Driving sales and converting traffic on Amazon⎜ Riverbend Consulting ⎜ EP 223
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 back to another week 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. What does that mean for you, the listener out there, if you happen to stumble upon this awesome podcast, or as I like to call it, my corner of the internet? Well, this means that you can apply these practices that we've talked about on every single episode to your business, whether it be sourcing logistics, to marketing and advertising and selling on Amazon, to selling direct to consumer. Whatever that looks like as an e- commerce and Amazon business, we're going to have applicable information for you every single episode. This is episode 223, so I'm really excited to get in the nitty gritty with our guest today. But before we get started, as every episode is, is presented by PingPong Payments. Who is PingPong Payments? Well, I'm glad you asked. PingPong is a cross- border payment solution and growth partner helping people save more time, money, and effort, whether it's paying out your suppliers, your manufacturers. Maybe you have a VA that you're onboarding this year and you need to pay them out in localized currency so that they can get their funds quicker and scale quicker. Maybe you are paying out manufacturer in a different country this year. How are you negotiating and saving money and putting it towards your bottom line? PingPong Payments can help you. Just sign up for free by going to usa. pingpongx. com/ podcast to check out all of our past episodes, but also to sign up for free today. Just make sure you mention Crossover Commerce sent you to PingPong Payments when you sign up. Thank you, PingPong Payments. With that being, again, this is episode 223. If you're new to the podcast, again, welcome for joining in and watching live on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Twitter, or if you're listening to us later on, this could be on your favorite podcast destination. You might listen to us at two times speed or four times speed, whatever your heart desires. Thank you for tuning in and listening to us and subscribing to our podcast. This episode will go on later live on the audio version, but on the video version, if you have questions for myself or our guest, you can just put them in the comment section below. Ask your questions, ask your thoughts. If it's a personal thought or if it's a question or if we ask the audience, you are more than welcome to put those in. We'll throw them up on the screen and get those questions answered. That being said, want to go ahead and jump in with one of our amazing guests today. I talked with him last week just to get the background on him. His name is Joe Zalta. He is the co- founder and co- CEO, co- operator of Riverbend Consulting, which is just a fantastic company, that I've been lucky enough to talk with Lesley from the team. I'm talking with a lot of their partnership people behind the scenes. They're just helping lots of Amazon sellers basically navigate the waters of the torrential... the ups and downs of Amazon, right, if you get suspended and whatnot. But Joe's a seller, and I'll let him talk about his background, but I'm really excited to have him on today as an Amazon seller, but also as an agency and service provider coming to us from New Jersey, if I remember correctly. Joe Zalta of Riverbend Consulting. Joe, thank you for hopping on Crossover Commerce today.
Joe Zalta: Hey Ryan, what's up, man? Great to be here.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, it's awesome to have you here too. I'm super excited. We chatted, what was it, Friday, already? Gosh.
Joe Zalta: It feels like a week ago crosstalk Friday.
Ryan Cramer: It does feel like a week ago, I know. But yeah, we just chatted. And I loved your background and just getting to understand and know you a little bit more. I've heard about you from obviously Lesley and Brianna and all the team there. But you are the man, the myth, the legend, it seems like, at the team there. So it's awesome to have you on here.
Joe Zalta: No, it's really an honor to be on here. I've tuned in a bunch of times to your podcast. I think it's great. And you have great guests, so I'm just honored to be in good company.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, well, I'm lucky a lot of people say yes. There's no payment or anything like that. I'm just lucky people say yes to taking an hour of their time out of their busy schedule. But speaking of busy schedule, walk me through. And for everyone who's tuning in live or listening, if they don't know you, they should. But what's that background, and how are we where we are today, talking?
Joe Zalta: So, that's a great question. I actually love talking about this story because it's, like you said, how we got here today. So I started selling on Amazon six or seven years ago at this point. I lose track. It's just such a blur. But just like everyone else, had my ups and downs and learning curves and things like that. And how really all this got started is I was a seller. I got suspended and I could not get my account up. And it took me two or three months of just beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out what Seller Performance wanted from me. They were holding my money and my inventory as everyone who ever got suspended knows. And you feel powerless. And that's when I was actually introduced to who is my partner now, Lesley Hensell. And she had a quick conversation with me, said," I think I could take care of this for you." And I said, Sure, go give it a try. I mean, I know my business pretty well, and I've been writing appeals every day for two months, but if you think you can do this, go right ahead." And she did. And then two days later, my account was up. And as you can tell, I was very intrigued by her and her skillset. And fast- forward a few years, we partnered, we put together an amazing, amazing team of very bright, very... what's the right word... driven people on our team to help sellers, both on the sales side, on the consultant side, on the analyst side. We really have an amazing team of ex- Amazon people and third party consultants, third party sellers that have experience. So we really just cover the gamut, in my opinion, of understanding sellers, understanding Amazon, and bridging that gap.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, like the great Liam Neeson says," You have a unique set of skills." You utilize them to take advantage of or help people out in that regard. So it's very cool. We were talking about this Friday. I like how you positioned it too, you don't see yourself as an agency, like an advertising agency, where you might do PPC or account management or anything of that. You have, again, a unique set of skills where you only want to be the depth agency or the service instead of the breadth one, like do everything. So can you talk a little bit on that, why you guys decided that?
Joe Zalta: Yeah, sure. Lesley and I have always been pretty aligned with that. And we've really decided to just be the best in this, like you said, this particular skill set. With the wave of Amazon sellers coming on over the last two, three years, especially during COVID and all the things that are going on in the world, there's just going to be more and more online sellers. And we just realized that there's always going to be a need for someone that could help navigate Amazon, whether you're a billion dollar seller or a seller that started yesterday. There are crazy things happening all the time as sellers. And we really need someone to go to. So we just felt we could continue to build a really strong team around that with all different types of skill sets and experiences. And that's really who we want to be.
Ryan Cramer: I was going to say, at PingPong, we have over a million customers worldwide, which I always tell people, which it's crazy to think about. I think the numbers reach as high as 7 million sellers at any juncture. Does that scare you and think," Holy cow, we are only serving"... I say" scary." Does it make things look a lot bigger when you start to think the possibilities of servicing even 10% of that, or even 20% of that? Something that doesn't so big in the minds of people when you talk about percentages, but there's a lot of sellers out there in the world, not just in the United States, but around the world. Does that scare you? Does that excite you? What does that bring forth for you?
Joe Zalta: I think if anything, it motivates me. Definitely gets me up in the morning, realizing that we're servicing a few thousand clients and there's millions and millions out there; as Trump would say," Millions and millions." So there's a ton of people that still don't know us. And I hope they don't need to know us. I hope we don't they don't get suspended. But if they do, I hope they know that we're the people that could really help them.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Well, so you're dividing yourself between as a service, but also as a seller. So are you open and honest, like with the industry that you're in? You come from a background in wholesaling, you said, fashion, correct? Am I mistaken or is that correct?
Joe Zalta: Yeah. I was in fashion merchandising and manufacturing for 10 years. So from right around the time I was 21 to right after my early thirties, I was hardcore in the wholesale mix.
Ryan Cramer: Okay, so fashion was a big passion of yours. This comment is hopefully not a nasty question. Does it hurt you to think that lots of different brands, when they're talking about acquiring, they always say the categories," We do not entertain either supplements, fashion, or..." Does that hurt you to think that people don't want to take on fashion because it's such a hard and changing ecosystem to live in? I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on that.
Joe Zalta: Does it hurt me? No. I mean, I totally understand it. I mean, I sell a lot of clothing and fashion and things like that. But what we've always been able to do is we've been able to find evergreen items, even though they're fashion, so fashion basics. That was always the area I was in when I was in wholesale as well.
Ryan Cramer: Like accessories or things like that? Is that what you would call an evergreen? What would an evergreen fashion piece look like?
Joe Zalta: Evergreen is something that sells all year round that's not super seasonal or not super themed or not super trend. So things that are everyday buys for men or for women or for kids, things like that.
Ryan Cramer: Is it interesting to see how that's evolved over, gosh, just in the time you've been selling on Amazon? I feel like fashion especially has taken this giant leap forward on the D2C side, but also just in the e- commerce world of Amazon in itself. Well, we'll start from Amazon. They're opening the first retail store. I think it's Amazon Style, if I'm not mistaken.
Joe Zalta: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: And you can order through a smart pad. You can order the size that's in the warehouse. It delivers it to your dressing room, and there it is. But there's only one sample out there that you can look at, and you're like," Oh, that looks good. Maybe I'll try it in my size." And that's what it is. Is that evolution, too... I don't know. You can sell literally anything in the fashion world. And I get ads all the time on Instagram. It's crazy. And you have subscription boxes, you have all these kinds of things. Is it crazy to think how it's evolved into this giant ecosystem?
Joe Zalta: It's unbelievable. I can tell you from the time that I started doing online business seven years ago, that was part of the reason why I left wholesale, because I was only selling retailers, whether they be big box or mom and pop stores and things like that. And I saw things shifting, right? I saw things changing. We definitely went through some interesting stages. The curated style boxes was a big thing at one point, right, the subscription boxes, like... what are some of them? ThreadBeast and Stitch Fix-
Ryan Cramer: Stitch Fix, yeah.
Joe Zalta: ...and all those crosstalk. There was some really cool... And I loved them. I always tried all of them. I wanted to test them out. There's obviously this huge wave of D2C brands, some of them super successful, right? Vuori is one, Allbirds. Some of these guys really just hit a home run with it, and now you can even see it on Amazon. The overseas sellers are doing a great job of stocking everything and having newness. Obviously the whole SHEIN thing that's going on is huge. I know my wife gets a SHEIN box every day. And I'm like," Honey, I sell fashion on Amazon." She's like," I don't care. I like SHEIN better." I'm like," Come on." But it's just an amazing evolution, like you said. And I don't think it's going anywhere but up. I mean, that's where we're going.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, she'll say," Talk to me when you're on SHEIN, honey. And then we'll go from there."
Joe Zalta: Exactly.
Ryan Cramer: Well, that's the fascinating thing. So you as a seller, going back to my original point, you are still currently selling your expertise that's come in these past years. Have you stayed in the category? I don't know if you publicly share the category you're in or not, but have you stayed in the same category for that whole entire time, or have you pivoted and done different categories?
Joe Zalta: I've stayed in the category. And you can tell, the way we are, even at Riverbend. We just like to be the best at the things that we're working on. Obviously, there's been tons of opportunities flown by me over the years in different categories, but I've stayed pretty consistent with what I like to do and where my expertise is.
Ryan Cramer: So if I had to guess, if you are in the category I'm assuming you are in, it's one of the most difficult ones to be successful and be differentiated and stay on top of things. How is it like for you to juggle such seller's schedule, but then also a service provider unique schedule like that one, it's talking and helping with customers and helping them navigate through the waters as well, balancing the time between the two? Because I know some people are really good at it. I'm curious, from your perspective, if it's easy to balance or if it's difficult or you don't balance it, and you're open and honest about that? What's it like for you?
Joe Zalta: So first off, I think it's a huge... honestly, it's a blessing for our whole team, really, because as a seller, things happened to me and our business very early on, right? If there's an issue or something that comes up, we let our team know. We let the Riverbend team know. Most of the time, the Riverbend team, because of the reach of clients that they have, they're always seeing things first, right? But I think a big part of what Riverbend is about is understanding the seller's perspective, right? When they do have a problem or how they have a problem, or how quickly they want a response, that is all really stemming from how Lesley and I originally built the company, which was in the mindset of a seller, right? The sense of urgency, the quick response time, just sharing that care for the seller, has always been there. And that's something that we really stress on every quarterly call and to all of our managers, that we never want to lose that, right? That's the most important thing for us, that the sellers that we work with fully understand that we get what they're going through and that it's the top of our priority to get those issues solved for them. When it comes to splitting time, I think I'm pretty good with it. Obviously, it could always be better. I'm reading constantly on how to divide my time. But prioritizing and setting scheduled meetings and things like that are always great. But I can't say enough about my team. I have really amazing people on both ends. My partner in my Amazon business started on five years ago with me. And he's taken on a ton of responsibility and we've been able to build some people up from within that they're handling a lot of main important issues. And the same with Riverbend. I mean, we have some amazing people that, again, I consider them family.
Ryan Cramer: I love that.
Joe Zalta: So I'm sure you've heard this, it's all about the people that you work with.
Ryan Cramer: Well, yeah. I mean, you work with them, hopefully you like there. Hopefully, there's a mutual respect for everyone. Again, you don't have to like everyone you work with, but I think it definitely helps in that regards, but the respect factor of if they know what they're talking about. And I personally think if you position yourself to not be the smartest person in the room, as a leader position, I think you've done your job because you can learn from them, like you said, and grow and really elevate your surroundings and make sure that everyone else is continuously learning as well. I think that's a really cool factor. I mean, that's so cool to hear that from your perspective. So maybe, Joe, from that perspective, what's it like... As we called our title today in our episode, Driving Sales and Converting Traffic on Amazon. So you've seen a lot of this pivoting as a seller over the last, you said, five, six, seven years of being in this space. What is it like being able to be around that long, have a pulse on the industry as a seller, and really see that evolution? What's the biggest thing that has changed in that time since you first started to when we're talking on this very moment, the last day of February? What's the biggest change for you, do you think?
Joe Zalta: So, I think the biggest thing has probably been the amount of the amount of work that you could put into one particular listing. I think six, seven, eight years ago or around when I started, it was really just whatever you can get up there. There was just very little competition, right? People were doing a lot of different tricks with different brand names and bundling and things like that. And there really wasn't a huge focus on making your listing amazing or branding yourself, right? And I think that's come such a long way in the last few years, with obviously the addition of brand registry and then brand registry 2. 0, the A + content, the videos, the on- model shots, and then all the different types of advertising with a brand registry, that's been huge. Really telling your brand story has been, to me, the biggest evolution of what's been going on. And I mean, especially as a seller that does clothing, right, that has so many different variations, colors, and sizes, keeping that level of importance for everything that you do can really get lost. At some point, you almost want to just say," Oh, just get it up there. One picture is enough, or one size scale is enough." It's not. It's so important to communicate with the customer the right way because you really only have that one chance, whether it be an ad or them seeing organically with the right search term. You don't want to lose that customer, right? It's all about conversion. Everyone for years had been trying to figure out what the A9 algorithm is and why your item is ranked over someone else's. At the end of day, the short of it is conversion. Amazon's not stupid. If you convert, they want to put you higher. So putting that love and care and understanding of what a customer wants to see is the absolute most important thing. Obviously, your price has to be great. Quality has to be great. All that's a given. Supply chain, you can't run out of stock. Everybody knows that. But giving the love and care to your listing to make sure that that customer doesn't leave the page, that's the key.
Ryan Cramer: Right. Well, a lot of people... like you said, we call it the wild west days. And we're even talking about this on the 7 Figure Seller Summit this week, that's going on right after this, believe it or not, with Gary Wong. He called it the wild west of Amazon still. It's fascinating because you had mentioned ranking products of... The number one thing that Amazon always saw back when I was with launch companies like Viral Launch and whatnot, everyone was always looking at conversions. And that was always the keystone of even though you're converting, no matter how you convert, that's always going to outrank everything else. You have to... if you're on page one and it's estimated that they're doing... the top seller is 35 units a day, you want to sell 37 at a consistent rate. Now, you don't know if it's going to be for seven days or nine days or 10 days or 14 days. But if the consistency is outperforming whatever's number one right now, Amazon will start to shift you up in that. But I think it's changed over time. Amazon sees the importance of where they're converting, the rate at which they're converting. Obviously, if you're manipulating conversions, which is now against TOS, if it's anywhere below 100% that you might initially be doing, it's at 80%, that's still a dock against you. So I'm curious from your perspective as a seller, what is maybe a launch... how are you driving those conversions initially launching new products or sizes or variations in order for Amazon to see you as viable, but not go against TOS, if that makes sense?
Joe Zalta: Well, yeah, I mean, obviously one of my hats is overseeing and running a compliance company, so obviously I don't do crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: I would hope not. That would be a big intriguing choice if you were.
Joe Zalta: No. So I mean, we really take a very know a natural approach. I mean, our job and what I think makes us special is our choice and our merchandising, so to speak, and knowing what's hot and what's not, what colors are important, what sizes are important. So on our end, we're always trying to read the trends of search, right? So if we do, and if we do it correctly, and if we launch it at the right time, which is also very important in clothing and in any seasonal category, you really want to launch at the right time. So just for example, you wouldn't be launching cold weather product in March, right? If you're heading into the summer. If you're doing bags or if you're doing back to school products, you're not going to be doing that after back to school. So launching products at the right time is super important, obviously because of all the search volume that's coming in at that time, right? And then more things are... Amazon's pushing those things up, right? They want people to see it because they know that's what customers are looking for. But that also goes back to supply chain. Over the last year and a half, everyone knows how difficult it's been to get product in at the right time. I can tell you just from tons of the vendors that I work with, where it used to take them three months or four months, now it's been taking them seven or eight. Whether it's getting the fabric at the right price or getting the containers or even getting them out of the port and into a warehouse or getting them out of the warehouse to Amazon, I mean, there's so many challenges right now. All I tell people really is buffer as much as you can. Make sure that you are projecting enough, obviously not just enough, but projecting for growth. As we know, Amazon is only growing. And if you're doing better in your category, you have to project for your growth, not just project to be consistent with the year before. So a lot of those things are very important. And then especially with launches, you really want to put your best foot forward. So I know a lot of times we have the option to launch something that's not complete, right? Like if a few sizes don't come in or a few colors don't come in and we say," Oh, should we just get it up there? We have already paid for it." No, do it the right way. You have to understand that you're going against a ton of competition, no matter what category you're in, and you need to come out strong. So setting up your ads properly, if it's by color or by size, and making sure you convert, is very important. Going after the very trendy terms, whether it's a Father's Day, Mother's Day, gift- giving season, summer, this, that, making sure that those keywords are in your titles and your bullet points and your backend search, very important. And you got to wow them with your content. If they are going to see you, obviously you have to get there by either ads or a really low price, but the customer has to be drawn to your product and really want to try you, right? You know how it is, you launch a product, you don't have reviews, so you really have to wow them with," Let me give this guy a shot." If it's your product and you are not saying that, then why would the customer say that, right? You have to really be honest with yourself," Is my product good enough to hold that spot on the first page?"
Ryan Cramer: Well, fashion in itself is... everyone has even a different taste. You're not telling people how to use it or when to use it. People have their own sense on what's going to be important. So I guess that to you is it's going to be even more important to understand the buyer psychology of what's going to make them pull that trigger. In fashion, I would almost think that you would have to rely on some externalized sources such as, like you said, ads, and really have great photography, showing people how to use it, whether it be an accessory or, like you said, an evergreen product of why they should go with you instead of going down the street to a Target or something like that and pulling off the shelf and buying it today. But then on the flip side, I try to think, what's changed? Are you relying more on, like you said, ads, but is there a notion of influencers, or what would you consider yourself... the way that you're having to adapt with these new changes of launching and converting products on Amazon and utilizing externalized traffic?
Joe Zalta: So I mean, definitely doing outside traffic, whether it be Facebook or Google Ads, very important, if you can set aside a budget for it. But going back to understanding the customer, I think that's where... And it doesn't only have to be in fashion. It could be in any category, it could be in home, it could be in kitchen, it could be in anything. Understanding what's out there, whether it be on forums, whether it be on publications, if there's a very hot Instagram channel or something like that that people are following, you have to understand where the market is going, right? And you only have three, four months to do that, right? You can't launch things within a day or two. It takes crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: You can't have paralysis by analysis. Exactly.
Joe Zalta: Yeah, there's lead times. So you have to be ahead of the curve. I've always done a ton of research, especially in fashion clothing for European websites, right? Europe is always a little bit ahead ahead of us in fashion. Some of the high fashion brands usually set the trends for the next level of fashion, right, which is usually big box or Walmarts, Targets. So everything goes that way. It's like that in any business. So you have to know if there's a really high end kitchen brand or a high end furniture brand, it's likely that the masses are going to start carrying that soon. So you have to do your research to know where you need to be within the two, three months that you're going to be able to launch your product. And then there's always search terms that become important that are not just everyday generic terms, that are a little bit more specific, that if you can catch those, right, you can hit and you can convert.
Ryan Cramer: That makes sense. Is inaudible industry, is that very traditional? Is that traditionally a high margins industry? Is that super thin and razor thin in terms of margins on a item by item basis? I'm not quite sure. I haven't delved into that industry. I used to sell only in home and garden, but I never went to fashion. I'm curious, are you working in a high margin industry or is it absolutely thin?
Joe Zalta: I would say it depends on-
Ryan Cramer: Or it depends?
Joe Zalta: crosstalk things. It depends. I mean, we deal sometimes with very big or national brands. So obviously, that can command a higher retail. But I would say it's a typical margin business, I would say, across all clothing.
Ryan Cramer: Okay. And I'm going to think, because of trend, because this is the ultimate trendy space and category, which is probably why, what we mentioned earlier in the episode, a lot of people ignore it because you have to stay up to date on trends. You have to forecast so far out. You have to have a pulse on even more. It's not evergreen. In that regards, is it just even more important to understand that when you're buying something, how long is a life cycle for a unique product on Amazon in the fashion space? I'm curious, is it way shorter or is it actually longer than people might expect it to last?
Joe Zalta: So, what's cool is that Amazon is such a big market. I mean, it's not targeted to New York. It's not targeted to LA. If it was, then we'd be screwed, because there'd be a one- week life cycle and then people are past it. The cool part is that fashion takes time to travel across the country, right? So there usually is, I call it, a two season play, in some cases. It could be a full year or two years until you're fully out of it. And it usually doesn't fully die. It'll have its residual, a time that you continue you to sell. And then you could always update it with... whether it be a new print or a new fashion element to it that makes it different or makes it exciting or makes it more modern. So like you said, it's ever- changing.
Ryan Cramer: I mean, that's so cool and crazy because I think a lot of people don't think about once a product is actually in Amazon, there is an unforeseen life cycle that a product will have, unless it's an evergreen thing like a kitchen utensil. That probably will last quite a long time. You might have to tweak it and update materials or anything like that. But in terms of this industry, I can't imagine how long it would last. And you have to almost perfect the inventory management solution of once the trend is over, you should be dwindling down on that inventory and not have it last. So I'm curious in this regards, do you feel like you're at a disadvantage of timing- wise because it's fluctuated all this... you probably had it on lock and you had some sort of SOP in place, but now it's helped you guys sway so much. Has it become more difficult, do you think, to forecast and to help," Hey, maybe we need to order it an extra five months earlier, kill it maybe an extra three months early so that we just don't have it sitting in warehouse accruing referral storage fees and things like that"? Has that gotten to the process of you as a seller?
Joe Zalta: So it definitely has. I mean, but I've been dealing with that my whole career. So understanding it and managing it properly is very important. We actually use a tool, which is cool, that Riverbend is going to be getting involved in with a partnership because I've been using it for X amount of years, love it, refer it to close friends and close clients. And now we're actually doing a partnership with them to be offering it to our whole team and all of our sellers.
Ryan Cramer: Nice.
Joe Zalta: It's something called Azsellerkit. It's a really-
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, Jason Hanan and crosstalk-
Joe Zalta: Yeah, Jason Hanan and Lenny Ash. I know those guys for years. I love them. crosstalk them
Ryan Cramer: They're right down the road from me.
Joe Zalta: They're the best, they're the best. And they've built this amazing software that's actually really been able to help me with forecasting and really understanding as trends happen and as trends pull away. So you have to know your business, no matter what. There's no software that's ever going to replace you understanding your business, but this is the closest thing that there is because it really helps you identify the trends. So I'm very excited about it.
Ryan Cramer: I mean, that's awesome. I had Jason on, and he's spoken on the podcast before. I've seen Azsellerkit in person, as an example, and I think it's really cool. Repricing, any sort of opportunity to utilize data is important in this industry, as long as it's accurate data. Don't make up the data, clearly. As long as you can utilize data to help you piece together where trends continuously go, but also pricing structures and when to pull the trigger or bump up your prices in the terms of you might be running low on inventory, bump it up a little bit. So you can either suppress a little bit without losing your rank or capturing a little bit higher margins in the case that you do run of stock. That goes to, how do you build up rank and lasting so quickly when it might only last a season or two? Is that that ongoing process that people might launch a product and it'll last for five years, obviously, because it's more of a product that lasts, have a longer life cycle? You have a shorter window to rank it quicker and then have it last in that short amount of time. Is there a different stress strategy when you're driving sales and converting traffic, than maybe another product might try to attribute?
Joe Zalta: Yeah, you can say that you have to hit it hard early. I guess in some cases where you have an item that is evergreen that literally can sell for the next 10 years, 20 years, you have time, you could always build it and build it. But when it's fashion, you really got to hit it hard. You got to hit the right terms. You have to really be at the top of the page. You don't want to be wasting ad spend or cheaping out on a click. You want to be in front of people's faces and you want to be in front of their faces often, right, especially when-
Ryan Cramer: Yesterday-
Joe Zalta: Crosstalk yesterday. And the cool thing about Amazon is that every single hour, there's action, right? Every single minute, there's action. So if you can... We've been able to rank products within sometimes a few days, even, to top 10, 000, top 5, 000, because if it's really the right item at the right time, like we said, going into a season as opposed to going out of a season, and if it's the right look, if there's a lot of search volume around it, it'll get the attention it deserves.
Ryan Cramer: So Joe, do you think the customer... I'm curious with you as well. I love it when people break down buyer psychology in different industries, because I worked in this space where people are just really curious about deals and hunting and," I want to get the lowest press possible," however that fictitiously gets you there of," I feel like I'm getting free shipping or getting a discount or an exclusive coupon code." In the space that you're working in, how do you make people feel that they're winning in that regards, like they're getting... It almost feels like there's a subset of people that it feels like they're the ones that are getting the best high quality product at the lowest cost possible, but then also that they won over you, like," They made a mistake. I'm going to win," in that regards. Do you ever feel that mentality of people trying to game you, or how do you work with that kind of customer, if you will? I'm curious.
Joe Zalta: Gaming? No, I mean, I-
Ryan Cramer: I'm not saying gaming, but more of a... I don't know, they feel like they're going to wait until either you throw that on discount or... How do you make it more of a premium standard where they're willing to buy it without a coupon or whatever discount, if you guys ever discount your clothes or products, or they might go shop around and find it maybe a dollar cheaper if you're selling in a different marketplace, or whatnot? Does that make sense? How do you feel like-
Joe Zalta: It does, it does.
Ryan Cramer: ...you've premiumized your products?
Joe Zalta: I think that's really where doing everything the right way comes into play, right? Having the right size scale, making sure that your quality is A +, and really just having that customer trust and have more of that brand loyalty factor, where in the beginning, it's hard, right? That first purchase, they're not sure, they're waiting for a deal to come up or they're comparing you against other brands or other products. But really how you win is if you do get them to purchase, which we've spoken about that, having the amazing content, whether it be the videos there, all the fabric content there to make sure that they know what they're getting, and they're not bait and switched by any reason, right? Once they get the product, they have to love it. And then after that, I'm a believer, because obviously we all... men buy clothes, women buy clothes, kids buy clothes, whatever it is. When they like something and it fits great and the quality's great and after they wash it, it looks good still, and they know it's the type of stuff that they like, they'll come back. I find it hard to believe that if you do all those things right, they're only going to buy you when you're on sale. So there's only so much you can control from that end.
Ryan Cramer: Right, because you have to train the customer on what to expect from the very get go, right?
Joe Zalta: Mm- hmm(affirmative).
Ryan Cramer: You have to help them understand. That's why Yeti or other premium brands of," Hey, we realize we're expensive, but you're going to get what you pay for of high quality premium materials. And we're not going to go on sale." It's just things like that.
Joe Zalta: Exactly.
Ryan Cramer: You never see Rolex or... this is probably a terrible comparison, but you never see them have to advertise or put them on sale because you realize what it takes to buy a premium product. If you want to be known as the discounter store, then that's where your marketing's going to be geared towards and how you're going to discount your pricing and products and things like that.
Joe Zalta: I think people confuse discounting and low price point stuff with quality. It doesn't have to be either/ or, right? You can still be in a lower priced category, but you still have to have good quality, right? There's always different tiers within any category, just if you're going to be the lowest price, great. If you are willing to work on lower margin, to get more market share, fantastic. But if your quality's garbage, that's not going to last. It's just such a short, short, short- term mindset. It doesn't work.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, absolutely. I'm curious, Joe, with working on Amazon in the fashion space as compared to retail, how is it for you to navigate the return aspect of... This goes to the importance of fit, size, how people feel in their clothing and why it's important to make sure you have all options. Is the returns, like free returns... I know Amazon had you can return it within 30 days or anything along those lines. I think that's still the policy. I could be wrong. But with that regards, they have a week or so... It was like with Amazon style, I forget what the policy was, if you can return it within that so long. Is that an issue, or how do you navigate that world of returns and fit when they're looking at it on a screen?
Joe Zalta: Yeah. I mean, there's definitely certain categories in fashion that are much worse than others. I mean, shoes is typically, on just e- commerce in general, one of the highest, somewhere in the 20% range, I think is typical. Especially women's shoes is even higher. But in most of the categories that I'm in, we really try our best to give great size scales, show it on a model, show it in a lifestyle image or an infographic, just explaining the fit, if it's slim, if it's not, things like that. I would say a typical return rate in the categories in clothing or in fashion is anywhere between 6% and 8%. You have to just bake that in and know that's going to happen, right? But again, the better you can do up front, it's only going to limit your returns in the back end. So people don't take that seriously and they need to, because do you really want to be dealing with a bunch of returned clothing or returned fashion products at the end of a season? It's worthless, right? So you got to do your best up front to make sure that the customer knows what they're getting.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. Well, especially in this space too, I've seen more that Amazon's putting more forefront on eco- friendly sustainable use of goods, like," This bag of material was made with upcycled materials," and its certifications. Do you guys tap into that market or do you have any products that you've looked at and just say," Hey, maybe this is a way to stand out even more," because it's another filter on the side of Amazon. It's one of the top ones. If it's an eco- friendly pledge or anything along those lines, I would assume that a fashion industry inaudible something where it's handmade or stitched or anything along those lines would be a selling factor for the eco- friendly or conscious buyers. Is that something you guys have talked about and thrown around?
Joe Zalta: I mean, we've definitely discussed it to try to find that call out. I mean, we're always looking for that really important call out. We haven't really come across the eco- friendly categories or anything like that. But I know it's definitely something that when people are launching new products, they're looking into. Obviously across all of our Riverbend clients, whether it be vegan or some type of call out that's really going with where the country is going, right... Health conscious and all these things is very important. So those are only things that are going to help you as a seller.
Ryan Cramer: Right. Are you selling internationally, by the way? Are you guys only focused on the US market on Amazon?
Joe Zalta: We're mainly US- based, US- focused. Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So is that something where... what's the conversation like for you as a company that moves... whether it be Riverbend or your brand moving into an international entity, have you guys had those discussions or is there forthcoming opportunities that you think you're going to take advantage of, or you really just want to hone in on the US market, just maybe diversifying other retail stores or marketplaces within the US ecosystem?
Joe Zalta: So I mean, it definitely comes up a lot. And I'm sure this comes up with a lot of Amazon sellers. If you feel that you really haven't maximized in the US yet, like you said, whether it be on the US marketplace with Amazon or with Walmart or with eBay or with any other marketplace or retail itself, which we also do get into retail stores, then you have to have enough bandwidth and you have to have enough people to help to try to get into the international market. So we've just decided to keep it here for now. There are a lot of challenges, but I know there are a lot of companies that help with those challenges to do more business internationally. So I guess when the time is right, we'll attack it. But for us right now, we're excited about our retail placement that we've gotten, and then some of the other marketplaces in the US that have really come on strong.
Ryan Cramer: That's amazing. I know some people are always looking for a sign of when it's going to be the right time to do that. And I don't know what it looks but I have this always epiphany of people are going to say they wake up in the middle of the night and write it down. They're like," Now's the time," or it's going to lightning strike them. And I don't know if... that's definitely not real life, but I like to fictionalize it and think people have... something feels right where we should really look into this opportunity. But I guess with this regards, the last couple minutes I have with you here, Joe, is what's the next year, couple years look like for you? What's that vision of both being brand manager or brand owner and growth factor on the business side, but then also as a service? What's that projection, and what do you want to see happen in the next couple years?
Joe Zalta: So I mean, I definitely want to speak about Riverbend first. It's very exciting.
Ryan Cramer: Please do.
Joe Zalta: Yeah. It's a very exciting business for us and there's a lot of growth. I mean, we've really been able to add a lot of great people, like I said, over the last years and great clients. And just the market itself is just so exciting. You meet a ton of different partners such as PingPong. And there's so many different service providers that are out there. And the beautiful thing of it all is that everyone wants to work together, which is such an amazing thing. I mean, in my old industry, it was very cutthroat, if you think about it, like if I was trying to sell a retailer and my competitor was trying to sell a retailer, we were going at each other's throats, right, to try to get a program. Here, it's very different. And it's great because everyone's really trying to help each other. And there's more than enough to go around, right? There's so many Amazon sellers, so much need for different services. And there's so many different pockets and different groups of people that need different things, whether they be resellers or private label sellers, or brands themselves trying to launch, right? There's all these different profiles of customers. And the service providers out there are just amazing. So I'm very excited about it. I think we're positioned well, we're going to keep learning more and adding better people as we go. And then just Lesley and I are always looking to see what other services that we can bring in- house to help our client base. So to me, that's what keeps me excited and really looking forward to see how the next two, three, four, five years play out for Amazon sellers and just Amazon ecosystem in general.
Ryan Cramer: I guess in the final one, Joe, I mean, that all sounds amazing to me. And I can't wait to see the growth. I mean, you guys have helped out a client I know of PingPong's, and I know that they're super appreciative of obviously the services you guys provide too. So that was just amazing in that regards. I want to ask a final tip. So under the guise of driving sales and converting traffic on Amazon, I know we covered a lot today. If I'm a listener to this and I say," Hey, Joe, you've been in the industry six or seven years. What is the one thing I really should focus on in terms of that topic that I really should make that main focus for my business?"
Joe Zalta: So it's something that I talk to my team a lot about, and it really comes down to this. If you have these plans to launch a product or build a brand, you have to really make sure you check off all the boxes, right? You have to make sure that A to Z, you are covered, whether it be from the start of the design of the product, the packaging of the product, all those things need to be locked down. You can't be shipping a product that's much bigger or bulkier than your com competition, because you're going to get killed with fees and you won't be competitive. Your supply chain has to be locked down. Your suppliers have to be willing to make smaller minimums up front, to make sure that you can start a few more listings to see what hits, right? That's a very important thing. And then further down the road, when you're ready to really take that next step with your product or your brand, you need to have the inventory to do it. So that's why there's a very thin line of having too much inventory or not having enough inventory. At the end of the day, I tell my guys all the time," You can't sell what you don't have. You can't rank a product to the top of the page if don't have the inventory to support it." So planning, inventory management, forecasting, super important. Now that Amazon opened up the floodgates a little bit with the storage limits, which it was very difficult for the last 18 months, now it seems like they're a little bit more open to you sending more product in. And as long as your product's moving, make sure that you have enough to carry you through six months, eight months, four months, whatever your lead time is for your product. Don't run short, because if you do, someone's going to swoop into your spot and take your spot.
Ryan Cramer: Right. Keep a good eye on that and keep replenishing as you can. So that's really great tips. Joe, if people want to get in touch with you, whether it be yourself, and just pick your brain on the seller side, or if, hey, they have an issue or something that comes up on the compliance side and they need Riverbend's help, what's the best way that people can do that?
Joe Zalta: Just to email me, joe @ riverbendconsulting. com, or they could just go to the website and they can fill out a form. But our team is super responsive. And you'd be surprised, there's tons of people on our team that know more than I do, a lot more.
Ryan Cramer: It's hard to imagine that, but no, I know there's so many people that they're just living in the weeds every single day. And they see the good, the bad and the ugly, and a lot of ugly. But your team has come out and helped a lot of people. I know that for a fact. So I have that link down below, Riverbend Consulting. inaudible everyone, check it out. Make sure you let them know that either Crossover Commerce or Ryan Cramer and PingPong Payments sent them over to you guys. And let them know who sent you. But Joe, thank you so much again for hopping on Crossover Commerce. It's a pleasure to talk with such a mind like yours. And you're going to be at Prosper, correct? Is that a fact?
Joe Zalta: Yes.
Ryan Cramer: We're marking that down as someone we can see walking around the floor?
Joe Zalta: Fact. I'll be there. And we have crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: Working the booth, right?
Joe Zalta: Working the booth. We have five or six people from our company there. So definitely come by and see us. Orange and blue is our color. So you'll see our big booth there.
Ryan Cramer: Right, you guys redesigned it. I think you got a new brand new booth recently, right? Is that true, or did I make that up?
Joe Zalta: crosstalk Yeah, yeah. No. We had a new booth last year. And we had a 20 x 10, so we needed more space so people can come and tell us their problems, because that's what we want to hear.
Ryan Cramer: That's right. Yeah, I wasn't making that up. I thought for a fact that you guys had a new booth. So the weird things that stick in my mind all the time, it's a mystery to me crosstalk-
Joe Zalta: You got to come see me this show, man. I got to meet crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: I'll be there. Yeah inaudible I was joking. I said," The rumors are true with everyone." I'm not a myth. I do exist. I will be at this conference in person. So we will definitely be meeting up there, for sure. But hey, thank you so much. I call everyone who makes it through a show, a friend of the show. So you're more than welcome to come on anytime and chat, insights and tips, tricks, anything you got up your sleeve, or just things you saw. We'd love to have you back on, Joe. So thank you so much for helping our Crossover Commerce.
Joe Zalta: Thank you, Ryan. My pleasure.
Ryan Cramer: Awesome. And then thank you again, Joe Zalta of Riverbank Consulting. You can go ahead and check out his link on LinkedIn. Again, you can email him, we already said that, joe @ riverbendconsulting. com. And you can check out all of the social links below in the LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter places where you're watching this right now, or in the show notes when you listen to this on audio version. Thank you so much, Joe. We have a packed lineup this week, everyone, on top of all of our other great people that we've had on the show this week is packed with. Tomorrow, we're going to be having Nathan Hirsch of Ecommerce Bookkeeping with EcomBalance, the third business that Nathan has launched in the Amazon services space. So I'm really excited to have him on. And then later this week we have Matt Steinbrecher of REACH talking about all about e- commerce payments. Of course, that's something that we know very well here at PingPong. And of course, rounding out the week on how to test with a purpose using audience creative and copy structures, all on the podcast this week. So you want to make sure you subscribe to our channels and follow us on social media or follow myself when we go live on these channels, to make sure that you get all the insights that these experts have. And of course, like Joe said, come see us over at Prosper Show, where we'll be there March 14th through 16th. That's when Prosper Show happens. We're at booth 532, actually not too far from the Riverbend booth. We're one row away, I think, last time I looked. We're nestled right between the [ GIMBA 00:52:05] and... I want to say it's the GIMBA and the Payability booths, as well as across from [ Thracea 00:52:10]. So if you're looking for any of those businesses, we're going to be right there as well. Just come by and say hi. I'll be there in person having a lot of exciting things going on at the PingPong booth. That being said, I'm Ryan Cramer. This is Crossover Commerce. As you guys always know, it's a pleasure, and always we'll catch you guys next time on another episode. Take care.
On Episode 223 of the Crossover Commerce Podcast, Ryan Cramer talks with Joe Zalta of Riverbend Consulting. They'll cover updated and successful ways to drive dales and convert traffic on Amazon.
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