Readers’ Questions are in partnership with Emanaged and Online Seller Consulting.
I’m a wholesaler based in Hong Kong. I sell watches, straps, accessories and parts on both eBay and Amazon. I have over 1,000 SKUs but my sales are very poor and it’s got to the point where I want to give up!
I’ve tried many different ways to promote my products, and my store, by using markdown discounts and sponsored ads, but the performance is still not good! Are there any other ways I can promote my store or my products to drive more sales?
– Kelvin K., Hong Kong
Oh dear, Kelvin.
I warn you. We may be getting some negative, or even accusatory, comments over time to this post. You see Kelvin… not to make you feel bad or exposed, but your business model is the apparent cause of many seller grievances I routinely hear.
This year alone, the amount of sellers complaining to our agency about Far Eastern sellers undercutting them with cheap overseas shipping and razor-thin margins has doubled. For some, your model is putting their business at risk.
I guess it’s easy to forget the model you are adopting has its own set of long term viability and profitability issues. No company is without its challenges, we all just have different roadblocks to navigate around.
Still, this may be an eventful, well-discussed, post – this might be the start of your 15 minutes of fame, Kelvin.
Sales are poor because…
… sun spots caused a satellite to temporarily lose signal, which caused everyone to get out their monopoly boards and have family game time, instead of shopping online. Only, this ended in tears, when the banker cheated, Jim built hotels on the orange/red intersection and everyone quit, meaning nobody was in a good mood to buy stuff online.
Joking aside, sales can be poor for lots and lots of reasons. These reasons are what you need to spend time uncovering.
The first thing that hits me about your eBay store is that the crude, basic design you use appears to be one of eBay’s out-of-the-box templates. These were okay in 2006, maybe, if you were a bargain basement garage seller, but today they scream, “I’m a novice seller”.
Most mobile buyers won’t see it, so it’s not as important as it use to be. But desktop buyers are still in the high 45% range, so close to half your audience is checking your listing and most likely having a reaction best quoted as “meh”.
It’s cosmetic, but it’s all about presentation sometimes. You need to breed confidence in your buyers. Your listings are a subconscious reflection of your seller account’s value and by association, the product being sold. If the listing and storefront produces a “meh” reaction from a buyer, the product is getting tarnished by association.
Spend a few peanuts and get a better looking design and listing template in place. There are very cheap solutions out there which will look infinitely better than what you have presently.
I can’t get into this too much here, as it’s a long post all to itself, but eBay does need a certain level of loving care on data optimizations. Cradle those listings until they leave the conversion nest.
Your item specifics are okay based on what I’ve spot-checked, but always be sure to use as many of the eBay tracking fields and values as possible. You seem to do this well mostly, but I see a few areas to refine.
Your titles need more care. Use a keyword tool and find out what your market is searching for exactly, then make sure those phrases are in your titles. For example, one of your titles is: “Miyota 0S10 Chrono Movement 10 ATM Water Resist Stainless Steel Men Diver Watch”.
This is a “watch”’. Yet, this word is the very last one in the title? Do your average buyers search for “Stainless Steel Men Diver Watch”? I suspect not. Do they search for “Diver Watch”? More likely, but if they are looking for a diver-specific watch, surely they are looking for specific values. Are they using “water resist”? More likely, they are using “waterproof” or “water resistant watch”, perhaps even with a max depth value.
I don’t know the answers because I haven’t bothered to spend three minutes checking a keyword tool – that’s your job. My suspicion is you haven’t done this, and you need to rethink the order, priority and combinations of keywords you are using on items from a buyer’s mindset.
A buyer’s top-searched phrases should match pieces of your title as closely as possible, without tarnishing the readability of the title. It’s a balancing act, but … “Popular Women’s Watch Brands”… yeah, I think you could do with a bit more care here.
I see some old listings that haven’t made a sale in ages, or at all. eBay listings can grow stale and need to be refreshed with a relist.
But relisting it isn’t the only action. You should try out new titles and pricing before relisting. Think of it this way; the old listing configuration did not work as it was rarely found, and when it was found it didn’t convert. Your job is to imagine why, make some changes, and then relist the item to reset eBay’s conversion metrics, which are likely at present to be pulling the listing down to page 200 in search results.
You should be keeping an eye on conversions and watching out for high visits and low sales. This is hurting your listings and pushing them down. You don’t want 100 people finding your listing if only five buy it. You want 25 people finding your listing and 12 buying it. It’s not about the number of hits. It’s about the conversions. You only want a buyer clicking on your listing if they are going to buy it.
Also… get rid of the wholesale items. You are indirectly telling buyers your margins here, to some degree. This is a mixed message and won’t help you long term.
Did you create brand new ASINs on Amazon? Again, you’ll need time for them to get any history. You will need to operate an aggressive marketing spend on PPC to spur visibility and I wouldn’t expect you to become profitable for at least a few months. It also appears that many of your products have no reviews, and are of a similar price to competing listings with more history and better service.
If you connected to existing ASINs in Amazon’s catalog, they may be poorly optimized. It doesn’t matter if you are sending beautiful, clean, mega, super, massive optimized data to Seller Central on existing ASINs… chances are that Amazon isn’t using it. Oh, what fun awaits you.
Consider using a keyword tool to research the terms buyers are using. Then you’ll need to contact Amazon support and request your data be applied, proving that it’s superior and more accurate. Amazon support make this easy… just kidding, they absolutely don’t. But they do make it efficient… oh wait, I’m kidding there too!
It’s a cumbersome procedure that will eat a piece of your precious life-force. But if you connect to another seller’s data, don’t assume it’s perfect. Make your own, and try to get Amazon to use it.
Are you competing with Prime sellers? Yes, you are on some items. Prime is the big filter on Amazon. In some instances, I see sellers offering a similar item to you for a few dollars less, and shipping next day via Prime, while you offer a far slower service.
Marketplaces are a big equalizer. If you are not competitive, you shouldn’t expect to see strong results.
Take me as an example. I will first check if Amazon has what I’m looking for, which these days is pretty much a given. After I find some options, guess what I do as a lazy convenience-oriented buyer? I select “Prime” and see what’s left. If I have the choice of waiting three weeks for my item to arrive and saving $4, or having my item delivered next day and paying $4 more, I’m very likely to spend that extra four bucks.
That shipping time frame is likely not helping. I see some of your items on Prime, but most don’t appear to be. Buyers aren’t loyal on marketplaces. Why should they be? They are spoiled for choice.
If I’m a swimmer in Florida and just broke my watch a few days before a weekend on a boat, I’m not going to wait 10 days for your shipment to arrive. You’re likely missing a wide segment of the buyer base who are simply not prepared to wait, when a competitor can get it to them far sooner. We are all impatient creatures in today’s digital, on-demand, fast-paced world.
I’m sure it’s not cost-effective to have everything in FBA. But the point is that you need to think from a buyer’s perspective, and adapt your business model and capabilities to offer the best combinations. You can’t be competitive everywhere, but you have got to find ways to be in some areas.
I’m glad to hear you are using eBay’s Markdown Manager and Amazon Sponsored Products Ads. But it’s the offer, not the act of using them alone, which defines success here.
With items priced like yours, shipping overseas or using Amazon FBA, your margins are likely very tight. You likely have tiny percentages to play with, compared to big established local sellers with deeper margins.
Don’t get me wrong – you should continue to use them. But they may not be producing much value, because some of the issues we addressed earlier are preventing you from making an impact.
This is similarly true of Amazon PPC Sponsored Products Ads. Without margins to leverage, you likely can’t compete on ad spend with bigger sellers. On the topic of pricing, as many of these listings are your own, there isn’t much to compete with. Automatic repricing tools are only useful when you are competing with other sellers on the same listings.
If you’re the brand owner, Amazon offers things like Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) pages, which you could leverage for core lines and previous best sellers, or new product. You’ll need a registered trademark in the US for your brand to use EBC, which may not be the main priority for you right now.
Sales are poor for a combination of reasons. It’s easy to think in binary terms, believing one fix or change will spur sales on. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
There are reasons why sales are poor, and they will change per channel and per product. You’ll have top-line issues, like long shipping times, but then also other issues which you need to address in more detail to correct this.
Marketing is important, always, but you might want to rethink carefully how you use these tools. Perhaps bundles and cross-promotions manager would be more effective on eBay. On Amazon, you need good post-order communication routines to try to get buyers leaving reviews.
I know from experience that watches is a very tough category on marketplaces because it’s highly competitive. For you to succeed, you not only need the best listings and the best processes, but also some strong niches to leverage.
My suspicion is that you are at a crossroads. What was the original strategy? I suspect it wasn’t about building a brand that stands the test of time, but rather making money based on volume of sales. If that’s the goal, why focus on watches?
I think your options are fairly clear. You can continue as is, but it sounds like that’s not an option. You could drop this category and try selling other items with higher margins and less competition. Or you could focus on domestic channels instead, where some of the logistics will be easier. Or you could double down, and try to localize more stock in the US market with better margins. This means volume and either FBA, or a 3PL, supporting the US market for you.
Amazon, and marketplaces in general, are our modern version of a gold rush. But for all the people who scampered to “rushes” of past centuries, most dug for years and found nothing but fools gold.
Similarly, not all marketplace sellers will be successful with their first ideas. In fact, most sellers evolve over time and end up being successful due to changes made based on adaptation, and an open mind to opportunities. There is no foolishness in trying, but there is foolishness in not adapting.
If I were you, given your location and categories, I would phase in new product lines. Unless you are a chrono-enthusiast who wants to sell watches for the love of it, I would leverage your position to find and source new lines. The goal is to make money, and have a good life, for most sellers… and buyers, dogs, fish, aliens, fish aliens, alien fish and indeed all of life on this dimensional plane of existence. We’re all just looking to kick back after work is done, so follow seller opportunities you spot.
Instead, look at marketplaces, with all their unique buyer traffic, as an opportunity to find product at good margins that is sought after. The margin is the profit, and the profit is the goal. What you sell to get there should be based on marketplace insights you find and what you have available around you.
Time will tell if watches are right for you, or whether the clock is ticking on their battery life. But marketplaces are a great equalizer and there’s never a poor moment to reinvent yourself as a seller.
I say Kelvin K.'s behavior is completely unethical. He is essentially going behind the backs of his own customers and undercutting them. Eventually, he will lose all his retail outlets. People who don't dance with the one that brung'em end up leaving the party alone. No retailer in their right mind would continue to buy from Kelvin. He needs to decide if he is a wholesaler or a retailer. You cannot be both. If a wholeseller does wish to offer their products directly to the public then they should never ever offer their goods below MSRP.