on their own in-house solutions and very reluctant to even evaluate other options.


we built repricing into CA and don't use anyone else's anymore. many of them are too expensive and too inflexible. we wanted to build our own external repricer, but there were too many CA dependencies (performance included) so we focused our dev efforts on.. uh.. automating parts of it.

we do use one of the SaaS tools out there for research and data though.


> This is one of the most important parts of the page. You know your product and the target audience best so it's critical you write this yourself.

This person seems like english might be their n-th language, so I understand wanting to spend 20 bucks to get some help with that.


Could you please remove more caps? This breaks the guidelines.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Yes, thank you. I've read through the guidelines and also toned down / rewritten much of the comment. My apologies.


Jesus christ the tone police is at it today... I liked your original post, it was alive, and even though I disagreed with the premise, I loved reading it. The revised version reads a bit bland...


Yes, this is a real problem on HN. I've written about it over the years: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20bland&sort=byDate&da.... Unfortunately it seems to be a fundamental tradeoff rather than anything easy to fix.

I'd love to get more people to understand that editing out the nasty bits from their comments (not that the GP was nasty) doesn't mean making everything bland. We want posts to be alive, just as you say. The rules aren't a moral thing or even a cultural thing, just a safety thing: we want this place not to blow up or burn down.




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