The importance of building a brand on Amazon ⎜ Ecommerce Nurse ⎜ EP 203
Ryan Cramer: What's up everyone? Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer and this is Crossover Commerce presented by PingPong Payments, the leading global payments provider helping sellers keep more of their hard earned money. Hey, everyone. Welcome once again to another episode of Crossover Commerce. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer. And this is my corner of the internet where I bring the best and brightest in the Amazon and e- commerce space. Before we get started on today's episode, episode 203, I want to go ahead and give a quick shout- out to our presently sponsor, PingPong Payments. So as PingPong, no, we are not a table tennis company. No, we are not helping people have a great time, but what we are doing, not in the game world, but what we are having is helping you have a great time saving money. How can we save money? Well, it's sending or receiving funds and currency in the international scope. What am I talking about? Well, if you're sending payments to your supplier, manufacturer, your distributors, your VAs, anywhere that works for you in a different country, you can actually save funds and not pay exorbitant fees through third- party software or other banks, international transfers. You can save it by using PingPong Payments. Receiving funds as you grow your brand, you can also save funds and not pay those fees from Amazon or ACCS or any sort of other entity. We are a trusted participant in Amazon's platform. So it's free to sign up. There's no fees just to have an account with PingPong Payments. Like I said, go ahead to usa. pingpongx. com/ podcast. Make sure you go there to catch all of our past episodes, but also to sign up for our PingPong account today to save funds, put it back to your bottom line, help with those margin points as well. That being said, this is episode 203 of Crossover Commerce. If you're new here, welcome. This is a great space to be just to learn and grow your Amazon and e- commerce business, but just to help yourself as an entrepreneur. My goal with this show is to help you garner lots of pieces of information, if not lots, at least one piece that you can apply to your business today to help it grow to the likes of which you wanted to grow. So that being said, we have a great guest that come on talking about anything from a marketing to advertising, to sourcing logistics too. We've had even professors that talk about localization on here. We've had billionaires. We've had sellers on. We have the likes that you've never seen before in one podcast. So that's why I like to have a lot of fun in this show. But if you're watching us live on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, go ahead and let us know what your thoughts are, where you're listening from, because this is an interactive show. We want to make sure if you have questions, you can actually engage with us on that level and ask your questions in the comment section below. If you happen to be listening to this later on, on your Audible, audio sections on Audible, potentially, you can also go ahead and listen to us on your favorite station, your podcast locale as well. So just make sure you look for Crossover Commerce and be notified of future episodes as well. Lots of great concept today, and today is none the exception on 203. I've messaged her about... I'm going to go ahead and preface this, messaged her about a year ago when I first started the... Or a year plus ago, when I first started the podcast and I was pleasantly surprised to get a message back here closer to the end of the new year and we have just been chatting way ever since. Been looking forward to this one for a long time. She is an ex- Amazonian, running a business that's just continuously growing and putting lots of great thought content out there. Someone who happens to say yes, like I said. Anticipation is one of those things where you hope to get this person on your podcast because you know of such great content and a well of information that they can provide to your audience and to you yourself. So without further ado, I want bring on Carina McLeod of eCommerce Nurse. That was the right button. Carina, welcome to Crossover Commerce.
Carina McLeod: Hey, Ryan. Thank you. And thank you so much for the invite and loving the intro. Really pleased to be on your show today. So thank you.
Ryan Cramer: Well, I appreciate it. Like I said, this is the bad thing about social media, right? For everyone who doesn't know, I reached out on LinkedIn because Carina is putting lots of great content. Guys, not every business owner lives on LinkedIn like maybe I do. So I just want to let people know that when people ignore you, I assume that people are just like," Ah, who is this person? Never going to talk to them again?" And my message just lives in the ether, so that's fine. But you reached out to me, almost, I swear, it was like nine months later or 10 months later. And I got super giddy when I said," Oh my gosh, she actually went back through all of her messages from that long ago and responded to me." So I was really pleased and excited about it. So that's where we are today. So I appreciate that. You're super busy. So I can't imagine all the different messages and emails and content that are going in and out of your inbox or social media messages on a day to day basis.
Carina McLeod: The craziness of 2021. It definitely feels like it's just gone by in a flash.
Ryan Cramer: Well, this is the joke I was telling people. I go," We're already one week down last week." One week down into, 51 more weeks to go to 2022. A lot of people have good success. A lot of people were like," It's already crazy enough for 2022." So Carina, you're a business owner, ex- Amazonian. You've been in the space, you said 14 years. We were talking pre- show 14, 15 years. Tell the audience a little bit about who you are in your background and how you got to where you are today.
Carina McLeod: Yeah, sure. So actually I've been in the space for nearly 17 years, which actually makes me feel quite old and a reason I blame the gray hairs on 17 years of working with Amazon. So I actually started working for Amazon in 2004. I worked in the vendor management team. I remember being offered a job to work in home and garden. And so many people advised me not to take the job because it was like,"Why are you going to go and work for Amazon? Who is Amazon? Amazon don't do home and kitchen or home and garden. It is just books." And I was like," Right. There was a vibe about Amazon that I really liked and I just thought it just seemed more progressive than a lot of traditional bricks- and- mortar companies." At the time, I was working for where it was more about, you have to work a certain amount of time in those jobs before you were noticed or got promoted, for example. So I took the plunge, went to Amazon and worked in so many different product categories. My focus was launching new product categories into the UK market. So that was home and garden, watches, sports and fitness, clothing, you name it, all those categories, which at the time was more like a sales job of trying to actually get people to want to work with you than it is today where everybody wants to work with Amazon. So that was the start of my career, I guess, or my life with Amazon, and then took a step away from Amazon, which didn't quite happen. And I'm still here working with Amazon 10 years later. I took some time out. The burnout of Amazon. And the time out was spent of previous vendors reaching out, asking for help. This is 10 years ago. At the time, it was like," Why do vendors need help?" Agencies didn't really exist then. And started to realize there was a need. So lo and behold, I got involved in consulting, started to help vendors then moved over, started to help sellers. And then just year, after year, after year, Amazon has evolved. All their features evolved. It's got even more complex and there's a growing need for support when it comes to working with Amazon.
Ryan Cramer: I love that. Well, so what did the name eCommerce Nurse come from? Because I'm quite curious in that regard.
Carina McLeod: Yeah, it was one of those where I've always sort of been into having some kind of quirky name, something memorable and eCommerce at the time was, it's that buzzword and really wanted to have eCommerce Nurse in there. And I was thinking," Well, what do we do? What are we going to be doing for brands?" And of course helping brands. So then I thought," Okay, nurse, doctor." And we went with nurse. And check straight away is that website free? Yes. So bought the URL. And then actually we trademarked the company, but to actually trademark the company we had to get approval from, I believe, it was a kind of nursing organization because we were using the word... Or I think it might not have been the trademark, it was actually the company registration because the word nurse was included in there in the limited company and we had to get more approval because of it being seen as a word that's used within healthcare. So yeah crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: I was going to say is that an England thing or is that a UK thing? Is that a-
Carina McLeod: I think so. I think it's a UK thing. So we are a team of e- commerce nurses here to help brands grow on Amazon.
Ryan Cramer: That's amazing. So the team is quite large. You got a team of, what, 20 plus people. Is that what it is now today?
Carina McLeod: Yeah. We're about 15 people today, although there are some positions open. So of course if you are interested-
Ryan Cramer: We'll plug, if you know anyone.
Carina McLeod: ...definitely reach out. And yeah, we starting from it being very much a one- man band operation where I was working as a consultant and really it got to a point that the business was growing. More and more brands that I was working with as an individual wanted implementation, and I couldn't do that. It wasn't scalable. I'm not a specialist in marketing, for example. I'm not a specialist in all these different fields, actually. So what we did, we hired those specialists, hired those experts. And we have experts from that used to do A plus content in their days at Amazon and are now building A plus content for our clients. And so really built out a team of experts.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. So you guys are dealing with, specifically, I would call you an agency that are really assisting anywhere from, I call it A to Z, the whole gauntlet of problems. Correct? So you're talking about branding, optimization. Are we even going as far as like advertising? How far out or what areas do you feel like you don't touch or as much, or want to touch? Is that a fair question or do you truly cover the whole gauntlet of all problems and things on Amazon and e- commerce?
Carina McLeod: I mean, our core focus is growing brands. And so we are going to be looking primarily at marketing, optimization, advertising and all the key levers that help growth. But of course, Amazon is unfortunately riddled with a lot of issues and problems. So we help brands with those issues. In terms of where we don't really come into things, I would say more from a logistics point of view, we forecast inventory for our clients raised shipments, but actually we don't do the... We're not a 3PL for example. And of course, when it comes down to account suspensions, there's definitely some gurus out there that we would direct businesses to if they came to us for that level of support. But we do cover all. We do account management, ads management, marketing projects, and consulting as well.
Ryan Cramer: That's a lot. That's a lot to handle. That's why I think a lot of agencies like yours who are still around today, that's just the amazing thing is it's a constant evolution. You said the work you were in and I know what you mean by that. There's a lot of people who like to focus and understand one capacity of Amazon or multiple capacities, but this is the space where you constantly have to learn and you evolve, like you said, we were talking pre- show of it. We're constantly learning and absorbing content and just information. It never stays the same. So really hard to say like," I'm the expert in this field?" Well, that's going to change in two weeks because Amazon is Amazon.
Carina McLeod: Exactly.
Ryan Cramer: Last year was, I jokingly say is a death by a thousand paper cuts. We learned something new every single, feels like week, if not a couple days in between of just new tweaks. And why I'm so excited to have you on today is I think the consensuses. Now is the time to, if you haven't already... And it was a joke before... I think a lot of people jokingly said that it was a joke before, now is the time to build a brand on Amazon. Right?
Carina McLeod: Mm-hmm(affirmative).
Ryan Cramer: Now is the time that is more important that you have to establish who you are, what you represent, what's that brand story and how to stand out on Amazon and further. So I'm assuming that is the conversation you've had with clients from the day one. So why is it now that all of a sudden, Amazon, do you think, Carina is making you build a brand instead of a turn and burn society where you could throw up literally anything, people would buy it and then there was no consequences how you got to page one or the top position.
Carina McLeod: It's interesting because there's this whole evolution of private label. It was never really how it worked or how Amazon was years ago. So if I go back to when I started at Amazon, I went into vendor management and the vendor side of the business was the core side of the business. It was the strength. I don't think they actually ever thought that marketplace would be as strong as it is, the 3P side of things as it is today. So the role of vendor management was to work with brand. We weren't creating our own brands at that time. It was bringing on credible brands to Amazon, but selling them at an affordable, competitive price because before brands were... Some of the brands were almost, not necessarily overpriced, but it was a premium. But then what's happened over years is it's just evolved and the marketplace has evolved. And then all of a sudden, the third- party platform has evolved and businesses have seen new ways to enter on to Amazon, bringing in their own brands. And all of a sudden the platform has changed from being sort of branded only to newly emerging brands, but also it's... Which is fantastic for small businesses and businesses wanting to create their own brands. It's also opened up a lot of doors for some product that probably aren't the items that they actually wanted to be sold on Amazon. And there's lots of challenges that Amazon is going through with counterfeit products, products that aren't of great quality, that are being sold on Amazon as well. So I think it's almost like it's gone this complete other direction to what it was at the start. I think Amazon are trying to reign that in and by being a brand owner it's seen as that adds a bit more due diligence, it adds a bit more quality to products and really starting to reign that in than almost going back to how it was at the start where Amazon first evolved.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. There's a lot of changes that because you and I are probably really close... If I ask my wife who's not in e- commerce and I say,"What do you notice about the platform? What's stands out more on this past year?" All the things that she notices on the consumer side are focused at following a brand after purchase. Now, you can actually follow again, be notified of future products, whether it be an author or whether it be that brand itself that has new product releases, it's all housed in within the platform itself, so you don't have to leave, go to your email and then come back on a platform. You can all be notified through that, through push notifications. It is through the likes of who's selling the product now. It's now more prominent that if it's a third- party seller, you can actually see that on the mobile version. It stands out quite heavily on sold by this company, fulfilled by Amazon who's actually behind the product. And I think Amazon's kind of shifting the way of these are not our products, this is a another vendor that we are partnering with who's selling these products, and you can kind of learn more about the story behind it. You have the A plus content. Now, it's more heavily involved with different sides of brands. So that's why it's super important, I think that it's continuously evolving now. What's been the struggle to help people understand and get started about building a brand process? They come to you and say," Carina, where do I start?" Building a brand takes time. It takes people. It takes consistency. It has a vision. It has a voice. Where do you get them going on that?
Carina McLeod: I think just what you've said about it takes time, I think that is the biggest challenge at the start is more about mindset of this isn't something that is going to happen overnight. It's not about selling on Amazon and you're going to make a million dollars in six months because you've developed a brand. This is a long- term strategy. Now Amazon is investing in brands through all the tools that it's unlocking and all those features if you become a brand owner on Amazon. It's pushing you then to be a brand, people to become a brand on Amazon, but it's all about it takes time, because it is about a following. It's about being recognized. It's about being remembered. At the start, it's about creating that awareness. Nobody has ever heard of your brand at the start. So it isn't easy. First off, you've just got to get the basics right in terms of branding. You want to have a memorable name. We talked about eCommerce Nurse. We're not selling a product on Amazon, but we still went through the branding. We are still very clear on how our logo should look, what the name is of the company, putting our branding out there, our color scheme out there, because people remember that. Sometimes it can be really simple like with brands like Apple or even Amazon. That's the part that's memorable from the start. But then it's about really what is important is making sure that you are very clear on what you stand for as a brand because that's all going to be about who your audience is and who you then attract. Because what you are going to be building, and building a brand is all about loyalty and it's all about having... Apple is a prime example of once you've got one product you're then going to go and purchase another product and another. It doesn't take much for them to launch a new product because they've already got that following and loyalty, and this community of consumers that love their brand.
Ryan Cramer: Where do you think that the platform goes? If people can mobilize and they can actually build a brand on Amazon, where do you think a lot of businesses can get to? What I mean by that is it seems very disjointed from the beginning and even as much as a year or two ago, there's never been just this emergence of brands besides maybe a product based company that happened to start on Amazon, like an anchor, for example, that went public through it. First of its kind. They were like," We're in electronics, we're in chargers." And then they started to build from that. Do you see a lot of businesses going in that direction in terms of I can be omnichannel not just on Amazon, or do you think that it's just going to be a place where you have to play on Amazon of this is who we represent and be kind of more transparent with businesses? What do you think is the end game for a lot of businesses now building a brand on Amazon, if that makes sense?
Carina McLeod: Yeah, definitely. I think Anchor is a brilliant example. And Anchor is actually an example I always talk about because I remember them in the days when I first started out. I used to use them in my case studies. And then next minute, I know I can see them in supermarkets and premium supermarkets in Costa Rica. I mean, from where did that happen to just sort of selling a product on Amazon and being successful in that platform. So I think there are some brands that within their strategy, they know that they need to build a brand in order to then expand and be known, for example, a supermarket to then be interested in them. Because a lot of the time you go and knock on bricks- and- mortar's door. They're not so keen on a new product. They don't know what the demand is like. They don't have a feel for how the customer... Is the customer going to really like their item? So some businesses actually use Amazon as a launch platform to be able to do that because it's a great way to say," Well, we've done X amount of sales on Amazon. Look at all the reviews that we've got," et cetera, et cetera. It opens up door to other retailers. So some businesses are using that as a strategy. A number of other businesses aren't actually thinking that further forward. They're just thinking how do I be successful on Amazon? Well, to be successful on Amazon these days, you have to be a brand because if you're not a brand, you are not going to unlock any of the features that maybe your competition has. So you won't have access to a line. You're not going to have access to sponsored brand videos, sponsored brands, and you end up sort of having your hands tied in order to compete on the platform. What we then start seeing is once a brand starts being, they've never really had that brand hat on and you start getting to think," Well, unfortunately, you're going to have to invest and create your brand to play on Amazon. But then they get into it and start really understanding the benefits of being a brand. And then they start often looking out and thinking," Oh, actually, I could go and sell to another retail. Maybe I'm going to go and sell at Walmart. Maybe I'm going to go out and pitch my business. And maybe it's a premium product that can go out to the department stores." So I think it can come in two different ways.
Ryan Cramer: I think that's what a lot of people, when they struggled with," Where do I go next? And how do I grow that next level?" I think that 2020 shook a lot of people. And what I mean by that is having that sole dependency on one channel and not... I think that shook a lot of people into how do I become omnipresent now instead of just solely relying omnichannel. Albeit Amazon is where a lot of people start or they go for a lot of consistent growth. Again, that's the in shopping destination for a vast majority of seller or buyers, I should say in e- commerce, but it's not that case worldwide. You guys actually have a more of a pulse internationally, which I think is super fascinating too. You're in the likes of, I believe, partner in Spain, Amazon Spain, obviously UK, as well as Germany. I'm assuming a lot of your base companies. What is the like internationally versus working with clientele in the US? Does that make sense? Is there a different mindset of how things should be done in terms of businesses and branding versus one location and country versus another that you're seeing?
Carina McLeod: I mean, the branding still is key as it is in all countries, really. I guess it's a whole-
Ryan Cramer: Is the mindset different from a business owner from a different country though? Like," Hey, we really want to evolve and we want to start there and this how we're going to do it," versus," Oh, this is nice. We'll worry about that later." I would think maybe it's a cultural difference, maybe it's just how Amazon puts emphasis in different marketplaces, but from the US and how it trickles outward, is there a difference in lack of branding in certain places where you people might be able to take advantage of up quicker in one marketplace than another and really take advantage of that aspect maybe?
Carina McLeod: I'd say it comes more down to really the competition. And if we look at the US platform, it's a lot more saturated than anywhere than any other marketplace in Europe. So then it's more about how do you succeed on a platform where it is saturated? Okay, well, of course, you cannot have a brand because if you can't have all these access to all these tools, whereas if you are selling in a marketplace where it's not as competitive in your marketplace, chances are there's more opportunity and you don't have to have all the bells and whistles because you can still succeed. So I think it's more... We always sort of see it as the US is a prime example of the direction that I would say most other countries will eventually go. The US has more features, et cetera. So I think it's only over time, but what brands can do in those countries where it's probably less... There is more opportunity as a non- brand owner. If you are a brand owner, you are even more ahead of the game. So it's always good to have those practices in place because there'll come a time where there is going to be that influx and Amazon does... As we said earlier, Amazon is so investing in brands at the moment. More and more features are just evolving.
Ryan Cramer: What's great great case study for you, Carina that you feel like whether it be a client or whether it be somebody that you took from the... Without a focus in brand, and then you turned it around and helped them grow, and what was that evolution of that company or that brand? Do you have a couple where you saw that evolution of, they weren't really focused on that and you took them through that journey and now they are more successful or more well- known or there's opportunities that allow themselves to open up because of that journey?
Carina McLeod: Yeah. I'm just trying to think, because we work with a mix. We work with some established brands that are actually established and going through digital transformation. So they're already prominent within bricks- and- mortar. They're actually just not that equipped to sell digitally, right?
Ryan Cramer: Right.
Carina McLeod: To sell in the online world. But then we do work with brands that they have grown on Amazon and then branding does become really important. So I think first off they didn't think about it. We've had it where brands have come on. They've come to sell a product. Their product has been successful on Amazon. All of a sudden Amazon launches a brand registry and they need a brand. They need a trademark. They never thought of having a trademark. So they're like," Okay. All right. We need a trademark. I'm going to go to the trademark office," let's say. I've forgotten the name of the US trademark office. So let's go for general terminology.
Ryan Cramer: The US Patent Office.
Carina McLeod: Yeah. I find that that brand name is taken or they can't use that brand name. And that creates then... Imagine that you've got a successful product on Amazon. You've built what you've consider a brand, but you can't actually have the trademark. So we have seen it where businesses have had to rebrand in order to get a trademark and redo their whole packaging and everything to play the game with Amazon, but then seeing the benefits of then that actually does open up avenues externally to being able to go into to other retailers. Now, it's easier for brands looking for that because it's almost a checklist of what to do, whereas previously it wasn't like that. I mean, now I know if we ever go for a brand, and I'm a bit of that, I do get excited about brand names and they never evolve. But I would always look at first off, getting the trademark and URL. Those are the things. And then you also want to jump on social media. You want to make sure that you've got the profile, the username on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all those channels. And you want to jump in quick because if you don't, last thing that you want is to produce a product and you don't effectively own the brand. We actually deal with some really large multinational brands that don't have their trademark solidified as much as you'd think. And it's crazy to think that, but Amazon is almost opened up this... It's not necessarily a loop, but opened up something new that people weren't even considering, which is Amazon. It's a prime example of how Amazon works.
Ryan Cramer: That's a very interesting point, Carina, because a lot of people don't even know the difference between... Again, you talked about brick- and- mortar coming on to Amazon. I think surprising amount of companies that we would think that have e- commerce figured out, really don't... Or they haven't figured out Amazon and figured out how do we still stand out without racing to the bottom of pricing? Or how do we still capture people? Because, again, Amazon can be used as a brand capture. If people are aware that those products are selling on there, they will be searching for that. But what people don't understand is that it could be a fortune 500 company or 100 company even. And like you said, they're not even selling on Amazon. But there's that difference between 1P and 3P that a lot of people are trying to figure out. Maybe I just sell directly to Amazon and how my products sold on there. Is that where you start to push higher caliber companies in terms of the brand or voice, if they're already selling in brick- and- mortar and whatnot? Hey, maybe you should go down the 1P route instead of the 3P route. What's that line, if you will, for businesses that you have to educate or disseminate? No, you should definitely sell by yourself and build out your own product base and your own brand portfolio, instead of selling directly to teams as a 1P vendor.
Carina McLeod: A lot of these days depends on infrastructure and how really they're built and the future in which they want to be built because if you are a brand that you are heavy, direct- to- consumer, then seller is the ideal platform because it's effectively direct- to- consumer but just using Amazon's platform to sell. Those businesses that are already selling bricks- and- mortar and other retailers, then vendor is is natural route, I would say from a point of logistics. They're used to shipping product, managing it in a selling product by a pallet in quantity and everything. So it's almost that wholesale relationship they have with, let's say a supermarket or Walmart is almost the same as it would be for vendor. However, what we're seeing now is brands. Actually, those brands in bricks- and- mortar are actually seeing Amazon as their opportunity to trial direct- to- consumer. They haven't mastered it on their own website. They always want to master it and they think," Oh, actually we've heard great things about seller. Maybe we can try all that as well." So it's quite interesting because years ago there was a very clear line between vendor and seller. And then all of a sudden it got blurred when they launched Vendor Express and there were all these benefits to being a vendor over seller. So a lot of sellers starting to think," Oh, the grass is greener. Let's become a vendor." And then I think the Vendor Express didn't work out. The grounds got muddy. There was no real point of differentiation between seller and vendor. And then all of a sudden seller became the problem, became greener than vendor, right? All these features that were originally on vendor were all of a sudden then available and sellers. So there was no real benefit to anyone going to vendor or seller apart from what's your infrastructure and what works best for your business. And that's really how we look at it is more about what's your setup? What are your goals? Do you have the ability to work, sell a direct- to- consumer. Cause even FBA, it still requires more resource than it does on vendor. So those are, I would say, that's how we would evaluate it for brands.
Ryan Cramer: Right. And that's the thing. It's so fascinating to see some businesses they try to figure out the Amazon model, but then you don't see often when they jump off of the platform and they really bet on themselves. And I think that the number one success company that you can see is Nike, but that's because the resources and the branding behind it, that in itself was so important for it to say," Hey, buy directly from us. You're not going to find us anywhere else." Or at least that's coming directly from Nike. Obviously, you can resell and buy products through there. But that was such a major business shifting decision. As a small and medium sized business, you don't have that opportunity, but you also want to make sure that you're not just solely dependent. So do you have that conversation of when you tell people," Hey, you're successful on Amazon. Let's start to diversify." And that changes from each client from when they're ready. Is there a good benchmark that you tell a lot of people of," Hey, maybe you've been on Amazon for a year now, let's make sure that you have direct- to- consumer," or should you start from both from the beginning and then launch it at the same time? What's that typical conversation look like for you, Carina, and the team?
Carina McLeod: Yeah, it really depends because with vendor, vendors are invite only. So some businesses don't even have that opportunity to even consider it. So they're naturally going to become a seller is more that conversation that we have where we have it where a vendor or a brand has been invited to the vendor platform. And if they're not a seller, then they're considering," All right." They sometimes think that's the only option and then you have to start explaining the key differences between two and get them to understand the benefits of both. Or you might have it where there's a seller. The seller's been successful and then they get approached by Amazon on vendor, because Amazon on vendor are like," Hang on. They're being really successful end-seller. Let's bring them over. Let's show them the promise land." So we have a lot of calls and I have a lot of consulting calls with brands saying," Amazon has contacted me." They want us to be a vendor. And I'm like," Well, brilliant because you're contacting us." So it means that you are considering your... And I said it's an honor that-
Ryan Cramer: You're doing a good thing.
Carina McLeod: Exactly. It's an honor that they've contacted you, but it's also a great thing that you are questioning it and whether it's right for your business. Because so many businesses have jumped into it and thought," Yes, we've been invited to vendor. Fantastic. That really means that Amazon want our product," and they get on vendor and it just doesn't hit. It's not the promised land that they thought it would be because there's so many other things involved in terms of infrastructure. And if it is actually right for your business. Long gone are the days where sold by Amazon really means anything to the consumer. So that's something that we see a lot of and we just make sure that it's clear and evaluate what the company's set up is to actually see if they could even handle vendor. Because in a lot of cases they can't. So it is really important that businesses do look at that and do evaluate both options as well.
Ryan Cramer: I just remembered back in 2014,'15 when we were evaluating both options with the company I was working with besides just sending it in directly. The invoices itself, obviously, you have to worry about... You have to negotiate price to Amazon from the get go. And then it could be thousands of units that you negotiate in your margins on that are going to be even lower potentially than if you're selling themselves. So you have to be really confident in the numbers of which you're selling directly to Amazon. And those contracts obviously are very tight on Amazon side of they won't negotiate with you. They'll say," This is what we want." And there's not a lot of back and forth. And that's a difficult place for a lot of businesses can get into. I just remember that being a horror story of," Don't go down too deep and get..." I won't say tied to the devil, but you don't want to sell your soul to the devil without knowing what other options are before that.
Carina McLeod: Definitely. And especially, I mean with the pandemic, with prices of shipping containers... Cost prices are just going through the roof. And especially within the UK with Brexit as well, vendors can't afford to... You've got to increase your prices. And you can do that quite easily on sell. You just increase your retail, but try doing that on vendor, it's a completely different story.
Ryan Cramer: You don't have the control of the price like you would on sellers. So that's difficult. Reining us back into branding, Carina, what are the most exciting aspects of creating a brand through the product ideation process for you? If you're working on that detailed side, do you get to go with a client and say," Let's go back to square one. Maybe let's look at packaging. Let's look at the unboxing experience, inserts, things like that to build out a brand." Do you go that deep in terms of helping them conceptualize a brand or do you work down the road in that regards?
Carina McLeod: We can do. We definitely have the facilities to do branding from day one. What we typically find is our audience often already have a brand. They just don't really know how to sell that brand. And it's trying to bring that brand to life and bring it to life on Amazon. So it might be, but then we do give that guidance. Typically they'll already have a brand, but it just needs revamping or we see their packaging and it's like," Okay, next time you need to rejig your packaging going forward because there's so much more you can do with it." So of often they've already got that brand and they're already at stage one. It's more about how do you enhance that to bring it to the next level is typically what we find with our clients.
Ryan Cramer: Is there an example that you like to use that you've helped a client get there? While you're thinking of that, I was going to say, I heard of a really cool insert. Obviously, inserts are something where it's very delicate, fine balance of what you're asking for and what you're going to be putting in the insert. And insert is not something asking for people to ask for reviews or anything of that sort, it's in the TOS. It's hard stamped in there now. We've gotten to a point where they said," You can't ask for that anymore." But I found one of the really cool examples I've heard recently of when an insert is placed, it's," Hey, film your unboxing experience." And this goes back to building a brand off of Amazon too. Film your unboxing experience. Use a hashtag, whatever, brand unboxing. And put it on TikTok or Instagram. And if that video gets to a certain level of views, I think it was like 10, 000 views or 100,000 views. Pretty easy to achieve now with social media of days. If you get a view count of that and email that to us, we will give you 100 bucks or$1, 000, or something like that. So it's creating content offsite, but also tagging the brand, making sure people want to become influencers and gurus or things like that. They want to have their own self- brand. And whether they're saying," Unbox it, if you like it. Put up your honest impression and reach out to us. When you do that, send us the link and everything like that and we'll send you like a gift certificate or a card, or just Flat Mat." I thought that was really creative. And again, that's not asking for reviews. That is something that create content for us and we'll pay you for it. I think that was really cool and innovative idea. A lot of people are stealing the idea now, I don't know, but I think that was something unique to build a brand in social media without... Content is king in this space. But what about you and your team?
Carina McLeod: Yeah, I mean there's so many good tools now in terms of building the brand that you can use such as the whole brand store now, and also starting to get followers with the Amazon posts and the whole customer engagement. So it is about now, Amazon are implementing tools to get that following. So you can have your follow button on your store to start getting followers. You have your posts where you can get followers. And if you can start ramping those numbers, you can start emailing that audience. So it's a typical way that Amazon is doing it to keep that control of their customers. Because really what Amazon is trying to do is trying to avoid anything going externality, right? So anything where they start seeing that traffic, they think," Okay, let's see what we can do internally." So there are definitely tools and we always say sort of maximize all those internal tools as well, but also prime example is using social media channels as well to grow your brand and to build that community. Because typically what customers will do when they go on Amazon is... I for sure do this. I want to know, is it a brand just on Amazon or is it actually a brand brand. A brand brand being, it exists outside of Amazon. It depends on the product and the category. If I'm going to spend a significant amount of money on a brand I've not really heard of, I'm going to do my checks. I'm going to check and see what it's like on social media. I'm going to start seeing do they have a website. And all of that starts creating a backing as well in terms of helping build trust. So it's then seeing about reviews. And then you can see if there's that community there of followers among that brand as well. So that's often something that we see as well that the brands can do. So I would always say for anyone that's building a brand on Amazon, you want to make sure you're using all the levers on Amazon, but also make sure that you are creating a brand off Amazon as well because that's just solidifying and strengthening your brand and your presence overall just in the industry in e- commerce.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Well, I think we recently had Amy Wees on too from Amazing at Home and she has her own storefront, but the aspect of being able to go live into feature products, not just your own on Amazon live, but you can tag... She was talking about tagging competitors potentially in it and not talk back, but you can actually tag in video now and have them on competitor listings. But obviously, featuring on Amazon live videos when they're updated of your product which I think not a lot of people are taking too full advantage of. What about video for you? I know that's the focus with a lot of people of video ads. Just A plus content is you can build video into that in certain capacities. Again, unboxing videos are really important for Amazon influencers who can upload to listing. Where does that fall in line of terms of importance with you and the team there at eCommerce Nurse?
Carina McLeod: Yeah. Video is key. We're really seeing movement on videos, if done right, if done correctly because we do see that where we get brands and go," Yeah, we've got this video." And they throw a video at you and you're like," No, we need to edit that one."
Ryan Cramer: Let's try again.
Carina McLeod: Yeah, exactly. Because we got to always remember now and I was having this conversation with the client early today is always put your... When you are thinking about that experience, I know we sit at a desk and we're looking at desktop. Most of the customers are using mobile or tablet. So everything is changing in terms of how images look, the videos as well. It's not the days of when you were sneakingly looking at Amazon on your desktop whilst you were working and you wouldn't want a video coming on because then it comes on and everyone hears it. You are at home. You're switching through your phone and the video automatically comes on and you're swiping through. So a lot of features then become even more of importance now because more consumers are purchasing over mobile. So video is a lot more engaging. We're definitely seeing a sponsor brand videos as well. And again, these are all features available to brand owners, right? So videos are engaging. They get the customer's attention straight away as they scroll through search results. So all of these sort of things are fantastic in helping you build that overall brand. I think also with brand building, what it does is it just... There was a lot of emphasis before pre- focused on brand when load of businesses were focusing on that niche product. Right? But the problem with just focusing on just that one product, you are spending all that marketing and all that ads budget. You're building up that product. But when that product then becomes obsolete, let's say, that's gone. That's all that sort of spend and all that focus you've done on that individual product is gone. If there's a brand name to it, it makes it a lot easier to then create this family of products and launch the next product and launch the next one, because you've already got traction off of the first item as well, which is when you sort of then can link things. You can link things. You can start highlighting larger product ranges on your brand store, in your A plus content, in the comparison charts. Even on your videos, you might see more than one product. You see a family of products and you start really building out an overall portfolio.
Ryan Cramer: I love that. Well, in the last couple minutes I have with you today, Carina, if I'm a brand owner, what's... Obviously now, we're just in the first couple weeks of 2022. I think a lot of focus has been in an exhale mode. Like you can feel this collective exhale of like," Hey, we made it through Q4." So both either good or bad, where should a business owner really... What should they look at right now? When it comes to building a brand, what should they really focus on in early January, February, March of this year? What do they need to work on to get that momentum before they hit Q4 of this next year?
Carina McLeod: Yeah. I always say that the key here is focusing on your... It's always back to basics. Everything always comes back to basics. It's just making sure that your product page is where they need to be. We always say," Don't start making new things happen come Q4. You want to have everything in place come Q4." So if your images are not product images aren't where they need to be, now is the time to start doing all your photography. Now is the start time to start working on all their design and the graphics because infographics on images and having text on images, content, icons on images, they are so effective these days. We see a much higher conversion rate on that. So really putting emphasis on those, on the images. Looking into videos. Videos don't have to be these amazing animated videos that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. You can do it, not like a really terrible budget type video, but you can do one at a lower cost. Just usually using fixed imagery and a content overlay. There are other ways in which you can manage that. So I would say really making sure that your product page is where they need to be. Start investing in these new features that I mentioned, Amazon posts and making sure that you are getting that following. Because let's say you build a following over throughout the year, come Q4 and you've got the ability to send out emails through the customer engagement section within your seller account, you can then build that community in the last nine months. You can then highlight to them the products that you are pushing come Q4.
Ryan Cramer: Those are great tips. I love that. Obviously, if they love what they hear and they want to maybe reach out to you guys and see," Hey, maybe this is something eCommerce Nurse can help me with. What's the best way to do that, Carina?
Carina McLeod: Yeah, definitely. If you are needing, and if you are watching and you are needing any help building your brand or any support when it comes to just growing your business on Amazon, within Europe and North America, if you're a seller or vendor, we are definitely there. The team is there to help. All you need to do is just contact us and go to ecommercenurse. com, and go to our contact us and just send us a message and one of us will be in touch and talk to you about where you need support and see if we can help.
Ryan Cramer: That's great. That's fantastic. And again, love the name as always. It just rolls off the tongue. It's so easy. I love the content and the website you've built out. You guys are really diving deep and again, the expertise you can see through just the content you guys are pushing on through that too. So I want to thank you so much for hopping on Crossover Commerce. I call people who come on in. They've gone through the gauntlet with me in my corner of the internet, friends of the show now. So now I can officially call you a friend of the show. But you guys are looking to travel. Are you speaking more? What's 2022 look like for you, Carina?
Carina McLeod: You know what? 2022, we are traveling a bit more. It's good. It feels good to start seeing face to face events. So we have an event in the UK. We're going to be exhibiting at White Label Expo inaudible in London at the start of March. So there'll be a team of us there. And I'll also be speaking about branding when it comes to Amazon. I will also be venturing over the other side of the pond for the Prosper Show. So I'm on the council for the Prosper Show. Unfortunately I couldn't make it last year, which was a real shame.
Ryan Cramer: Same here. I did virtual tours myself. I had one of my colleagues go around and talk to people on their phone. That's how I overcame in 2021.
Carina McLeod: Yeah. It's such a shame. Isn't it? Because it is such a difference being at a natural event and seeing everyone face to face. So excited about that, and that will be in March. And then lots of other things. We've got a webinar hopefully lined up where we collaborate with Amazon next month and lots of other events. So stay tuned. We'll have more webinars. We also have another part of our business, which is vendor society. So if you go to vendorsociety. com is really the name says it all. It's for Amazon vendors, but we hold roundtables and other events. So as you mentioned about content, it's all about for us, about sharing content, sharing our knowledge as well. So there's lots of content out there for any businesses. Just feeling stuck or maybe just want to expand on their knowledge as well.
Ryan Cramer: That's great. Well, yeah, we didn't even get into that. That'll have to be a whole episode. I'm assuming next time-
Carina McLeod: Talk for hours.
Ryan Cramer: You can talk for hours. Yeah, exactly. The roundtables are one of my favorite too to help usher through, because everyone wants to jump in. And we get a lot of e- commerce nerds as I like to call us. There's a lot of people that want to jump in and either agree or disagree, but it's fun to facilitate those conversations. Well, Carina, thank you so much for hopping on today. I appreciate it again for joining us. I know it's a little bit late towards the end of your day, but we appreciate you spending some time here on Crossover Commerce.
Carina McLeod: Thank you so much, Ryan. I've really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you, everyone for listening.
Ryan Cramer: And thank you everyone. Again, thank you, Carina for coming on Crossover Commerce today. I just want to thank everyone who has joined us for episode 203. Again, eCommerce Nurse. Go to ecommercenurse. com if you want to learn more information about Carina and her team. If you have their service or just want to ask questions, reach out to her. And we actually linked to their profiles here below. If you're watching on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can just go ahead and click through there. YouTube as well. We're on all locations. So that being said, nice segue into you. This is just episode 203. We have another great episode tomorrow. I want to go ahead and just quickly throw it up there. Tyler Jefcoat of Seller Accountants. We're going to be talking about getting ready to properly file your taxes. Not just file, properly file your taxes. Never thought I'd be talking about filing your taxes on a podcast in my entire career, but we're going to be talking about it because it is important. And that's where a lot of people ask questions. Believe it or not, those are some of my favorite episodes where I get to understand, learn a little bit more about helping people in their businesses, whether it be their first time filing taxes, or you grew into a different marketplace, or you have to cut your losses with some inventory level. We're going to make sure that you get your questions answered on how to properly file it so you don't get in trouble with a government entity. Again, I'm not a tax expert, but I brought one on to talk about it for me. So that's going to be tomorrow. Go ahead and follow us on social media on PingPong Payments on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or you can follow myself where we will be going live on those channels. And of course you can listen to Crossover Commerce on your favorite podcast destinations on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, wherever you consume your content. Audible even. Go ahead and give us a thumbs up or follow and we'll be bringing more great content to you. Next week is full. I have five episodes next week. So don't have any graphics to show up, but we will have the content coming in fast and heavy through different parts of the e- commerce and Amazon journey. Stay tuned. You don't want to miss a single episode. But I'm Ryan Cramer. This is Crossover Commerce. We'll catch you guys next time on another episode. Take care.
Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Carina McLeod of Ecommerce Nurse one on one as they discuss the importance of building a brand on Amazon.
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