In 2014 Will Tjernlund and his brother Andrew sold $6 million of products on Amazon.com. They also generated around $1 million of sales on eBay, and half a million on their own webstores.
The year before, 2013, they sold around $1.2 million on Amazon. That was also the year Will graduated from the University of Minnesota, doubling the business’s full-time headcount from one to two.
How can two people drive that kind of sales volume? Well, the Tjernlunds’ business model is to develop their own “private label” items – lower-cost versions of products that they sell under their own brand names. They buy from manufacturers in China, and send the inventory into Amazon’s FBA fulfillment service. That’s the last time they have to handle their own stock.
I spoke to Will Tjernlund about how he got into selling online, his product development process, the merits of FBA, and what’s next for the business. Here’s what he told me.
We caught up with the Tjernlund brothers again in 2017.
Andy: How did you get started selling online?
The short story is that my brother started selling online, and he’s six years older than me. He started when I was 12 and introduced me to the whole world of ecommerce, importing and private labeling. At that age I understood how accessible and easy it was, and how it’s such an opportunity for every single person.
Nowadays it’s not that rare for someone to buy a couple of hundred units on Alibaba and try to sell them on Amazon. But back in like 2002 when my brother started, it actually was very rare. He was a full-time student at college at the time. He wasn’t making a full living out of it, but a good amount of money and knew that if he dedicated a full 40 hours a week he could take this thing to the next level.
I started buying books and selling them to make some pocket money
When I started college I was selling to sell, I would sell things left and right – textbooks, anything really. When I got later into college I started importing and private labelling. But at the beginning I just knew how easy it was to list stuff on Amazon, and the university’s bookstore was ripping kids off, buying their books back too cheap. So I started buying books and selling them to make some pocket money.
Then I got to a point where it just couldn’t scale any more. I could find people to buy books from, and resell them, but I wanted a scalable business that could also be automated. That’s when I started selling private labeled products from China because it’s much easier to scale the business, as long as you have cash. And it’s really repeatable. Once you’ve ordered the item and you know that it’s quality, you can just keep ordering as soon as your inventory gets low and the business kind of runs itself.
As I got into college I started selling more and more, until I graduated and teamed up with my brother. We’ve been working together selling on Amazon since then.
What were you studying at college, was it a business course?
I majored in economics in college, but I wouldn’t say that I get that much out of my degree. It’s more from reading articles and listening to podcasts. I’ve learned the bulk of my ecommerce knowledge through those means. They don’t teach ecommerce or anything like ecommerce at the university I went to. Mostly I learned business jargon and how to write a really formal business letter.
What was your first experiment in importing and private labelling?
My first private label products were marijuana vaporizers
My first private label product was actually in a gray area – I was selling marijuana vaporisers. It was weird because I couldn’t fulfill them through Amazon, but they’d let me sell them on Amazon. It was this gray area where Amazon doesn’t want you to sell marijuana or tobacco products, but at the same time they wouldn’t take down my listing. I made a bunch of money out of them, but since it was in a murky area I decided to move forward and do different items. I didn’t want to build the business around an item that may not be allowed on Amazon in six months’ time.
What was your strategy back then? Was it to develop a niche or just sell whatever product was profitable?
At the time I didn’t have any idea, I was just looking for a product that would make the most money possible. The vaporizers were fairly small and I could ship them very easily. That made my life very, very easy. Now that I’m more experienced and doing a lot more in sales, I try to think forward when I’m sourcing a new item and plan what other products I could sell into that niche. And I want to make sure the supplier has a certain amount of SKUs, so if I increase my product selection I don’t have to go out and find new suppliers. I can use the suppliers I already have and just go after other interesting products that they make.
What was the next step after the vaporizers?
I got in a weird situation time-wise, where I was two months out from graduating and also working with my brother full-time. I was looking for a new product, but before I got a chance to order a sample and go through the whole process, I was already working full-time with my brother.
My last semester only had one class, and my university was a two-hour drive away from where I live. So I just drove up once a week, went to class, drove back and did that for three months until I graduated. A bunch of my friends had already graduated, and I was all ready to move on with my life.
My brother already had the business going, but it was very small scale and he was waiting for another person to help take it to the next level because he could only do so much on his own.
Was your brother’s business in a particular niche or more about selecting one product at a time?
It was in a particular niche. My family owns a ventilation and cooling manufacturing company, and my brother and I grew up with that stuff around the house all the time. So we started selling cooling and ventilation equipment first, because that was the easiest for us to vet the suppliers. We could contact the Chinese suppliers and get down to business quickly because we knew exactly what we were looking for. The HVAC niche is very old school, which made it easy for us to get into Amazon and online because the majority of the competitors thought that’s not the way you do business. They didn’t want to grow with the new economy.
So were you adding a new sales channel to the family business, or doing your own thing but using the product knowledge?
In the ecommerce space it’s about being creative, finding different ways to market niches
More doing our own thing. My family manufacture for wholesale and do all B2B while we do B2C. It’s all about having the flow as lean as possible and making your processes very tight. In the ecommerce space it’s more about being creative and finding different ways to market niches, and finding niches that haven’t been exploited yet. When I order something from a Chinese supplier I don’t bug them about their manufacturing process, I pay the money and let them worry about it.
So I joined the business around the end of 2012. Then in 2013 working with my brother, we did around $1.2 or $1.3 million in sales. And in 2014 we did around six million dollars in sales.
That’s five times the sales in one year! How did you grow so quickly?
It’s all about having cash. You can grow as fast as you want as long as you have cash. That first year was all about growing our cash reserves. We reinvested all of it and added a bunch of SKUs. Between adding a bunch of SKUs and reinvesting the cash, it made it very easy for us to grow very quickly.
Did your strategy change or did you just scale it up?
We went after certain markets and just completely saturated it. We’d go after a certain product and try to private label it, and also contact the top five brand name manufacturers for the product and buy from them too. So if customers are shopping around, we can sell them a private label version or any of the quality brands. Even if they don’t buy the private label version they are still going to buy from us.
We went after certain markets and just completely saturated it
Say I’ve got a Seattle-themed coffee mug. Let’s say a Starbucks coffee mug sells really well, and a Seattle’s Best Coffee mug sells really well. I would create my own coffee mug that would be some sort of Seattle brand, then I would contact Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee and carry their mug too. So when you type in coffee mug from Seattle, I get the top three listings right off the bat.
A lot of US brands, as long as you have some cash and you can talk yourself bigger than you are, will sell to you wholesale if you say, “Hey, I’ve got the cash ready, I want to make an order right now.” You’re a salesman’s best dream, just calling up and wanting to do a big bulk order. People rarely say no to us, so it’s very easy to add US vendors. It’s much harder to come up with your own product and source it from China.
What’s the benefit of carrying the brands? With the private label version you could have quite a high profit margin, but I assume you’re not making much on the brands.
If I sell the other two brands of coffee mugs besides my own, they might sell a thousand each of their mugs a year and I might sell 500 of mine. Let’s say I’m making 10 bucks a unit off mine and I make a dollar a unit off theirs. Why not make that extra two grand? It doesn’t take any more effort to add one more supplier. So why not make the extra amount of money off ours and a bunch of side money up-selling the US brand too? Yes, the margins are less but it’s still margin and it doesn’t take any more effort for us. We’re making some money out of every customer that buys a product in that niche instead of just making money off a segment of the customers.
So are these products that don’t already have a lot of competition on Amazon? So whether it’s a brand name or private label version, it’s likely that the sale will come to you?
Everyone wants to sell the top selling item. It’s such a dumb mistake.
Yeah. Usually if I see there’s a bunch of sellers for that product I just won’t even go after it, unless they’re all merchant-fulfilled. You can see the way the Buy Box works, it’s a combination of being in Amazon Prime, having a good seller rating and having a low price. Sometimes I look at some products and see that no one’s going through FBA, so I’ll compete with them because I know I’ll own the Buy Box. But you see some products and they have 30 sellers on the listing, all with 100% feedback and fulfilled by Amazon and those ones I just forget about because there’s no way I can compete.
The number one mistake I see on Amazon is that everyone wants to sell the top selling item. It’s such a dumb mistake. I was talking to a guy on the phone the other day and he was saying how he wanted to sell his iPhone case a thousand times a day. I told him it’s going to be a million times easier for him to sell a thousand different iPhone cases once a day than to sell one case a thousand times a day.
That’s the strategy we go after – throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, as opposed to wasting all the time on one item, marketing it, designing it, before you even know that there’s demand for it. It’s like a Lean Startup mentality.
Can you tell me more about how that works? Let’s say you’ve identified a product that might be profitable, what’s your process then?
I test the market immediately. It depends on the product because every one has a different way to market, but I’m not afraid at all to throw up a listing even though I have none of the product. If someone orders it I will just order from someone else on Amazon and send it to the customer, so I can start seeing certain demand at a certain price ahead of time. Maybe I’m losing 10 bucks a unit every time I sell one, but at least I figure out the demand. If I waste $2,000 doing that it’s better than wasting $20,000 on a container that never sells.
I wrote something very similar to that in my first blog post here, but it didn’t seem to resonate with people. Basically “don’t buy it first, sell it first”.
They’re scared to put it on Amazon and see that it doesn’t sell.
Some people are just “wantrepreneurs”, some people just like procrastinating. They like to sit there and design their product, they email the supplier back and forth, design it some more and then do another tweak and do another tweak. They’re scared to actually put it on Amazon and see that it doesn’t sell. And so they sit there and procrastinate and pretend like they’re perfectionists. When really it would be much more helpful for them to just throw a thousand items on Amazon, see which ones stick, and then go after those suppliers and after those niches. Honestly, I think a lot of people are doing a form of procrastination.
So how much research do you do perform before taking some action?
A lot of the ways I find products are like pure intuition. I just see a product, and I know it’s going to be the product for me. But there are certain things I look for. I don’t want to sell something that has electronics and I don’t want to sell something with a bunch of moving parts. And I don’t want to sell something that’s super competitive. So if it’s one of those three things I just cross it off the list.
Look for a niche of a niche
After that the best way I can define it is I look for a “niche of a niche”. Like with the spin mops that are really popular on Amazon, instead of going after the consumer spin mops, I will go after the industrial spin mops. The standard spin mops go for $49.99, but an industrial spin mop goes for $149.99, even though it’s essentially the same thing – just a little more heavy duty.
Then I would create a listing, and start selling on that listing for maybe $10 below the next competitor, while I’m waiting for the supplier to get back to me with a price sheet. Once I get the price sheet, I’ll compare prices and see if it’s profitable. Then I’ll place a sample order for one of every one of their items to see what sells and what doesn’t. From there I’ll adjust my order for the next time.
When the orders are coming in but you don’t have the product, do you just order from another Amazon seller to keep your ratings clean?
Yeah. Usually I can find it cheaper somewhere else too. I’ll go to an industrial supplier website or something like that and just fill out my billing address and the customer’s shipping address and pretty much dropship them.
It tests the market at a fraction of the price, because when you order a container you’re probably spending somewhere between $30,000 to $60,000 in inventory and you just don’t want to risk that. If you can sleep better at night selling a few items that you don’t have in stock yet, just to prove the concept, it makes your life a lot less stressful.
Where do you get the raw ideas of products that might work? Are you just browsing Amazon or do you use tools?
I see people use tools and I see people use best seller ranking. But if you always use best seller ranking, then everyone will always sell the same items. I do it mostly by kind of getting lost on Amazon. There is so much stuff on Amazon and I just keep clicking over and over again. This item’s suggested to you because of this, and I’ll click that maybe 50 times and get super deep into Amazon, trying to find the super obscure items.
I go deep into Amazon, trying to find the super obscure items
Or I will go to shop for things and I’ll see that there’s no cheap price for them. Recently I was looking for a pour-over coffee stand. It’s a very obscure coffee accessory – basically a stand to put your mug on. The cheapest one I could find on Amazon was $40 and all it was, was a piece of wood with a hole in it. I thought, well, that doesn’t make any sense. I can make that in my backyard. So I made a bunch of quick prototypes and threw them on Reddit and got a bunch of peoples’ input on the coffee stand. After that I made a quick design and got it up on Amazon. In 48 hours from idea to concept, it’s already in stock at Amazon and I’m already selling them.
I made a few myself by hand, just to test the market. Now that I’ve sold a dozen of them in the last week I’m going to see if I can get them manufactured.
Another good place for research is Reddit, because everyone who’s into a specific Subreddit, is super into that niche. You say, “Hey, what’s the most annoying thing that you have to buy for your hobby?” and they’ll be able to tell you right away. They’ll say, “This always breaks, or this sucks, or this is always overpriced but I have to buy it anyway because it works so well.” And then you choose Reddit as product research.
Do you try many domestic suppliers to find a source of products you are interested in?
Most manufacturers and wholesalers, especially US ones, if you go to their website they have like a “contact us” or “become a wholesaler” tab at the very top. I’ll just click that, fill it out real quick, no harm done. If they say no to me, I don’t care. If they say yes to me, then great, I’ll move forward with it. But the amount of suppliers I talk to and contact, is crazy compared to the amount of suppliers I actually end up working with. It takes me two seconds to write a quick email saying, “Hey, what kind of price can I get for this?” If they say a price I don’t like, I just move on to the next one, no big deal.
You’ve explained how you identify potential products, and also how you test the market, but do you use a tool to validate the product or assess sales in between?
They have tools like Terapeak that are supposed to tell you sales velocity, but I find them very inaccurate and they don’t have any stats on Amazon. It’s really hard to base sales history off of reviews or a best seller rating tool. So I don’t really use any specific tools. I’d rather just test the market myself than use a program to test it.
I’d rather just test the market myself than use a specific tool
I have a spreadsheet I use to check profitability, but that’s about it. I think that a lot of people are looking for a quick fix. They’re looking for that one software that will make their whole life easier, and don’t want to just sit down and put in the hard work.
Do you sell on other channels, like other marketplaces or internationally?
We sell on Amazon Canada but it’s pretty weak. I also did about a million dollars last year on eBay, and fulfilled all of our inventory through Amazon for eBay, so that was pretty seamless and easy. eBay customers are kind of annoying to deal with. But besides that it works well.
Between all of our ecommerce sites, probably six or seven of them for different niches, they probably did around $400,000 to $500,000 in sales last year combined. The ecommerce sites are more to add legitimacy to our private label brands and to protect us in the future when Amazon starts selling everything directly, so we’ll have a backup plan.
Do you mean to protect yourself against Amazon selling your products?
Yeah. We’ve had Amazon contacting my family’s company and I’ve heard it from other people too. Amazon just goes on the top selling products and makes their way down the list contacting the manufacturer and asking if they can be a vendor. Eventually, five or ten years from now, Amazon’s going to have contacted pretty much every single manufacturer there is and filled out a contract with them.
All the third party sellers are doing research for Amazon
Amazon made it as easy as possible for sellers to sell on Amazon, so a bunch of third-party sellers jumped on. Amazon sits back and sees which items are selling the best, which ones don’t, then contacts those manufacturers. They have some really legit stats and know exactly which items to go after first. Pretty much all the third party sellers are doing research for Amazon.
Why do you think eBay buyers are more effort to deal with compared to Amazon buyers?
I would say it’s like eBay buyers are the people who shop at Walmart and dollar stores. And Amazon people shop at Target. Amazon people will pay slightly more to have more quality experience with better customer service and a cleaner environment. The eBay people are sitting there looking for a good deal. Say if you’re buying a new fishing pole on eBay, you might research and look for two weeks straight until you find the perfect deal. Someone who’s buying a fishing pole on Amazon will do one quick checkout the first time they go to Amazon.
eBay buyers will complain in a second
Amazon deals with all the customer service, returns, all that stuff. With eBay, if there’s the slightest little thing different from what the listing says or if there’s a slight bend in the box or something like that, they’ll complain in a second. An eBay customer has probably been planning this purchase for two weeks, if not months. They’ve finally got it and if it’s not perfect they freak out. The Amazon customers have no emotional attachment to their purchase. They just did a one-click checkout, forgot they even ordered it, and got it at their house two days later.
Do you sell any further afield like South America or Europe?
I’ve thought about South America, Amazon Mexico, but they’re only selling books right now. I haven’t really thought about Europe because a lot of our products are home improvement products. I’ve been to Europe a bunch of times and it doesn’t seem like they’re the home improvement type of people. In the US, there’s Home Depots and Lowe’s everywhere. Everyone wants to constantly improve their house, while in Europe it’s a little different.
A very normal weekend in the US for a couple to go to Home Depot, buy some new thing and go install it in their house. That’s what we did this weekend. When I was living in Italy, it’s the last thing I can imagine anybody doing.
Do you use any inventory or listing software?
No. I’ll hire a virtual assistant if we’re going to add a bunch of listings. For inventory management, I have about a million dollars right now in stock at Amazon, and about a half-pallet in stock at our warehouse. So everything’s at Amazon and so I just use Amazon to keep track of my inventory. They send a bunch of replenishment orders and do it that way.
So how do you keep your stock levels accurate and make sure you don’t oversell?
We use FBA for eBay orders so when we take an eBay order, it’ll automatically subtract it from our Amazon inventory.
If we are out of stock at FBA and get an eBay order, at that point we’ll just dropship it and take the loss. But that really never happens because the way we set up our replenishment alerts, we always have plenty in stock by the time the next order arrives.
Let’s say we sell 30 units a month of a certain product and it takes us two months from us ordering it to getting it in stock at Amazon. As soon as the inventory gets below 60 units, they send us a report saying, “Hey, you need to order this again.” And so we go and order it again, and by the time it gets back in stock we usually have like five left in stock.
So your sales are pretty steady? You don’t have big spikes?
Yeah. And lately we’ve been kind of flexing our muscles and ordering very large quantities, so we can get discounts and push our profit margins up. Right now we have a crazy amount of inventory in stock.
We sent two truckloads yesterday, and we’re sending another truckload today. It’s a delicate balance getting exactly 26 pallets – you can’t fit any more on a truck. And after 13 pallets they make you pay for the whole container anyway. So you might as well fill it up.
Why do you favor FBA so much?
I think the main reason I use the FBA exclusively is because it allows me to create a much bigger business than I could on my own. If I shipped out every item myself, if I marketed everything myself and I sourced everything myself, I would be busy all day trying to send out individual packages and tracking people down. But instead using FBA, we were able to run a seven million dollar company with just two people. FBA took care of all of the busy work and we got to spend our time making sure the business grew.
None of the other fulfillment services make me Prime on the world’s largest ecommerce site. Amazon has the most eyeballs looking at it and they make it the easiest for me to fulfill my items. Even though they might charge a slightly higher fee, it’s worth it in the end.
It’s amazing how much you’ve done with just two people. Is the team going to get any bigger?
We have a secretary now, and we’re in the process of hiring someone to be a shipping person, box stacker and labeler and that kind of stuff.
We receive all of our items in at our warehouse, put a label on each one of them, and inspect each one before we send them into FBA. Usually that’s my brother and I doing it, but now it’s going to be a new employee hopefully.
What’s yours and Andrew’s roles in the business? Is that changing with the new employees?
Yeah. We’re in the process right now. We were in a growing phase all through 2014 and we were just growing so fast that we weren’t really paying attention to anything else. Now in 2015 we’re trying to become more efficient, writing out processes for everything so we can hire people and train them in. For the time being my brother and I are trying to get everything as neat and easy to work with as possible, so we can bring people in and they’re not totally overwhelmed their first day at work.
In 2015 we’re trying to become more efficient, writing out processes for everything
My brother handles the day to day, making sure everything runs smoothly, that the suppliers have been paid on time, making sure we’ve been paid, all that kind of stuff. My job is to find new products, create new ecommerce sites and just to create new things. My brother’s job is to keep the machine running so I can keep the business growing.
The product research is pretty much the only thing that can differentiate yourself from other Amazon sellers. If you outsource that you’re pretty much doing nothing, and that means some virtual assistant making three bucks an hour can do your job better than you can. That shouldn’t be the case.
How do you go about naming your private label products, packaging and branding?
From the 100 foot view, it looks as if we do a decent amount. But when you look up close it’s not really that much. We’ll get custom packaging with our logo on it, and I’ll buy a domain with our brand name and have a website and custom email, so it looks like its own company. Really it’s just a private labeled product with a quick lead page thrown up.
Within an afternoon I can have the listing up with a brand new website
I try to get it done as fast as possible and move on to the next product. I know people could sit there for six months trying to name a product and get a good package for it. That’s six months of sales that you’ve just thrown down the drain. So I usually just pick a name within five minutes that sounds kind of catchy and professional. Then I’ll go over to fiverr.com and have someone whip up a quick logo. Within an afternoon I can have the listing up with a brand new website, a brand new logo and everything.
It’s like the Lean Startup method. Because I finished mine in one day, I can pivot a million times in the next six months. The person who took six months to design their brand can’t pivot even after six months, because they have all that time invested in their product.
You have a site called FBA Expert where you share some of your knowledge and experiences. Why have you decided to do that?
I started getting into the internet marketing scene a couple of years ago. I was thinking, if we can do a million a year on Amazon, there must be some guy who’s doing a hundred million dollars a year. If I could listen to his podcasts and read his blog I’d learn a lot of stuff.
I started Googling different FBA experts and looking at their earnings reports. A lot of people were making $2,000 to $5,000 a month, but we are getting close to $20,000 a day. It was like wow, I can’t believe these are the people that are giving out advice. Readers are looking up to them as experts in the field, even though they have a business that barely makes them a full-time income.
I can’t believe these are the people that are giving out advice
I felt like everyone was being led the wrong way when it came to selling private labelled products on Amazon. I thought that I have legit experience, I know what I’m talking about and I have yet to find someone who’s doing as much sales as my brother and I are. There might be entire companies doing more sales than us, but I haven’t found a team of just a couple of people who have brought their business to the next level.
So I thought if people find it interesting that someone’s making $3,000 a month, they will probably find it interesting that someone’s making over $300,000 a month. A lot of people are giving out bad information about Fulfillment by Amazon, and the only way to change it is if I started adding to the conversation.
How are you developing the site, and what are your plans for it?
Well, I opened a private FBA Mastermind forum last week where Amazon sellers can talk and send private messages, and communicate easily without it being open to the whole world. I go through and vet the sellers to make sure that they’re legit Amazon sellers and have selling experience. So I’ve been building the community there which will be interesting.
The FBA Expert is, whenever I get the same question about five times in a row from Amazon sellers I usually go and write a blog post about it. I can get all my thoughts about it in one place and make it easier to share with people if I get that question again. But I know I’m just young and hungry, and obsessed with Amazon, so when I get off work all I want to do is work on my blog and sell more stuff on Amazon and talk about Amazon more. It’s a good hobby to get into. I just thought that other people were doing it and don’t have that much experience, so if they can do it I can do it.
I’m just young and hungry, and obsessed with Amazon
I’ve had some people say to me, “Well, why are you even doing this Mastermind? Why are blogging if you’re making so much on Amazon, why are you wasting your time with it?” I can see their point, but at the same time there’s only so much you can do each day for your business. I’ve got to have other outside hobbies. If I put in ten hours stacking boxes and sending stuff to Amazon, it’s nice to have a little release and creativity to write and that kind of stuff.
So are there other people in business or internet marketing who you follow or admire?
There’s a bunch of people. I really like the guys from Tropical MBA and Empire Flippers. They’re people who practice what they preach and they’re actually running businesses, so it’s interesting to hear their input. Opposed to someone like Pat Flynn who tries to teach you about how to make passive income, but all his income comes from his podcasts, not any business he really created.
So I like to follow people who actually have experience in the business, more than talking heads who will just regurgitate what everyone else has to say, “Hey, this gives the customer the best experience possible and you’ll always be in business.” I think that’s a cop-out and the easy way to describe it instead of actually getting into the nitty-gritty details.
On your core business, the selling business, do you have a plan for the next year or two?
The plan is to make myself location independent and take myself out of the business physically. Everything I do for the business is done through a computer, so I don’t have to physically be there once I hire people. It’s shifting the business over from a classic bricks-and-mortar warehouse company to a more internet-based company where the team can be all over the world.
It takes certain people to find a product that’s going to be profitable
I’d hire a shipping manager whose job would be to manage shipments coming in and out and make sure they get out on time. Then I’d hire someone to create listings, and someone who just does marketing, so I don’t have to sit there and do all the little busy work.
Anyone can put up an Amazon listing, anyone can post a product, anyone can do any of those steps. It takes certain people to find a product that’s going to be profitable, marketable, and doesn’t break all the time.
In the world of ecommerce, what trends or changes do you expect to see over the next year? What about the next five years?
Over the next year I see Amazon making it easier and easier for customers to shop on Amazon. I see Amazon going into bricks-and-mortar, and I see bricks-and-mortar stores going more online. Everyone wants to have the best of both worlds.
In the next five years I think there’s going to be a new sort of Google Shopping, a better version of it, that will make it so every item on the internet has one price. [Ed: Has Will’s prediction come true with Google Shopping Actions?]
At the moment you can still do online arbitrage – buy something cheaper one place and sell it for more somewhere else without even touching the item. Eventually everything on the internet is going to be one price.
I’d want something where I can type in a UPC number and it tells me the exact lowest price it is on the internet. Once a program like that comes out, everyone’s going to have to switch their product to that price because the market’s going to make them.
Sellers will try to fight that by differentiating themselves on service, or anything else they can, rather than automatically going to the lowest price.
I don’t know if I really believe in that whole service thing, because for me as a consumer, if I bought a TV somewhere and found out I paid $100 extra, but the person I talked to on the phone was really, really nice, I would still say, “I can’t believe I overspent.” It doesn’t matter how nice the customer service is, how nice the imagery, unless they give me a $100 bill later on saying, “Sorry, for ripping you off”, I don’t think that customer service will ever beat price for me personally.
Will, it’s been a fascinating conversation, and I’d like to give sincere thanks from me and Web Retailer readers for sharing so much about your business. Your success is much deserved and I hope it continues.