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How Amazon FBA Entrepreneurs Stay Motivated

 

Stress Awareness Month has never been more topical for Amazon FBA sellers. We’re breaking out of our COVID-19 cocoons, and many of us are still grappling with the stress and de-motivated feelings of the past year. 

There is no shortage of blogs and articles about how to keep yourself motivated—especially in the Work From Home/COVID era. Many gurus tout the importance of self-care, letting go, and cutting yourself a break. 

However, entrepreneurs (especially FBA sellers) have to overcome stress and stay motivated to keep their businesses afloat. Unplugging can mean lasting consequences. Every entrepreneur knows you can never completely let go. FBA sellers don’t have as much wiggle room when it comes to shutting down, especially if your listing is suspended or your top competitor just nabbed the buy box. 

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or part of a 500+ person company, if you’ve been operating in the Amazon space lately, you’ve been more than a little busy. Everyone needs balance in their lives to avoid burnout. So we’ve gathered advice from FBA sellers and Thrashers about building long-term, sustainable motivation. 

Find Your “Why”

Finding your why means discovering your purpose. It’s crucial to build a healthy personal foundation to have professional stability, but it will require you to dig deep. 

When you are your own boss, you have to boss yourself around. 

Holding the long-term vision in the back of your mind while checking off menial tasks is challenging but essential. If you’re always in a visionary headspace, emails won’t get answered, inventory won’t be ordered, and customers won’t be able to buy your products. 

Remember, everybody has a boss. Even Jeff Bezos has a boss, and it’s the same boss you have: Amazon customers. If you don’t meet your essential tasks, your listing will suffer. 

What are you doing all this for anyway?

Many FBA sellers are already excelling in their  9-5 jobs. You may be moonlighting yourself, so what is it within you that pushed you to want to do more? This motivating factor you identify needs to be bigger than yourself—bigger than your fatigue. Grab onto that feeling within when you’re exhausted. Print out a picture of your kids, the house you want, or your dream car, and tape it to your computer monitor. 

If you’ve gotten this far in building your FBA business and haven’t identified your why, zeroing in on your purpose is only going to push you to more significant gains both personally and professionally. 

Thrasher Advice

Try reading The Artist’s Way. The self-help workbook written in 1992 has changed the lives and trajectories of many visionaries like Tim Ferriss, Elizabeth Gilbert, and even Martin Scorcese. 

  • Lauren Rogers, a Senior Copywriter at Thrasio: “I worked through The Artist’s Way a few years ago and learned that sustaining a life-long creative practice requires play, consistency, and a deep appreciation for the process. Those lessons helped me build the discipline needed to become a better writer word by word.”
  • Helaine Bach, Marketing Creative Operations at Thrasio: “My biggest takeaway from the exercise was that learning is a core value of mine. I am happiest and most fulfilled when I am learning new things and adding new skills to my design toolkit. I also found that I define design as solving problems and communicating solutions.”

Establishing why you’re in the FBA game to start with makes the stings of inevitable setbacks less painful (and easier to overcome). 

If all that sounds a little too woo-woo for you, try something like Donald Miller’s Hero On a Mission course. As an entrepreneur himself, he knows the power of motivation and goal setting. The course teaches how to: 

  • Focus on what matters
  • Do what you need to do even when you don’t feel like it
  • Make progress on your goals every day

Create Your Ideal Week

This is another fantastic Donald Miller tip

When actively transitioning from blurry busy days to the lifestyle you’re striving for, building the ideal week is a good middle ground to start from. 

Ask yourself what your ideal week would look like. When are you most productive? If you got to be in charge of all the variables at play, what would be on your calendar and when? Then, sketch it out. 

Create Your Ideal Calendar
Create Your Ideal Week

Identify Your Money-Maker

What is the one task that, if you don’t get it done, will cost your business money?

  • Is it setting up deals?
  • Identifying omnichannel growth opportunities?
  • Responding to customer concerns?
  • Projecting and forecasting?

Whatever it is that’s most important to your unique business needs to be planned for and protected at all costs. 

Then, identify what most often distracts you from your money-maker. It could even be any of the other tasks mentioned above. It’ll be different for everyone. But once you figure out what’s draining your focus, you can solve the problem by de-prioritizing the repeat offender or hiring to solve for it. 

Make a habit of writing down both your personal and professional goals for each week. Carve out time on your calendar to do the tasks that move you closer to your goals. Days can get away from you, and before you know it, your week is shot. Yearly goals are only worthwhile if you break them into actionable tasks. 

Cut the Crap

Allot time in your calendar week-by-week to cross off each item on your to-do list. If you’re sitting down on Sunday night realizing there isn’t enough time to get everything done, you’ll know before the week even starts. If you keep putting off a specific task week after week, you’ll know exactly what you need to outsource or hire for. 

If it’s answering emails, updating your books, running PPC campaigns, or even running errands—cut out what isn’t working for you and make it someone else’s job. 

Exercise to Exorcise

Any moderately productive person will tell you that exercise is essential to mental and physical health or creativity, etc. 

Thrasio’s CO-CEO Carlos Cashman takes it a step further when he says, “Exercise is an important part of any workday.” 

It’s not just personal time or self-improvement–it’s essential to approach your work and business. We’re no longer separating the mind from the body, they’re all one, and they work better with regular exercise. 

Boston office Thrashers after a pre-pandemic spin class (2018)
Boston office Thrashers after a pre-pandemic spin class (2018)

The same goes for sleep. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked about his habit of getting eight hours of sleep in terms of his responsibility to Amazon shareholders: “Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion. When you’re talking about decisions and interactions, quality is usually more important than quantity.”

Don’t Break The Chain

Commit to tiny habits with the simple goal of keeping the chain of whatever daily task going. Eventually, keeping the chain going becomes motivation in and of itself. 

This method is advice rumored to be used by Jerry Seinfeld–writing a little bit every day even when you don’t feel like it. Put an “x” on your calendar every day that you complete that necessary task. The effort (i.e. the chain) becomes the reward. 

Learned Industriousness Model
Source: Dr. Adam Bell: Have You Been Blinded By The Hustle?

Discipline (not motivation) is the Key to Success. 

When you’re feeling fatigued and the shimmer of the original idea has tarnished, remind yourself that feeling is a natural part of the process of building something. It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail. 

Finding differentiation or your niche in the market doesn’t have to be a huge disrupter. Often for FBA sellers, small changes or differentiators that lead to incremental growth can build major long-term success. 

Take some advice from SVP of Creative and Brand Strategy, John Hefner, on Private Label Live: 

 

Pull on the low-hanging fruit, get some small wins, and then focus on long-term outcomes. 

Maybe you’ve exhausted all of this. You’ve either taken your FBA business as far as you can or managing it has lost its luster. So many sellers who reach out to us are in the same boat. These are FBA sellers who have brought their businesses to an enviable position but simply aren’t interested in running the details anymore.

In today’s hustle culture, it’s easy to feel addicted to the grind. But don’t hustle out of habit when there’s a clear path to success without the headache. 

TL;DR

If you’re thinking about moving on to something else, sell your business before your distractions become liabilities. 

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What Thrasio Tells Sellers About Maximizing Their Amazon FBA Valuation

 

One of our top seller FAQs is how to maximize a valuation. It’s a tough one because there’s no one perfect answer for everyone. In business, and especially on Amazon, there are no guarantees. 

We have guidelines on what we look for when evaluating a company for potential acquisition, but those change over time as both Thrasio and the FBA market evolves. Ecommerce is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Nowadays, your brand could grow tremendously under a company like Thrasio, giving you an earn-out you wouldn’t have dreamed of last year. If you’re hellbent on a higher upfront multiple, you could be short-changing yourself in long-term growth in the long run. 

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want out of an acquisition deal, so you can start gearing up for an ideal exit. 

What We Look for in an Acquisition

You’ve heard Ken Kubec talk about our acquisition criteria before on podcasts, at events, and we’ve written about it here. FBA businesses that fit that formula are companies we’d like to take a look at regardless.  However, if you want to make more on your multiple, the benchmarks get a little steeper. 

Brands commanding a higher multiple are often characterized by the following:

  • Hero ASIN driving 70% or more in total revenue
  • A BSR ranking of 1-5 within the subcategory
  • Robust review moat (30% or more reviews than the next-best competitor)

In essence, to command a high multiple, you need to be operating a brand that’s already in a leadership position on Amazon. Yet, it still has untapped potential for Thrasio to grow the brand into (ex: selling on International Amazon markets, other ecommerce marketplaces, etc.). 

Mounting Huge Revenues on Amazon—2 Ways

There are two schools of thought on how to increase growth on Amazon.

Method #1: Spray & Pray

This method describes sellers who operate a brand with 500+ ASINs that each does moderately well. The major pro to this strategy is that you’re still reeling in revenue through your other listings when you have a few ASINs suspended. 

Method #2: Hero ASIN

This method describes a brand with one successful ASIN driving the majority of total revenue, at a minimum over 50%. This is what we go for at Thrasio. 

There’s nothing wrong with the “spray & pray” philosophy—it just doesn’t work for Thrasio’s model. We can mitigate our risk for suspensions and black hat tactics across our entire portfolio of 100+ brands making Hero ASINs more efficient to manage overtime.

Hero ASIN

What About Marketing Activity?

We value marketing activity, but it’s not just about being active on social media or having 10k emails in your database. To leverage marketing in the valuation of your business, you need to prove consumer engagement. If you’re bringing marketing activity to the negotiating table, be sure to bring receipts in terms of conversion rate and ROI.

The same consideration goes for D2C or other channels your brand may have broken into. Thrasio is primarily an FBA operator, but we do operate brands in different spaces. Having a Shopify site just to have one won’t necessarily grant you a higher multiple, but a Shopify site driving 30% or more of your company’s revenue will. 

What We Do Grant Higher Multiples For

Improved Margins

If you’re looking for a higher multiple, there’s no better avenue than tightening your budget. Reduce packaging fees or COGS if you can. But more than likely, the majority, if not all of your savings, are going to come from expenses. 

If it’s not going to end up being an add back ultimately, it’s going to hurt your multiple.

Since valuations are based on seller discretionary earnings, everything you write off as a business expense will impact your valuation. If you’re writing off your vehicle or travel expenses, you need to realize that the next owner (Thrasio) will not take over those costs. Being frugal with your add-backs can give you a better platform to negotiate from. 

Size Matters

It goes without saying: higher EBIDTA is going to translate into a higher multiple. But category size also has an impact. Being a top seller in a niche category isn’t always valuable as being a middle-weight competitor in a larger category where there’s more market share to grow into. [alt compete for]. 

Another way to consider a category size is whether or not your products are consumable. If your brand sells a consumable product with the potential to join the Subscribe & Save program or something that’s going to cultivate repeat customers, your brand will command a higher multiple than those that don’t. 

Branding

We’re constantly talking (and blogging) about branding. Branding is truly a pillar of Thrasio’s overall strategy. Currently, Thrasio employs 60+ creatives whose full-time responsibilities ensure our brands convey the quality and trustworthiness that the rest of Thrasio’s teams work hard to make true. 

A cohesive brand strategy is essential to expanding into omnichannel opportunities, so having a recognizable brand in place will add value upfront. 

If all of your brand’s products encompass one category or brand identity, your branding will add value and be considered in developing your offer. If you have a storefront that sells spatulas and tongs, that brand is leverageable.

If you have a storefront that sells spatulas and birdcages, that won’t translate into an overarching brand identity to command a higher multiple. 

We buy FBA businesses with mismatched products in far different categories all the time, so it’s not a bad thing. But it won’t make your brand name part of your valuation. 

There’s No Silver Bullet

If you’re a six-figure seller, you know it’s a lot of hard work to run an FBA business. And if you’ve ever sold a company before, you know that every deal is nuanced, so none of the above advice is going to guarantee you the offer you want with us or any other buyer. 

However, size is one of the standard exceptions to the “no silver bullet” rule on commanding a higher multiple. If you’re preparing to sell in a year or so, focus on scaling your revenue and SDE on Amazon rather than trying to scale laterally through new products or channels. 

Scaling on Amazon is easier said than done, so if you’re struggling to keep the momentum going, it might be time to start thinking about an exit.

Kevin Flaherty, Manager of Acquisitions at Thrasio, says,

“It’s the chicken and the egg problem. It’s tougher to significantly grow a bigger business than it is a smaller one.”

“If you’re pulling in $5M in net profit, and you want to see 150% growth in 12 months—that’s $12.5M in revenue—an improbable target to hit. 150% growth is much more achievable when you’re taking a company from $250k to $600k.”

Thrasio Could Be Your Silver Bullet

Take some time to do a thoughtful forecast for your own business. Where do you think you can take it in the next 1-3 years (realistically) given the resources and capital you have? 

Now, imagine what a team of 500 experts at Thrasio can do with it with essentially unlimited capital. This is why Thrasio is the best option for many people when selling their business, we strap a rocket ship to your plans for growth and are able to scale your businesses exponentially faster than you can alone.

It’s never one single thing that makes a business successful. Thrasio has over 500 specialized employees. That’s 500+ magic buttons we can press. If each Thrasher can affect 1% of change to a given brand or ASIN, we’ve 5X-ed your business, and you’re sitting in Bali watching your earn-out hit your bank account. 

TL;DR

If you’re beating your head against the wall trying to figure out how to move the needle further on your brand’s revenue—it’s time to give us a call. 

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How to Develop Data-Driven Branding in Amazon FBA Listings

 

A comprehensive brand strategy is a powerful tool. Amazon sellers tend to think of Creative as a small part of building out a listing which, frankly, is why the bar is so low. 

In the ecommerce space, creative work is often under-prioritized. Widgets and software may seem to have a more easily measured value over polished copy and sleek graphics. But, branding can be quantified, you just have to collect the data.  

Recently, in an episode of Private Label Live, Tom Wang talked extensively about how his branding was essential to his product’s success. One of the viewers typed in the Zoom chat, “enough of the branding fluff.” Like many sellers, they were looking for a simple hack to gain rank, 5-star reviews, and margins. But Tom Wang was quick to assure us branding is the hack. 

Good branding is a hell of a lot more than typography and color palettes—it’s the story of your product and how it fits into the consumer’s life. We talk in-depth about storytelling and optimization here, but this blog is about convincing you that the implied value of branding can be proven by your listing’s performance. 

Before and After_UltraPlush
Here, you can see the branding treatment Thrasio gave UltraPlush post-acquisition. We updated the lifestyle imagery and added a soothing color palette to invoke an overall sense of comfort and relaxation. We put the new packaging to the Main Listing Photo to tout the product’s benefits on the search results page, so shoppers don’t even have to click on our listing to know they’re looking at a great product.

For sellers who see branding as mere “fluff”—it shows. And not just to other creative-types. 

Traditional shopping has always been an exercise in quickly winning a shopper’s trust in a product, but online shopping takes away the customer’s ability to touch, smell, and get a real feel for a product. As a seller, you need to bridge the gap by showing the customer exactly how this product fits into their lives and solves their problems. 

It’s not just about bold color choices, either. Copy tells the story of what your product does and how it fits into a potential buyer’s life. Good copy solves a customer’s problem, and stellar copy solves a problem they didn’t even know they had before seeing your product. 

But what if your Creative isn’t even doing its basic job of demonstrating your product accurately? You can tell by your Q&A section and your negative reviews what part of your listing loses your customer. But those are just the shoppers that took the time and effort to write to you. 

Consider the shoppers who don’t understand if your product works or trust the color options because of a cheap-looking rendering. Think about how much money you’re losing on returned inventory because people are purchasing your product and finding it isn’t what they thought it was. People don’t buy stuff when they’re confused, so it’s your job to ensure your listing communicates your product’s features and benefits. 

Investing in a new branding strategy might not seem like the boldest, most innovative move, but it does play into the flywheel effect, driving revenue in a big way. 

Here’s Thrasio’s Associate Director of Copy, Forest Lee, talking about the impact of storytelling in branding and marketing:

 

The Price of Doing Business

In some cases, you can even charge more for products that have good, trustworthy branding—especially in categories where quality or perceived luxury adds value (like wellness and beauty). Raising the price of your product is yet another differentiating factor from your competition. It signals your product is of higher quality than other brands in the search results, especially when you’re well ranked.

Creativity Meets Capitalism

When you invest the same expert support in your branding as you do, say your PPC strategy, you elevate your products in your customers’ eyes from a risky purchase to a legitimate brand. 

A refined brand not only grows your business on Amazon but makes the transition into new markets easier. D2C is highly competitive, and premium branding is essential to success. In our blog about improving Amazon Listings (linked above), we encouraged sellers to hire professional marketers to craft your branding. Resist the temptation to hire your cousin who knows photoshop and write the copy yourself. We hear this from a lot of successful FBA sellers on Private Label Live, like Tom Wang and Mina Elias who say that hiring professional creative agencies to create their branding gave their business a layer of legitimacy (and therefore conversion) they couldn’t have achieved on their own.

How We Know It Works

We measure our success by tracking a listing’s conversion rate before and after any changes are made—creative or otherwise. 

Small changes in listing photos, adding videos, and copy choices have driven up conversion rates in many of our major brands. 

AO Before & After
Angry Orange’s creative refresh increased conversion by 26% and sales volume by 46% within 20 days of updating listing images on Amazon.

How We Do It

1. Create a Hypothesis

Start by identifying what you’re looking to achieve.

For example:

  • Increase in conversion rate
  • Increase in sessions
  • Improve rating

Take note of the metrics before considering any changes, and then make an educated prediction on how those metrics should be affected by whatever creative updates you’ll be applying to your brand. Remember, you aren’t just collecting data for data’s sake. These metrics are telling you something qualitative about your business. You’re using these numbers to tell you whether the more subjective or qualitative parts of your business are working correctly. Branding builds trust, instills confidence in the quality of the product, and confirms the viability of your small business—all of these qualities increase conversion rates, sessions, and ratings. 

Marketing is an exercise in repetition — taglines, design elements bring every aspect of your into one cohesive thought. That consistency tells a story both on the surface and sends a subliminal message that builds trust with your audience. 

As an Amazon seller, there’s more data about your customers than you may think is available to you. Look over your reviews (both good and bad) as well as the reviews of your top competitors. 

Hone in on the following: 

  • What do shoppers like about your products?
  • What don’t shoppers like about your products? (i.e., what makes them buy something else?)
  • What do shoppers like about your competitors’ products?
  • Where are your competitors falling short (and therefore where your product can deliver)?

Look at your competitors’ ads (both on Amazon and other channels like Facebook or Google). Identify why someone would skip over your product or ad in the search results. 

  • What makes them hesitate?
  • Does your listing or your ad convey quality?
  • Does your ad make your products look well made and durable compared to similar products?
  • Does your ad assure customers that your product is worth their hard-earned money?

Once you identify what’s lacking, or in corporate-speak terms, your “opportunities for improvement,” you can form your hypothesis. 

Example: If we add packaging to the MLP, we can increase sessions by 20%.

 2. Research

What do you need to communicate to the customer? What will your changes look like? Often, realizing you need to add packaging to the MLP is just the start. 

Leverage the research you did on your competitors to dive into what’s on-trend outside of your particular niche. Think beyond what will update the brand to what will walk the line between being in vogue and what stands out among other content. 

3. Testing

There’s more than one way to test your Creative. We use Pick-Fu and Splitly to gain insights into consumer reactions to our creative updates. 

PickFu is no-risk. You can run a PickFu test on your updated photo against the original image, against your competitor’s photos. You can even include pricing and review scores and customize to devise what is influencing customers’ decisions. 

Keep tweaking and testing until your updated creative lands on a clear winner. You can test individual images, packaging, or even a group of listing photos. 

For A/B testing, you can use Splitly to collect data based on either profit or conversion rate automatically. Because it runs live on Amazon, the results take 1-2 weeks, so keep that in mind. 

Now, you can conduct A/B testing for MLPs directly from your Seller Central account

4. Launch

Keep a detailed record of any changes you’re making to your listing. For each update from SEO changes to PPC, tracking potential influences to your listing is essential. 

Note:

  • Date
  • Time
  • SKU/ASIN
  • What was changed

5. Follow-Up

Over the next few months, continually follow-up on your listing. If you’re gaining in rank or conversion rate, you’ll be able to track it back to the exact date and time you made those changes. You can even calculate revenue growth and compare it to what you invested in the updates for overall profitability and margin calculations. 

Remember, Branding Isn’t About the Product

For more insights on branding and operating FBA businesses from real sellers like you, check out our weekly series Private Label Live on Fridays at 1 pm EST.

Click here to register for Private Label Live

TL;DR

We’ve all heard it: you’ve got to spend money to make money. Spend on your branding, and you’ll elevate your product’s rank and potentially even increase margins and profitability. 

 

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PPC: Building a Successful Strategy on Amazon

 

There are many components to what makes our brands successful on Amazon—world-class creative branding, inventory management, various marketing channels, etc.

Sellers often ask what the cheat code or secret contact at Amazon we have that can explain our success. We assure you we don’t have a magic button or a red phone that connects us to Jeff Bezos’ office, but we have learned a thing or two from operating a portfolio of 100+ brands. And one of the most straightforward tactics that any seller can use to their advantage is PPC.

Quite often, in the FBA businesses we acquire, we see founding sellers that are under-utilizing PPC.

Generally speaking, many Amazon sellers should be investing more in PPC. Unfortunately, we’re also seeing rising costs in PPC. But there’s still a way you can play the market to see some big gains.

How Most Sellers Run PPC

Marketing costs are rising across Amazon, and some sellers may be wondering how they’re going to adapt. When optimized, PPC can drive massive increases in sales velocity.

Of the 100+ brands we’ve analyzed, we see sellers taking a variety of approaches to PPC.

Thrasio's Amazon PPC Strategy

Some sellers throw as much money as possible behind a handful of high-volume, hyper-competitive keywords. Other sellers take a more sophisticated approach that focuses on ACOS or TACOS targets based on their ASINs’ profitability. Some sellers in less competitive categories hardly run PPC at all.

Thrasio has an entire marketing division dedicated to PPC on a global scale.  Here’s our approach.

Thrasio’s PPC Playbook

Thrasio's PPC Playbook

Thrasio runs PPC to specific ACOS targets we set at an ASIN level based on each product’s profitability. Typically, we use PPC campaigns to generate profit and support the ranking of our ASINs.

Setting the right targets for an individual ASIN takes extensive analysis. It’ll take time. PPC campaigns are often trial and error. It’s critical to know your goal for the ASIN or brand at the outset of building your strategy.

A winning PPC strategy is not something you can just throw money at—you can’t set it and forget it. To be fruitful, you’ll have to continue adjusting and tweaking as part of your ongoing operational tasks.

6 Tips for Dominating PPC

1. Understanding Your Objectives

Obligatory cliché quote:

“If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” – Basil S. Walsh

You need to figure out what you’re trying to achieve with your PPC strategy to put a plan in place.

Your approach to PPC will depend on your category, your price point, your margins, the lifecycle of your ASIN, and more.

“Thrasio has a standard PPC structure we generally use, but we don’t have one strategy for all our brands,” says Senior Director of Amazon Advertising, Brian White, “Our competitive advantage is that we are able to test a variety of PPC strategies, we are large and diversified enough that we can absorb the risk that comes with testing PPC at scale. This allows us to continually approve and identify the best PPC approach for a brand or ASIN based on its category, lifecycle, or other factors.”

Getting the perfect PPC strategy for your brand is an investment in money and time that will depend on your category, competition, margins, COGS, ASIN lifecycle, short and long-term business objectives, inventory, supply chain lead time. Only you can decide what’s right for your brand.

In some aggressive strategies, a seller’s PPC may not be profitable, but their overall ASIN might be. If that fits into your business plan, then count it as a win.

2. Keyword Isolation

Set up a PPC campaign structure that allows you to isolate the performance of individual keywords. Isolation allows you to invest in your PPC budget intelligently by bidding on the keywords that generate the most return. Separating each keyword’s performance and honing in on exact matches will help you align bids and budgets according to your goals.

PPC Keyword Isolation

3. Basket Analysis

Explore what other products people who are buying your brand are also buying. If you’re selling yoga mats, it’s probably a good idea to run sponsored ads on listings for yoga blocks also. Make a point to look through Brand Analytics for these sorts of insights regularly.

4. Context is Key

If you’re selling picture frames, and you’re driving PPC to the term “frame,” you’re probably wasting a lot of money on ads appearing in front of people shopping for bed frames. To make sure the right shopper sees your ads, you need to download the terms people are searching for and make sure you’re eliminating those from your ad spend.

5. Adopt Early and Often

When Amazon launches a new ad type, they’re testing it. Neither FBA sellers nor even Amazon knows how well this ad type will perform, so the clicks can be cheaper and the competition less than on more established ad types.

When Amazon released Sponsored Brand Video, we saw CPCs were roughly 20% lower than other ad types in the first few months.

6. Don’t Hold Yourself to a Budget

We know this sounds counterintuitive, but we’ve seen sellers limit their earning potential by being complacent with too low of a marketing budget.

Keyword ROI

You need to think differently about indexing for PPC search terms than you do when writing for SEO. Don’t look at the keyword itself, but instead look at the return on the keyword. While there is value in making sure that the keywords you index for fit your product’s context when bidding on keyword types, you need to budget your ad spend to fund more of the exact keywords than the broad keywords.

TL;DR

When PPC is working for you on Amazon, you need to be maximizing your investment in that strategy, not saving for a rainy day.

One More Thing

If you’re already dialed in to your target objectives, but your company’s growth has stalled because you don’t have the time and/or money to push it further—that’s one of the main reasons FBA sellers reach out to us. We do have the resources, and we’d love the opportunity to take the reins while you benefit from your business’s growth.

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How You Can Leverage Amazon Live to Drive Revenue

 

We predicted live stream shopping was going to be a big influence in 2021 ecommerce. We weren’t alone—many in the industry agree with us, and we already see the rise of influencer-driven  “social commerce” on sites like Facebook Shopping, Instagram Live, and TikTok. It’s a natural extension of the rise of ecommerce when the opportunity for in-store experiences has halted. There’s a hole to be filled, and live stream content engages customers while authenticating product quality. 

Back in September 2020, Amazon Accelerate featured a keynote, “Amazon Live: Drive Discovery and Conversion,” which talked about the benefits of the program (driving brand awareness, demonstrating products’ features and benefits, and directly engaging with customers), and hinted at the future emphasis Amazon would be putting on live stream content. 

In truth, Amazon Live is an excellent opportunity to advertise deals with driven urgency, make your products more discoverable, and chat with customers in real-time. 

There are a few different approaches you can take to create live content. We’ve tried a few, and here’s what we’ve learned. 

Thrasio’s History of Live Content in Three Acts

In 2016, Amazon launched a short-lived live stream platform, “Style Code Live,” which also had a QVC-inspired feel but focused on beauty and style tips. On Prime Days in 2017 and 2018, Amazon sellers could produce live streams promoting their Prime Day deals (very similar to what sellers can create now using the Amazon Live Creator App). Early 2019, likely to compete with emerging Facebook and Instagram’s shopping initiatives, Amazon Live premiered as the platform we see today—a mix of content hosted by talent with broadcast TV experience and seller’s DIY productions. 

At Thrasio, we’ve been dipping our toes into Amazon Live since Black Friday 2019 (shortly after the platform launched). We’ve run the gamut of production value from as cheap as possible to high-dollar Amazon-produced segments. 

A VP, a costume, and an iPhone

This was an experiment in the purest sense. Our first streams were indubitably more for staff entertainment than they were to convert customers. It wasn’t very successful as there was no discernible bump in sales, but it is a point of pride for Thrashers who have been here long enough to remember when this happened back when we had less than eighty employees. 

Our fearless host, John Hefter (then VP of Creative and now SVP of Creative & Brand Strategy), on a never-ending quest to “delight Amazon’s customers” donned a couple of goofy costumes and turned up his already thick Boston accent to try out Amazon Live for the first time on Black Friday 2019. We’ve posted the videos below. There’s not much to learn other than maybe what not to do. But there’s something to be said for sucking it up, putting on the baby costume and going for it. 

Introducing, A Professional Influencer

In March 2020 (right before we all went remote), we tried a different approach to Amazon Live with a former influencer turned Thrasher, Michael Platco. This was one of the first projects he worked on. He still brings a lot of energy to the videos, points out the features, and comes off as an expert on the product. 

Again, there wasn’t a bump in sales in response to these videos, but we were learning. And Platco is able to use that same energy in the content he produces for Thrasio products across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Amazon-Produced Live Streams

This fall, we dove right into the live streaming platform with Amazon-produced Live segments for some of our top products. 

These segments are a great way to get a leg up on the deals page, but they do require some prep work:

  • Fill out a form of talking points (benefits and features) of the products so the hosts know what to talk about.
  • You must be running a deal on the product.
  • Pony up—the starting cost for an Amazon-produced live stream is $35K.

While that might give you sticker shock, we’ve discovered that the returns are huge. For Cloud Massage, one of our compression therapy brands, the sessions rate during the Live segment increased 500% over a comparable 7-Day Deal, which led to a 177% increase in revenue. 

For Crafts4ALL (a great product in a completely different category and price point), sessions increased 438%, revenue increased by 91%, and rank increased by 66%

The revenue lift we saw from Amazon Live placements definitely paid for themselves, but even if it hadn’t driven as much direct revenue lift I believe we nonetheless would have benefited from the brand awareness each placement gave us. Not only did each live deliver attributed revenue; it also provided a short-term boost in rank,” says Yonny Reichel, Amazon Audience Advertising Director.

In addition to driving real-time brand awareness, once you pay for this segment on Amazon Live, the content is yours. You can repurpose the video to post on your Amazon Listing, your D2C site, or Facebook and Instagram ads too. 

The Takeaways

We’ll admit some of the seller-produced live-streamed content is cringy (think Public Access TV); however, you should be doing something in the live streaming space. If your business isn’t yet big enough to justify the $35k price tag, you could pay a micro-influencer, look toward experts in digital advertising to partner with. Influencer fees range from free products to sales commissions to guaranteed flat fees—there’s something for everyone depending on brand budget and overall goals. 

Or you can give it a shot yourself. It’s free to live stream on the app so long as you have an iPhone or another iOS device, download it here. You can boost your own content (or influencer content) via the app too. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of where Amazon’s live streaming program is now, is that unlike the rest of an Amazon listing, Live segments aren’t censored or scraped as far as we can tell. Meaning, you can refer to your website, your competitors, and talk up your customer service efforts outside of Amazon. 

Not only does it appear that Amazon is looking more and more toward live streaming, but our success shows Amazon’s customers are looking for it too. It’s likely going to be an essential part of growing an FBA business in the near future, and we think it’s worth the investment. Being an early adopter of new Amazon marketing techniques pays off. If Amazon is embracing live-stream content, you should too as it’s likely to increase in value as part of the overall marketing opportunities for FBA sellers. Both Amazon and sellers are trying to unlock as much revenue as possible. Working alongside Amazon to prove out the Live Stream channel as a viable marketing tool is a win-win that will generate a lot of goodwill.

“Whether it’s videos, listing photos, or copy—good creative content builds trust with customers,” says John Hefter, SVP of Creative and Brand Strategy (and giant Bostonian Baby), “Don’t jump over a $20 bill to get to a $5.”

A lot of sellers use a family friend who knows Photoshop to do their listing photos and write the copy themselves. You might save some money upfront, but what are you missing out on by foregoing sleek, attention-grabbing content that converts?

When it comes to Amazon Live, shoppers likely won’t know it costs $35k to pay for a segment, but they do know subconsciously that cheap companies with bad products either won’t put in the effort or can’t afford to produce quality videos. They also know Amazon wouldn’t push them toward bad products. 

More content on your listing is always a good thing. On a listing, you only get nine images (only six of which are seen automatically by the customer), five bullet points, and six modules in A+ content. Amazon live videos give you the opportunity to show off your product in use. And for customers to see it beyond the white background photos (especially important if your listing photos use rendered images rather than photographs). 

On Amazon Livestream, customers can ask real-time questions allowing you to act as a salesperson rather than just a seller. And we doubt this is the last we’ll see of interactive shopping experiences. 

Live streaming on Amazon and social media are likely just a stepping stone to the future of shopping with AI and AR. The price tag for Amazon’s Live streams also rings true for another of our 2021 predictions—that the cost of success for FBA sellers is continuing to rise. 

TL;DR

You get out of it what you put into it. If you spend no money and just fool around, you’re not likely to see significant returns. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it. 

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Blog

Brokers, Aggregators, & Private Equity Firms: Make The Right Choice

 

When thinking about selling your FBA business, there are many different aspects to consider before reaching out to a potential buyer. If you’re unsure whether you want to work with us, another direct buyer, a broker, or a private equity firm, a little bit of prep work can help you feel confident you’re getting the best deal possible. At Thrasio, we have a “come as you are” policy for prospective sellers meaning you can reach out to us at any time with no prep needed. 

  • Deciding on your ideal exit requires some forethought. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • Do you know the space well enough to feel comfortable negotiating on your own?
  • What’s the minimum sales price you are willing to accept?
  • What’s your ideal timeline for selling your business?

Do you want to move on from the business operations, or are you hoping for a cash influx to drive growth while remaining involved?

We go into this process in depth in How to Prep Your FBA Business for Acquisition, but the fundamental questions above will help you determine how to approach the first few steps. 

Brokers

A broker is an individual or a company that assists you throughout the selling process from start to finish. They’ll walk you through every step of the way until the transaction is closed and you have cash in hand. 

Like a real estate agent, they’re going to help you prep your business, put together a P&L, and shop the deal around to multiple buyers. They’ll also help you weigh the pros and cons of working with each buyer and provide expert guidance during negotiations, making sure you don’t leave money on the table. Brokers are experts in ecommerce and can be especially helpful to entrepreneurs who have never sold a business before. 

Just like individual people, no two businesses are alike. A broker will help you navigate the market by identifying your businesses’ strengths and weaknesses and how to negotiate for the best deal structure possible for your unique situation. 

The downside is that brokers take anywhere from 10-12% of the total transaction value. However, especially if this is your first time selling a business or selling in the FBA space, brokers can be well worth their fee. 

Aggregators & Rollups

When looking for a timely and streamlined sale for your business, a direct sale to an aggregator or FBA rollup (like Thrasio) is the fastest and most efficient option. 

If you have to shop your business around to several buyers—as you would be doing with a broker—a lot of these prospective buyers are just looking to kick the tires and will end up burning a lot of your time. We cheekily refer to this exhausting process as the “speed dating” part of working with a broker. 

Skip the Prep Work

We do many tasks for prospects that a broker typically does for their clients, like constructing P&L statements and providing you with an accurate valuation of your company. 

We understand the Amazon space better than anyone. We structure deals so that you benefit from the long-term success of selling your business. 

We Pay Well Too

When selling to Thrasio, you’ll have the opportunity to receive three separate payments:

  1. Upfront cash
  2. Stabilization payment
  3. Earnout 

Upfront cash is pretty much what it sounds like—the cash payout you receive upon the official deal’s closing (after the assets are migrated). 

In most deals, a stabilization payment is received 12 months post transaction close date. Stability payments ultimately act as a stamp of confidence from the seller. They signify that under the care of a buyer with access to virtually unlimited resources—the seller is confident that the business will remain at least flat 12 months post-acquisition.

For example, $5MM in sales 12 months post-acquisition compared with $5MM TTM sales at the time of acquisition). 

Historically, we’ve been able to grow topline revenue over 200%+  across our portfolio of brands 12 months post-acquisition. We typically view this portion of the deal structure mainly as an insurance policy.

The most exciting and differentiating piece of our deal structure involves an earnout component. For example, we typically offer sellers  50% of all net profit over the acquired profit for the two-year post-acquisition period. If your business made $1M in net profit the previous year, you would receive 50% of the net profit over the $1M threshold twelve months post-acquisition. At the end of year two (24 months post-acquisition), you would be due an additional earnout payment that’s also 50% of the net profit over the $1M threshold. The threshold does not go up in year two. 

What Your Deal Could Look Like*

  • 2017: $5M in sales and $1M in net profit
  • January 2018: Closes deal with Thrasio & receives a cash payout
  • January 2019: Over the last year, the company made $8M in sales & $4M in net profit.
  • You receive a stability payment (whatever was negotiated) + (in this example) $1.5M earnout.
  • January 2020: Over the last year, the company made $10M in sales & $6M in net profit. 
  • You receive an additional earnout payment of $2.5M. 

Our performance history shows that we grow net profit over 150%+ 12 months post-acquisition.

Note: many aggregators utilize this earnout structure but do not have the stats to back it up, effectively making their earnouts worth significantly less.

Having the most robust track record in the marketplace (100+ acquisitions at the time of this writing) makes our earnout the most valuable in the market by far.

When sellers are confident in the buyer’s operational capabilities (in the case of FBA sellers—someone who knows the Amazon space), they can make even more money than the asking price when listing with a broker or quicker than if they scaled on their own.

Process Timeline

Private Equity Firms

If brokers can be compared to real estate agents, private equity firms (P.E.s) can be compared to house flippers. If you’re looking for an investment into your business or don’t mind staying involved in operating the company after you’ve sold it, going with a P.E. might be the best option for you. 

P.E.s can give you significant capital growth opportunities, and they usually allow you to get a second helping through rollover equity. So you can have relative liquidity in the payment you receive but still participate in the upside of the business’s growth after the deal has closed. 

What is initially attractive about P.E.s is that they tend to offer four to six times the company’s net profit upfront. And sellers can keep that rollover equity in the company. Meaning you’ll retain a portion of the ownership of the company. So in the future, when the P.E. sells (flips) the company for a profit, you’ll take a chunk of that future value. 

Rollover equity typically takes the place of stabilization and earnout payments. It guarantees you have skin in the game to ensure the company continues to grow as operating a business sold to a P.E. often falls to the original leadership. 

The negative aspects of working with a P.E. depend on what you want as a seller. If you want to part ways with the business altogether and move on to your next venture, most P.E. deals will not be for you. In that case, you’d need to sell to an experienced FBA operator. Additionally, if you’re looking for an expeditious exit, you’d be better off working with a direct buyer like Thrasio. 

In reality, the money you make selling to an aggregator with a tiered payment system (cash upfront + stabilization payment + earnout) typically is competitive to a P.E. offer. Additionally, P.E.s rarely look at FBA businesses with less than $5MM in EBITDA. 

TL;DR

We love brokers, and we work with all of them. But if you want to save time, we can provide a lot of the expertise they do. If you sell to us, you’ll likely make the same amount of money you would have made selling to a P.E., but you won’t have to stay on operating in the day to day weeds while owning significantly less than when you sold the business. 

*Numbers in the example are completely fabricated and don’t represent any deals made by Thrasio and its acquisitions.

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5 Predictions for Ecommerce in 2021

 

While 2020 was pretty rough for retailers, FBA Sellers soared in most categories (unfortunately, categories like auto and travel suffered tremendously). Regardless of background or industry, we can agree things didn’t go as planned last year. However, an overall growth of ecommerce and international expansion of FBA availability did come true even despite the upsets caused by COVID-19.

We’ve pooled our most valuable resources (Thrashers themselves) to put down their predictions for what five things FBA and ecommerce businesses will see in 2021. 

1. Expanded Video Content

We’re confident about in 2021 that Amazon will put more emphasis on Amazon Live and other video content. Amazon Live has been around for a while, but this year Amazon Accelerate had several keynotes hyping-up Amazon’s QVC-like streaming platform for sellers. We already know Amazon’s algorithm gives preferential ranking to listings with video content (more on that here).

In 2020, we also saw a lot of celebrity stores and a heightened presence on social media. In 2021, we’ll see even more as Amazon is motivated by up and coming competitors in Facebook and Instagram shopping as well as Gen-Z’s beloved TikTok, who partnered with Walmart and Shopify to pilot livestream shopping events. To compete, Amazon will have to expand celebrity content, carve a more natural path for influencers, and dive deeper into third party content sales. 

Thrasio’s Co-CEO, Carlos Cashman, predicts Amazon will go about this in one of two ways, “They’ll either expand Live organically or move to acquire an existing company to meet the compete with Instagram and Facebook.”

Live ecommerce shopping is the way of the future. Forbes reported livestream shopping accounted for 9% of China’s total ecommerce revenues in 2019. With infinite products to push and plenty of FBA Sellers willing to pay up for the sales, Amazon will continue to dominate—just within another medium. 

2. Facebook & Instagram Shopping Will Be Huge

We mentioned Facebook and Instagram above, but in just how influential we think Instagram and Facebook will be in 2021, they deserve their own spot on the list.

Instagram’s highly visual platform (something Amazon never emphasizes) is perfect for D2C brands. Think about the marketing of items that need to convey a luxury feel—nearly impossible to do on a white background. These Instagram shops will eat up (and, more importantly, grow) Etsy shops, Shopify, and D2C brands like Harrys Razors did. Amazon’s army of hungry FBA sellers will make sure Amazon still dominates online sales, but not without making some changes. 

3. Higher Quality Offerings

Amazon has been the proud purveyor of affordable odds and ends for years, some of which are flimsy and cheap. Affiliate marketing accounts for much of the content on sites like Buzzfeed with articles like 33 Products That’ll Upgrade You Life for Under $25. The impetus for a lot of these listicles seems to be “there’s a lot of junk online, but this stuff is worth buying.” However, with ecommerce (and Amazon sales) hitting an all-time high in 2020, customers and sellers alike are all too aware of the saturation of cheap products. 

Increased customer attention and regulatory scrutiny aren’t going anywhere in 2021, leading to a more quality-focused market. Amazon’s Brand Registry and Project Zero initiatives prove the trend. Brand Registry has been around for a while, and it’s becoming more effective with each update. Brand Registry streamlines any changes or updates on a listing, but to level up as a seller and validate your brand’s quality, you need to unlock Project Zero

Project Zero launched in 2019 with the sole purpose of removing counterfeiters. However, it’s a self-service removal tool meaning the bad actor’s listing is removed as soon as the report is submitted. No review necessary. To have access to Project Zero, you need to have a certain percentage of accuracy in your reportings reviewed on Brand Registry. As this extra layer of protection for legitimate brands filters out counterfeiters and hijackers, Amazon’s general quality of products should improve naturally. In keeping with their customer-centric philosophy, Amazon wouldn’t emphasize these initiatives if it weren’t important to their customers.

Another proof point of the trend toward higher quality is Amazon’s introduction of Luxury Stores in the fall of 2020. While it didn’t seem like an opportune time for Amazon to enter the luxury market, it was a time when luxury retailers were desperate. Luxury brands like Oscar de la Renta previously marketed on the idea that their brands were inaccessible to the masses, so making their items available on Amazon is a massive shift for the fashion industry and a change for Amazon too. 

Screenshot of Amazon Luxury interface (mobile)
Screenshot of Amazon Luxury interface on mobile (December 2020)

Within the luxury stores, you can see the small interface changes that deviate from Amazon’s ordinary listings that indicate a slight shift toward better visual marketing. Products on the luxury store listings feature 360º photography and a deviation from the ‘Amazon Bland’ iconography and color palettes. There’s even a serif font. The icons are set in a slightly metallic beige that comes off as sleek rather than cheesy gold. A jaunty shopping ‘bag’ replaces the cart, which would look off-putting in brick-and-mortar luxury stores.  The design updates tell of more change coming soon for all sellers. 

4. The Cost of Success Will Rise

With great luxury often comes great expense. Almost everyone in the space is in agreement that PPC costs will rise. As JugleScout states, “Amazon PPC is an auction, meaning that your cost per click (CPC) is a penny more than what the next seller is willing to pay per customer click for a specific keyword.” 

With increased competition among sellers and venture-backed pros like us (sorry), it’s going to make it more challenging for single sellers to compete. In addition to rising costs, there are many nuanced changes in space, mostly due to regulatory compliance scrutiny and the eventual policy changes—not to mention Amazon’s new focus on supply chain management. The lower the IPI score, the more a seller has to pay in FBA fees. Depending on the category, some sellers may not be able to keep up. 

However, there is an upside: sellers will see a more liquid market for their businesses and potentially higher average multiples due to the COVID bump. 

5. Brexit: ~The Wild Card~

Brexit has caused a comprehensive compliance lift. For smaller sellers, the time and cost associated with selling in the UK are too costly to keep operating. Many sellers are jumping ship. For non-Amazon sellers, it’ll be even more challenging to do business in the ecommerce market. 

Sellers on Amazon UK can use Brand Registry to validate the new compliance aspects, but even so, it’s a giant bear. 

It’s likely rollups like us will scoop up a lot of these UK brands, but time will tell how Brexit will affect ecommerce as a whole. 

Tl;dr

In 2021, Amazon is going to continue its absolute dominance. Competitors like Instagram (Shopify) and TikTok (Walmart) are just motivating factors. 

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How to Improve Your Product Listing on Amazon

 

Thrasio’s Creative Team—designers, copywriters, and project managers—work together to craft the perfect branding for each of our products. The customization of each listing elevates the quality and feel of each individual brand which builds trust with each targeted customer and increases conversion.

You don’t need to convince your customers that they need the type of product they’re looking for. In most cases, shoppers have already searched for whatever compression sleeve or pet shampoo they’re in the market for. So your challenge starts with making your listing stand a cut above the other products on the results page. In other words, you have to convince the customer that they need your brand of pet odor eliminator. 

We have a team of 65 creatives that work together to make our nearly 100 brands look amazing. All the way from listings to packaging and D2C efforts. As a lot of MDS (Million-Dollar Sellers) are projecting, we’re going to see a lot more venture-backed and already successful sellers dominate Amazon in the future—make sure your brands can compete. 

Turn your FBA business into a brand customers trust by producing a compelling brand that converts through a complete listing, smart copy, and sharp design. 

Amazon Grades on Completion

Amazon’s algorithm gives preferential treatment to listings that take every opportunity to add information within your seller account. This means listings that utilize all 9 listing photos, adding a video, and filling all 6 modules in A+ content.

 

Note, on mobile, shoppers can only see the first 6 listing photos, so make sure your strongest sales points are in those photos along with any information that needs to be clarified to a potential customer in order to avoid a poor review. The last three listing photos can show repeated information from your title and bullets, stock images, or potentially show other products within your brand. 

If you have more than one product, set up your brand storefront. Not only does it give your products more exposure, but Amazon is starting to push more toward storefronts. A lot of PPC ads click through to the brand storefront rather than the specific product listing again showing shoppers more of your brand than the first product they were looking for. 

Filling the gaps in your listing is not only going to elevate your product within the algorithm, it also gives you more opportunity to share the features and benefits of your products with customers. 

We’ll outline how to make your listing photos, videos, A+ content, and storefront look like the million-dollar brand it is that converts. 

Copy That

“Copy” refers to any written material on your listing. There are plenty of resources for SEO copywriting, but we’ll skip the title and bullets for now—that’s a different skill set. For the purposes of this blog post, copy refers to the words written within the photos and videos on your listing. 

Whether you’re hiring a freelance copywriter or doing it yourself, think of your listings as an opportunity to tell a story. Stories are the simplest ways humans communicate with each other. Not only do stories carry an emotional impact, they’re also more memorable and digestible than a hard sell. Good copy builds a brand rather than just a listing. 

With a simple product like a compression sleeve, it might be easy just to describe what material the product is made of and how to find the right size. “It’s not enough to just describe features. Your copy should speak to outcomes—both practical and emotional—that solve the problem a shopper has come looking for a solution to,” says Forrest Lee, Thrasio’s Associate Director of Copy. The text in your photos should describe how these specific compression sleeves fit into and improve the customer’s life because they’re designed to fit perfectly, and made with superior materials. It shows the customer that the seller has time and expense to create beautiful listing photos and a sophisticated video; and therefore, the customer trusts that the same care has been taken when developing the product itself. 

Pragmatically, copy describes the features and benefits of a product. It describes how a product works, and in what situations it can be used. Amazon sellers can look through their reviews and customer Q&As to address any questions or doubts posed by real customers, increasing conversion by decreasing bounce rates. 

Good Copy Practices

AO Mobile Screenshot
Angry Orange Listing Photo on Mobile

Take a holistic look at your listings—including all positive and negative reviews and the Q&A. Write down the main features and benefits of your product on separate pieces of paper. Then arrange each feature/benefit in order of importance or compelling-ness. That’s the order of how you should arrange each selling point on your listing images. Again, making sure the most important points are in the first 6 photos and the first 3 modules of A+ content. Try to keep it to one main statement per photo, with one benefit. (e.g. Headline: Smells Like Heaven; Subheader: rid your home of that kitty kat stank).

In general, keep it short and snappy. People are looking at listings very quickly, so they want the information simple, quick, and accessible. They don’t want to read that much – or they don’t want to feel like they’re digging deep for information. Customers aren’t always going to read the description either, so it’s important to break it up across several photos. 

Eye on Design

Like products in traditional retailers, brightly colored packaging, and sleek displays attract customers online also. Amazon has a challenge of remaining user friendly and appealing to everyone from gen z-ers to baby boomers. 

Along with easy-to-read copy, you want the same accessibility in design. Meaning, easy to read typography choices with appropriately contrasted colors, and professional product photography.

 

Color palettes are complex. Maybe you want to be antithetical to your competitors so your main listing photo stands out against others on the search results page. Dive into color theory to have your palette evoke the voice/tone of your brand: friendly (yellow), trustworthy (dark blue), luxurious (black/metallics).

Strategic Branding

As Senior Art Director, Henry Ngo says, “Branding isn’t just a logo or a typography choice. It’s a cohesive presentation of your brand.” 

The design is going to pull all of your branding together. Do think about your logo and typography choices, but don’t overlook the tone of voice, personality, and colors that represent your products. Using those big picture ideas will help you considerably when making decisions about iconography and copy. 

You can do it yourself, or go for a cheap freelancer on Fiverr. But we recommend investing in a true branding expert when hiring a graphic designer. Contact your local AIGA chapter for recommendations (if you’re in the U.S.), or hire a pro on Upwork.

On Trend

One of the many trends from 2020 we’re expecting to continue into the new year is more quality and luxury products in ecommerce. 

As shoppers start turning to marketplaces like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok, their expectations for the branding and polish of products they shop for online are changing. Even Amazon gave their app a facelift this year with a new teal gradient. Furthermore, Amazon’s new venture into luxury fashion points toward the historically minimalist (i.e. bland) interface slowly transitioning into something more up-to-date. You need to be sure your listings do the same. 

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How to Prep Your FBA Business for Acquisition

 

At Thrasio, we want sellers to know they don’t need to have everything perfect before talking to us about selling your FBA business. We’d rather have sellers connect with us when they first start thinking about selling their business than put off connecting with us because they’re trying to package everything up. However, sellers can do a few things to make the process run more smoothly for both themselves and potential buyers. 

Think About Your Ideal Exit

Start by asking yourself what you’re looking for from the deal. A few things to ponder:

  • What’s the minimum sales price you are willing to accept? 
  • What are you hoping to do or accomplish with your earnings?
  • Do you want to wash your hands of the business altogether, or are you hoping to remain involved? 
  • What’s your ideal timeline for selling your business? 
  • Do you have any employees to consider?
  • What do you want to do next? Are you launching a new business? Retiring?  

Once you firm up the big picture, you’ll be better prepared to talk to a buyer or a broker, and you’ll be more comfortable sitting at the negotiating table. 

Put Together Performance Data

When you sell your business, the prospective buyer will go through all of your performance data during the evaluation phase. Before entering into an LOI (Letter of Intent), which often requires a non-compete agreement, you’ll need to have at least a bare minimum of shareable data on how your business has performed historically—such as a Profit & Loss statement and sales data from each revenue channel.

In initial discussions, buyers will want to know simple figures like net monthly revenue, gross margins, and costs of goods sold. It’s good to have the most up-to-date information on hand to streamline this part of the process.

Clean Up Your Finances

Keep your books in ship shape and up to date throughout the entire process. Make sure you’re paying your bills and keeping up with inventory. Our team does craft P&Ls for every deal, but you’ll want to have as much of the business financials in order as possible before reaching out to any other buyer or broker. If you’re working with a broker, you’ll likely be required to have a full accrual-based accounting of your business. 

Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, you want to reach out to your accountant regarding selling your company. Identify any tax liabilities, and figure out the best overall deal structure for your tax position. 

Choose Between a Broker and Direct Sell

There are pros and cons to both, and we work with both. 

On the upside, when working with a broker, you have their experience and guidance to lean on throughout the process. If you are unfamiliar with selling a business, this may be a good option for you. 

Additionally, brokers often have hundreds or even thousands of buyers looking at their listings. 

On the other hand, the high volume of interest that comes through a broker often leads to many people wanting to “kick the tires.” You may be on multiple calls with buyers who are “shopping”  that never go anywhere. As mentioned above, you need to have your financials entirely in order before your business can go on the market through a broker. Working through accrual-based accounting can be tedious. Your broker can work with you on this, but they’ll also have several other clients they’re working with, which may make the process feel transactional. 

Broker fees and commissions are often 10-12% of the total deal price. These fees may be well worth it if you’ve never sold a business before or have other reservations. But you may make up those savings if you can forego paying for a financial audit and work directly with a buyer instead.

When you work directly with a buyer like Thrasio, you get a one-on-one relationship. It’s not transactional. We take the time to get to know you and your business through a series of conversations and emails—no pressure to take calls or entertain offers that don’t work for you. There’s no commission, so you get 100% of the purchase price—saving you that 10-12% commission rate. And the deal typically moves much quicker which is important to many people who run their own business and don’t want to draw out the process. If you aren’t a Quickbooks wizard or you need help creating a P&L, Thrasio can help you through the process and get you a valuation for your business typically in a few days. 

Business as Usual

Even when you’re confident a deal will close, you should always continue to operate your business as if you will still be the owner a year from now. You might assume since you’re selling or closing on a deal to hand over your business, you can pull back on PPC or don’t need to replenish inventory. But, if the deal falls through,  you’re left holding the bag. We’ve seen it before when sellers have come to us after a previous deal fell through, and their business has lost significant value. 

Do yourself (and potential buyers) a favor, and streamline your operations when you start thinking about selling. Continue doing everything that made your business a success throughout the entire acquisition process. You’ll protect yourself should you want to walk away from the deal at any time, and you’ll preserve the value of your business when it is time to negotiate its value. 

Want to learn more about selling your business? Reach out to us!

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Selling Your Business to Thrasio (The Basics)

 

Whether your company has grown beyond the size you want to manage, you’re pivoting your focus toward a new venture, or you’re just curious about what Thrasio does, you don’t have to be an expert in FBA acquisitions to start thinking about exit strategies.

In the two years since Thrasio was founded, we’ve bought nearly 100 FBA businesses. We’ve learned quite a bit about how much sellers can expect to sell their business for, what makes a business desirable to us, and what sellers can anticipate from the acquisition process.

The value of an FBA business

Current market rates for selling FBA businesses are 2 – 4x your Trailing Twelve-month Earnings/ Profit. You’ll often see this written as TTM EBITDA or TTM SDE (Seller Discretionary Earnings). 

If your business has Operating Expenses that do not directly relate to the success of your business, those are typically considered “add-backs” and we will add those back to your profit-making that upfront payment higher.

 Add-backs are things like Owner’s salary, office rent, and if you have any other expenses running through your business (once we had a pet product owner who ran her dog’s food through the business, we wouldn’t include that as an Operating Expense) – since Thrasio won’t be running those expenses through the business when we own it, we don’t count them. 

2x – 4x is standard across the industry at this time. Thrasio estimates we do about 40% of the transactions in this industry in the US today and these are the rates that most buyers and sellers are transacting at. What gets closer to the 4x than the 2x?

  • Size of business – the larger your TTM EBIDTA/ SDE, the more we’re typically willing to pay for a business.
  • Secured Intellectual Property – Patents, Trademarks, Brand Registry and even having exclusives with a manufacturer are helpful in increasing the value
  • Overall market size for your products and opportunity for growth
  • Reviews, Ratings, and Rank (see below). Brands with 1 or more highly ranked (top 10) products in their category demand higher multiples.

For a ballpark estimate of what your FBA business might be worth, multiply your seller’s discretionary earnings (trailing 12 month’s net profit + owner’s expenses) by 3 or 4.

Example:

 

TTM Net Profit= $1,200,000

Operating Expenses = ($200,000)

TTM EBITDA/ SDE = $1,000,000

Multiply by 2.5x

Expect an upfront payment of $2,500,000 for your business + Performance Payments + Inventory at Landed Costs .

What are we looking for?

R3: Reviews, Ratings, and Rank…and Category

Reviews

We look for products or brands with hero ASINs that have at least 500 (predominantly positive) reviews acquired organically. That gives social proof that the product is a leader in the category. Incentivized or purchased reviews need not apply. 

Ratings

A rating over 4 stars proves the product’s quality and shows the brand can sustain its position over time.

Rank

What’s the product’s ranking on high volume keywords (most popular search terms)? If a seller has been able to rank well in a competitive category, it often provides an indicator to us that you’re also doing other things well—investing in marketing, managing stock-outs, and optimizing your listings. But, we don’t *only* look at high-ranking products. We evaluate niche products we think can perform even better after our playbook is applied.

Category

Our sweet spot is in everyday hard goods selling on a private label—everything from kitchen utensils to pet supplies (we don’t buy resellers or retail arbitrage). We stay away from trendy items like apparel, tech products that will be obsolete within a few years, and food/grocery. We go for items that are likely to be found in every household, office, or car. 

We’re not interested in big seller accounts with moderately successful ASINs. Unlike a lot of buyers, we embrace the smash hit hero ASIN that does $3M in revenue because we can spread the risk across our portfolio of nearly 100 brands. 

R3 must be organic. If you have achieved this through black-hat tactics or are violating any Amazon Terms of Service, this will decrease your multiple or potentially disqualify you from being an acquisition. 

How long does it take to sell my FBA business?

Migration of all of the assets during the transaction takes about 30-40 days.

LOI

After we chat a few times and decide we’re a good mutual fit to work together, we’ll go through negotiations and sign a letter of intent (LOI). Once we sign a LOI, we’re 98% positive we’re going to be buying your business.

Note: There’s nothing legally binding about signing an LOI other than an exclusivity period while we work through diligence under NDA. There’s often a misconception that after the diligence period, the buyer will try to work down the price—we don’t do that. And the proof is in the 98% acquisition rate of deals we close after LOI.

Due Diligence

After LOI, the clock starts. This is when our diligence team will start working through your Seller Central accounts and other platforms so we can validate the costs of goods sold. We’ll take a look at your IP and legal agreements, and recreate your P&L.

If you’ve never sold a business before, this might sound nerve-wracking. We’ve bought companies whose financials were handwritten on loose-leaf paper, and a company whose listings got suspended the day of closing. Rest assured, nothing scares us. So if your business is not in tip-top shape, don’t worry.

While in due diligence, you will be meeting with our teams from different departments (Brand Management, Creative, Marketing), so we can learn how to properly run your business to its highest potential, and ensure that your earnout continues to grow.

Migration

Then, assuming you’re a US-based company, you’ll wrap up any negotiations in the Asset Purchase Agreement and we put the payment in an escrow account. Migrating the assets takes about 7-14 days. Once we’re migrated, we’ll release the funds from escrow, and you’ll get your first payment.

Payments

Depending on how we’ve structured the deal, you’ll receive additional stabilization and earnout payments.  Stabilization payments are paid to sellers when the business continues to operate at least at the same level as it did when you sold it to us (based on net revenue), and are usually paid 12 months after closing. We’re confident that the businesses we acquire will maintain profitability within the first year of acquisition, so we offer this additional payment as part of our negotiations to seal the deal with sellers.

Earnout payments are paid to sellers whose brands have grown under Thrasio’s portfolio. Companies we acquire typically see about a 150% increase in profitability. With earnouts, sellers get to participate in the upside of selling their business. A typical earnout increases the size of the total payout by about 37%. They’re usually paid 12 and 24 months after closing, and are often based on EBITDA. Other buyers can’t offer earnouts because they don’t have the proven record of success that our operations team has proven time and time again.

Are we a good fit?

Over the last two years we’ve been in business, we’ve analyzed over 1,000 FBA businesses. We’ve learned that raising capital and buying a business is the easy part of the process. The real skills come into play post-acquisition when we start operating and growing the business.

We have the invaluable experience of acquiring and operating nearly 100 businesses (check out what they think of us here). Each of our specialized teams can tease out what we got right, what we got wrong, what we are really good at, where we struggled, etc. We can now take that knowledge and look at a business with a very different lens than someone who has yet to make an acquisition.

As Ken Kubec, VP of Acquisitions, says, “they will have to take their lumps and earn the scars.”

TL;DR

If you’re at all curious about selling your business, we’d love to talk to you.