There’s a lot of blogs out there wanting to sell you the gold rush to win at FBA. I certainly bought it, and there is money still to be made.
However I wanted to give an explanation and reflect on why I failed at it, and how you (and hopefully me in the future, attempt #2) can avoid these mistakes.
It all started when…
I got started by reading Sam Priestley’s excellent write up of how he’s succeeded and the steps that you need to take. It’s pretty no-nonsense and easy to read.
So I ended up spending many hours browsing Alibaba for a product to sell. I used the usual tools (JungleScout, Keyword Research tools), digging through sales projections to find niches.
In the end I went with a product I could afford to lose on. This itself wasn’t the reason for failure, but I stopped focusing so much on the data of what is selling, and focused more on what had a cheap unit cost. This way if I lost all my money, it didn’t really matter.
I bought 50 – 100 units in 2 products and got everything to Amazon. Discussions with suppliers was smooth and I didn’t encounter too many issues.
It took 2 weeks to arrive in the UK from China, 1 day to get it to Amazon and 7 weeks for Amazon to unpack / scan the inventory in.
I’m still sat on much of this inventory now and consider my attempt a failure.
Mistake #2: Impatience
I wanted something I would see a quick return on, something that would be delivered quickly, cheaply and I could sell for loads-a-money. Rather than a serious business investment I saw it as a novelty entertainment thing, that might boost my social profile without really meaning all of that much.
Party I think it was also sheer excitement that I wanted it here in front of me ready to sell.
Mistake #3: Lack of focus
Having done very little product research, I rushed into decisions without having enough data to back it up. I should have focused more on finding a product I knew would sell. This way, even if Amazon FBA failed for other reasons (see #5) I could turn to eBay / other avenues and have an audience ready to flog to.
Mistake #4: No Audience
I didn’t know who I was targeting the product at / for. This made creating external ads – especially facebook, or backlinks, very very hard. Traffic is hard enough when you have no sales and very few reviews.
Mistake #5: Other Sellers
This is more naivety, and a implicit trust in Amazon support which was misguided.
One of the products I chose actually sold really well to begin with because I was winning the buy box from a competitor. I would sell steadily 3 or so units a day, with really great margins. Bought at £1 a unit, sold for £7.
After 2 weeks or so, I received threatening messages from another seller on the listing, the person who I had taken the buy box from. I thought nothing of it – what could they realistically do? They are a seller and not a buyer, and I was doing nothing wrong to Amazon’s rules.
Coincidentally, within a week, a “customer” had bought the product and reported it as being not fit for purpose despite the items being identical.
Amazon ruled against me and said I could no longer list the items because they were not fit for sale as described, and that was that. I provided evidence that it was the same item but this got rejected without explanation.
Ultimately I had nothing unique to give and so had to withdraw – in hindsight I should have had custom branding / added a feature to the product (as Sam’s advice says) so that my own listing would have been more successful stand-alone.
I’m still sat on inventory now and at best I’ve broke even. However I have learned a more valuable lesson:
Do your research and have a plan / target market before buying anything.
Ultimately I think FBA is down to both luck and focusing on research. You need a bit of both to become really successful off of it, but it’s 80% research.