"Owning" more of your Amazon Customer ⎜ Troy Johnston ⎜ EP 72

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This is a podcast episode titled, "Owning" more of your Amazon Customer ⎜ Troy Johnston ⎜ EP 72. The summary for this episode is: <p>Ryan Cramer of PingPong Payments talks with Troy Johnston of Seller.Tools, about "owning" more of your Amazon Customer. They also discuss systems and automation in FBA businesses.</p><p>---</p><p>Crossover Commerce is Presented by PingPong Payments. PingPong transfers more than 150 million dollars a day for eCommerce sellers just like you. Helping over 1 million customers now, PingPong has processed over 90 BILLION dollars in cross-border payments. Save with a PingPong account <a href="https://usa.pingpongx.com/us/index?inviteCode=ccpodcast" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">today</a>! </p><p>---</p><p><strong>Stay connected with Crossover Commerce and PingPong Payments:</strong></p><p>✅ Crossover Commerce @ <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CrossoverCommerce" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/CrossoverCommerce</a></p><p>✅ YouTube @ <a href="https://www.youtube.com/c/PingPongPayments" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/c/PingPongPayments</a></p><p>✅ LinkedIn @ <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/pingpongglobal/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/company/pingpongglobal/</a></p>

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. What's up, everyone? I'm your host, Ryan Cramer, and welcome to another episode of Crossover Commerce, presented by PingPong Payments. Episode 72 of our beautiful show. A little bit about PingPong before we get ingrained into our episode today. PingPong provides marketplace sellers and entrepreneurs global solutions for controlling their domestic and international funds. An account with PingPong enables companies to significantly reduce their cost when receiving or making international payments, all in one platform, to save time and increase operational efficiencies. It allows sellers to manage their business profits from one single source. To find out more information about how PingPong can save E- commerce businesses like yours money, go ahead and click on that link below, where we will guarantee you'll save at least 25% on your international payment fees. Go ahead and check that out, or just to learn more about PingPong Payments. It's a free account. Go ahead and sign up today. Again, for everyone who is watching on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitter, welcome to the show. This is Crossover Commerce. If you're new to the show, I go live about four to five times per week in order to bring you the best tips and tricks in the Amazon and E- commerce space. I'm really excited about my guest today. Again, this is live, so if you have questions, go ahead and put those in the comments in the spaces below. If you're watching on Facebook, LinkedIn, again, on Twitter, or YouTube, go ahead and check that out. If you can't watch a whole episode live, go ahead and subscribe to our social media channels, whether it's Crossover Commerce with Ryan Cramer on Facebook or on YouTube, as well. That is under the PingPong Payments YouTube channel. Just search PingPong Payments on YouTube and it'll be a playlist all to itself. Again, this is episode 72. We have 71 prior episodes that have awesome knowledge in different topics on the Amazon or E- commerce space. Again, four to five times per week, we're bringing you the latest and greatest in the Amazon space. If you can't catch us live, go ahead and subscribe to our podcast, also, on the audio form. We're also on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple, and Google Podcasts, truly, wherever you consume your podcasts. That's where we'll be. Just search Crossover Commerce, as well. About our guest today, a little bit about our intro to him. He is the co- founder of Seller. Tools, a robust suite of optimization tools, leveraging actual Amazon data. He sold one of his flagship brands for multiple seven figures and quickly moved to consulting for eight and nine figure clients on Amazon. He is obsessed with creating data- driven solutions for Seller. Tools' clients by empowering sellers with the best data, alongside exclusive features. You can find him in an amazing community of FBA sellers who are on Facebook on FBA Kings. The company Seller. Tools is an optimization and automation platform for FBA sellers, providing world class tools and solutions to manage Amazon businesses. This all- in- one platform, with over 10 unique tools, provides solutions of keyword research listing optimization, rebate automation, product ranking, review capture, and overall business optimization, helping seven and eight figure Amazon earners along the way with their cutting- edge tools, resources, and data for expert- level sellers. Why don't everyone go ahead and help me welcome and introduce to the show, Troy Johnston of Seller. Tools? Troy, what's up, man? How are you doing?

Troy Johnston: Hey, Ryan. Doing great. Glad to be here with you.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah. It's been a day. Like you said, you and I were chatting a little bit before this. I have lost track of what day it is already. It should be the weekend, in my mind. It's beautiful outside. My God, it's one of those days, man.

Troy Johnston: I know. I'm right there with you. It's a beautiful day here. I'm managing the sun, the lighting, but yeah, it's a beautiful day to be looking outside. I'm also just trying to get a grasp on what day it is. There's so much going on, but all good things.

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: It's a good kind of busy.

Ryan Cramer: Well, it's that way. I feel like 2021 has been more put your head on straight again. It's almost been spun around for an entire year. You see all these recaps now with a year later after the COVID pandemic hit, and you're like, " Oh, shit. That was a year?" I thought we were in 2030 already. My God. This has been so mind- spinning, but it's been both good and bad mind- spinning. Right? Because, obviously, all the bad things but come with good, and especially in our space. We're going to focus on the good, obviously. To kick us off, I always ask my guests what's your journey like? Tell people how you got to where you are today. What's that beautiful story that you get to paint to people that got you to where you are today?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I mean, my path was very... I mean, I guess I find it unique. I came from more of a corporate background myself, a lot more straight- laced, coming from a military family of going to school, doing well, great grades, paying for school myself, and just really a hard work ethic but following a little bit more of a traditional path of more corporate- type roles and positions.

Ryan Cramer: Nice.

Troy Johnston: So, this opportunity of Amazon E- commerce, it came about through exploring different side hustles, of ways that I was drawing up, " Okay." At the time, what my trade was in the corporate sphere was project management. I did that for a digital marketing company. I did it for a travel marketing- type of agency environment. I was always looking for different ways of making some side money and pursuing side hustles. At that point in time, this course and program, ASM, Amazing Selling Machine, was starting to get thrown about a little bit. Actually, where I initially heard of it, one of the side hustles I was starting to pursue was real estate investing. I was looking at wholesaling. I was looking at flipping, all these different ways.

Ryan Cramer: What year was this, by the way?

Troy Johnston: This would have been back in, roughly, 2015, I want to say, 2015.

Ryan Cramer: Okay.

Troy Johnston: At that point in time, I believe it is ASM2, if my memory is not failing me.

Ryan Cramer: From amazing. com. Right? Just to be on the same page.

Troy Johnston: Yes.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah.

Troy Johnston: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: I believe it's ASM2. Yeah.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I think that's right. I always forget and recall on the story. In its early phases, when it was really still, in all honesty, in terms of when I had initially seen it, it felt very... I don't want to say internet market- y, but it did. It was a little bit like, " What is this? What are people doing? They're selling on Amazon." It's not the way that we view it now, where it's like, " Oh, of course. Amazon is what it is." The ability to leverage it, the understanding of FBA logistics, the ease with which you inaudible.

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: All these things that we know we know. At first blush, back then, it was still somewhat unproven. Right? You would still see a few of the testimonials, and you'd see some of these examples. Me, in a corporate role, I just thought, " Well, that's either somebody else or it's just another opportunity out there."

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: But what actually came to be, the real estate investing group that I was a part of, they had an opportunity to where an angel investor would come in, pay for the course, and give you essentially seed capital, would help you buy your first run of inventory. All you had to do was just say why you'd be a great fit and submit a few paragraphs. I did it on a whim. It was over a weekend. I won that, had an angel investor come in, have us then kick off the course and initiate the process. Really, through all of that, the foundation of me starting more of an entrepreneurial journey, but also getting truly into the FBA space, happened all at once.

Ryan Cramer: You got thrown in the deep end, man.

Troy Johnston: Exactly. Exactly. I'd never worked with an angel investor. Again, somebody who's a little bit more straight- laced and corporate, these are the things that you just hear in passing but you're just like, "No. I've got my 9: 00 to 5: 00." I've got my things that I know that I have to do in front of me, versus...

Ryan Cramer: I have healthcare. I have all this other stuff.

Troy Johnston: Exactly. Yeah. The security. Yeah. So, that really kicked things off for me. It was a great time to get into FBA, for sure, where if you were aggressive, there was a really disproportionate advantage for those that were willing to deploy more, invest more heavily. Yeah. That's really what kicked things off for me in building some my initial brands. That was a journey for about two years, two and a half years, before I sold my first brand on Amazon.

Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. So, you were going in more of the investment route. Investment meant, back then, that they would give you capital to start your business on FBA. Right? Just so we're all clear, on the same page. You had to pitch an idea or a product to see, I'm assuming. Correct?

Troy Johnston: To the angel investor?

Ryan Cramer: To the angel investor. Yeah. What was the pitch like? Walk me through that pitch. What was that like back in 2015? Obviously, things have changed now in terms of investments because you've got money throwing around like it's water. They're giving it away for free, basically.

Troy Johnston: Right.

Ryan Cramer: Back then, people are like, " It's an unproven..." Well, I won't say unproven. FBA got really sexy in 2014,'15,'16. I would say that timeframe. That's the marker when everyone really got excited. What was an investor looking at back then? You've talked to investors now. What's changed, clearly? Maybe walk through your personal perspectives in that regards both ways.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. It was really interesting. The angel investor I ended up working with, he was very close with the content creator, the main affiliate, that, again, was part of this real estate investing network. So, I think there was a greater expectation of success by virtue of this angel investor being so close to the affiliate. So, for me, in the process, it was pretty fluid. I was requesting samples from China. I was looking at a few things domestically- sourced. So, there was a good amount of discovery where I was able to... I wasn't blowing through cash or anything like that, but I was just figuring this thing out along the way. Fortunately, I didn't have to give any huge pitch or anything that was like, " Hey, we should go with this product for this category. Here's the longterm vision." I really stumbled into what would be my first product. That then informed what the entire brand looked like and the product mix. It was a few fortunate steps, I would say. One of the things that was an indication, a real small thing, but I think this is the story with business, is that combing through some of the ASM resources and the course materials, there was a handful of 50 product ideas. One of the things that stood out to me was a beautiful product. I thought, " Well, hey. Let me explore it." I start going down the rabbit hole, venturing and looking at different vendors, and that was the seed of the inspiration from which the entire brand ended up being built out of. In that sense, in terms of the investor relationship, and just the openness and the fluidity, looking back on it... Again, I think about it today. Because there's such an influx of capital, cash, and exposure, there is, I think, a brighter light on FBA.

Ryan Cramer: inaudible

Troy Johnston: I feel like those circumstances would be quite rare. Right? I'd be the same way, Ryan, if somebody was like, " Yeah, you can be an angel investor," but slide them$10, 000 and say, " Well, go on your way," versus, " Give me a pitch. Give me a business plan." Lay things out for me. So, I was fortunate in that sense.

Ryan Cramer: No. That's cool.

Troy Johnston: Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: That's not an opportunity, I think. People are more acquiring and building it now. We talked about this, too. Again, for everyone who's watching or listening, if you have questions for Troy and I, again, feel free to comment. Make sure you say hi if you're watching in passing, or if you aren't watching this live, go ahead and comment your thoughts because we will also see that later. If you're watching in the FBA Kings group, or if you're watching on any social media platform where PingPong Payments is, go ahead and say hi. Give us your thoughts. We're going to be talking into more about owning your Amazon ecosystem. It's actually pretty topical because of recent updates that Amazon's actually doing. When I saw this, and I looked at that update, I go, " Hot damn. Look at that timing. We're going to go down a really nice hole." Yeah. What's up, Sharon, from FBA Alphas, as well. Check her and her group out. Thanks for dropping by and saying hi. When we're talking about investors, obviously, now aggregators are the big space right now. It's really interesting to see that people have a different mentality going into FBA. Right? It went from side hustle to, " I'm going to break away from 9: 00 to 5: 00." Now it's going to be, " I'm going to have a full- time job." Now it's going to be, " I'm going to start a brand, so I can build an opportunity to exit in two years, and then get a nice, really big paycheck from this asset that I've built." Why this evolution in mentality of a brand? Where did that come from? Is it the money that's coming into the space? Is it just the businesses that people have been able to build through tools like you guys, or just through education and forums? What's that evolution been like for you?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I think it's a beast that's fed itself, especially, too, in the backdrop of COVID, E- commerce, and you say, " Okay, what's the biggest puzzle piece there," in terms of Amazon. Then the biggest puzzle piece just gets bigger. We're in such unique times, for sure. Looking back in a five, six year period of time, a relatively short period of time, just to see how it's exploded, and to your point, Ryan, the inaudible industries, the SaaS, the payment solutions. All of these things that really are bolted onto the whale that is Amazon, they also feed themselves, too. Right? We're different ways of helping brands come online and then effectively scale, and I think the aggregators and the PEs, the VCs, it's the eventuality. It's easy to say you could see the writing on the wall. It's just, I think, where we're at now, it's really interesting. I think when you allude to businesses as assets, and we were throwing around some ideas before we hopped online, I think this is where brands or individual sellers have a unique opportunity to think about a non- traditional path to developing or creating their asset, and the means with which they pull the value out of it. Those are the ideas I'm exploring when it comes to the brands that we run or the brands that we're starting, and the captive audience, and the leverage that Amazon gives you. You already have such a high watermark of being able to capture... The ease with which you can get a product to a fulfillment center, the ease with which Amazon will get that to a customer, and the vastness of that network as it's ever- growing, I mean, I'm an Amazon fan.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah. Exactly.

Troy Johnston: It's just no signs of slowing down. I think it'll just be really interesting to see, as there maybe gets to be more normalcy, and people are getting out, and they're experiencing things, and maybe traveling. A present that looks different than our most recent past, I think will be really telling for how E- commerce responds, and new categories coming back online, and old categories that have been faltering, brands that you've almost churned PPC out. There's no sense in getting into travel, luggage, those types of things. Yeah. It's both an interesting time now, in terms of what's gotten us here, but I think the next six months into 2022, it's just going to be really interesting to watch and see, especially from a seller's perspective, brand perspective, of owning your customer with that backdrop. Right?

Ryan Cramer: Right. That's a topic that, again, we've put it in quotes, everyone. You're not actually owning, again, your customer. It's a hypothetical. Give us a break. We're playing on words here. But owning a customer, and if people are new to this space, this is something that they may not understand, what data and accessible information they have in order to almost build a following. Right? Everyone wants to build a brand now. You're not just selling a product. You're building yourself, whether it's a brand that's personal, or you're building a company brand. Now, Amazon doesn't help you in many capacities. It used to be that in their Amazon- fulfilled shipments report, you'd be able to look at a customer's name and look at their business, or their address, or wherever they're ordering from. Right? In that net ecosystem, people like Seller. Tools, or companies like Seller. Tools, you can make lookalike audiences and start retargeting where they're located, finding people that were buying online, your products, and finding them through social media and things like that. That's going away as of, I want to say, April 8th, I think is the right day, or what I wrote down. How big of an impact is that for sellers who are both, A, starting out, and then, B, scaling their business?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. No. It's absolutely huge. I mean, that really shows up in the funnel, in the discovery or finding customers, and hopefully, supporting, and engaging, and building loyalty, as well. That's where I know, disproportionately, a number of sellers were utilizing this data and figuring out ways of, " Hey, how do I deliver relevant ads to a captive audience?" So, at the seller level, it makes things quite challenging. Not to bolt on another crosstalk

Ryan Cramer: What else could go wrong, Troy?

Troy Johnston: Exactly.

Ryan Cramer: I'm just kidding.

Troy Johnston: The other news, too, is Google moving away from individual- level targeting. They're moving to cohorts, where you anonymize at the individual level, but you see groups and clusters of people. There's all the hypothesizing and playing out hypotheticals of what that looks like, but what it does mean, very clearly, is individual- level visibility, which as a brand owner, we start with the premise that you want to know who your customer is. You want to know how to engage with them, how to support them, the types of things they want to hear and see from you as a brand, and you want to cultivate that in terms of a longterm relationship. Without question, this is a knock, two knocks, on both of those fronts, on being able to reliably do that.

Ryan Cramer: In that regard, is that more negative on the Google side, or is that more negative on the Amazon side, do you think?

Troy Johnston: Relatively speaking, I think... Well, I'm biased in this. I think the Amazon update probably has a more drastic change, only because the groans and the responses from this update were very apparent, very apparent.

Ryan Cramer: I was going to say, what's your audience taking on this? This wasn't a shock to a lot of people in this space. It almost had writing on the wall. Is this more of it was going to happen eventually, so people have... It's lessened the blow a little bit? What's that response for your guys' audience?

Troy Johnston: From the audience, I think there was more of a... Because I felt quite differently. I knew it was... You almost treat it like it's already gone.

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: That expectation should be set. I think the surprise caught me a little bit by surprise because I'm thinking we're at a point now, we've been through a number of protocols by Amazon, audits that they conduct to make sure that the safe use of this type of data, we can reliably share.

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: So, at the seller level, there's no mechanism there to know that somebody's being a good actor. Because this is data you can abuse. I mean, let's be real.

Ryan Cramer: 100%.

Troy Johnston: When you know who somebody is, you can spam them. That could be a byproduct of that access.

Ryan Cramer: Not just online. You could do anything physically, too. You can send them mailers. You can send them phone calls. There's a lot of different ways to, like you said, spam a customer. Amazon's always touting customer is number one. Safety and security of a customer is always going to be first and foremost. So, as a seller, this is a definite blow, but as a consumer, this is maybe a good thing. Obviously, it's more protection. Yeah. It's interesting, for sure. Sorry to cut you off there.

Troy Johnston: No. No. No. To your point, the response, I think, it's been a surprise, mostly in terms of its timing. Obviously, you have a 30 days countdown here. I know a lot of people are doing a look back. They're exploring other tools. At the seller level, again, it makes sense. For us, let's say at Seller. Tools, where if we meet those compliance standards, and there's the availability of order or customer- relevant data, that, to me, I think, painted my perspective of let's assume at the seller level, this is really going to phase out, which is unfortunate. Like I said, I know many who have used it. We're talking about spamming but the other end of the spectrum is just supporting your customer. Wanting to know what their experience is like. How can you do better? Meaningful conversations. A D2C good business practice. Interest in the buying experience. That can taper off, as well. You have to take it all for what it is. This is where we've been already in a big period of adjustment for... Let's say other factors, things that we utilize that help us with owning the customer experience. Things like Minichat have gone through drastic changes, really since about the time of the election, into this year. This is where I know sellers, the groans probably got louder because some of their main strategies have been altered, to a degree. Then we've got this Amazon news, and then we have this looming Google news. I think, for me, it reinforces... Brand owners look at this as an opportunity. They see a lot of groaning, a lot of concerns, a lot of maybe inaction. That is a perfect environment from which to be more aggressive, to pivot more completely, and recapture some amount of predictability. This data can sometimes be core elements to your systems and some of your automations. So, it may be foundational changes you have to make where, " Hey, this strategy has to be tweaked. We have to fold in this other tool, process, system." I do think it speaks to how powerful having this data, at the end of the day, was.

Ryan Cramer: So, what are you guys suggesting to sellers? Is it go back in as far back as you can get, download those reports, and download the customer data, use it as best you can to still create lookalike audiences? Because you've got about two weeks or so. That's the grace period that Amazon's, theoretically, giving people, theoretically, giving people to do that. Is that what your guys are suggesting? Still utilize the data as you can, but once it's gone, this is what we're going to suggest next. What's that mindset from you and Seller. Tools?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I would say, first and foremost, the Google motto or creed, don't be evil when you pull this data. Same point that we're touching on of spam. Don't use it in such an exhaustive... You think you've got to be so aggressive. Handle it with care. Utilize it to look at maybe audience targeting and those types of things, where somebody has to opt in, as opposed to being so overt. Yeah. It is a good practice to go ahead and capture that data while you have it, utilize it in a safe manner. I would encourage exploring other options that maybe help with the objectives you're aiming to achieve. Tools that we work with at Seller. Tools, things like Zontracker, which does some of the lookalike audience and the audience building We work very closely with them to say, " Okay, what data do we have? How can we paint a clear enough picture to where there is the reliability in that targeting?" Especially, again, if you're staying at the seller level, it may be really hard to give systems like Facebook, or other ad platforms, adequate inputs to reliably serve up relevant ads to a relevant audience. Again, there are tools that have jumped through the hoops, that have more data right now. The other piece of this, which is crucial, this is where you weigh your strategy overall on Amazon, is how are you currently owning the pre and post purchase for a majority of your customers? This is where you have to weigh Amazon PPC, which is ever- evolving, ever- changing... It makes sense. Right? You put a billboard up on the highest- trafficked area in the neighborhood, you're going to get a lot of eyeballs, and that, hopefully, turns into sales. But the transactional nature of that can be very limiting in the sense of truly owning your Amazon customer. This is where you have to throw everything out there, put everything on the board, and say, " Well, if PPC is my pre- purchase to get somebody in the door and transact with me, well, maybe I'm selectively using product inserts, or a sticker, or customizing my packaging to where that's my way of cultivating post- purchase." Value in the form of you name it. FAQs E- book, or a coupon for your next purchase, or a free sample.

Ryan Cramer: Free download. Anything like that. Yeah.

Troy Johnston: Exactly. The immediacy of value post- purchase can be your hedge of the fact that I'm not really owning pre- purchase. My billboard may be the best. It may have the best position on Amazon. But I might weigh that against being able to own what the back half of that transaction, that customer experience, really looks like.

Ryan Cramer: Right. So, does this movement of Google, or any of those other services that we just talked about, does this invite black hat more into the fold? Do you think this pushes more innovation, in your mind?

Troy Johnston: I think both. I think both. crosstalk

Ryan Cramer: That's a double- edged sword. Of course, it's going to do both, but where do you... yeah.

Troy Johnston: Go ahead, Ryan. Sorry.

Ryan Cramer: No. I was going to say everyone tries to tout, " Get away from the black hat tactics," because if you get caught, hand in the cookie jar, it's not going to be well for your brand. That being said, with ways that you're being minimized in terms of how to either launch, or grow, or scale your business, do you think that pushes people more towards the dark side, light side? What does that look like for you guys, or do you think comes from this?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. No. I think that's a great point. Honestly, I think it can lead to innovative black hat strategies at the same time. You get this melding of all of these things together. Right?

Ryan Cramer: It was genius, but those sons of bitches. Are you kidding me? Something like that. That was definitely not okay, but that was definitely something very smart.

Troy Johnston: Right.

Ryan Cramer: We've all seen it done in various capacities and pushing the envelope. Yeah. Is there a way that you think might be more predominant than the other? You might see something reemerge that we got rid of as sellers, or that we saw disappear but now might reemerge because of these efforts?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I mean, the way my lens with which to view it, and I think this it's a great way to approach it, is the mechanisms that are more specifically owning... again, I'm very biased to Minichat because you weigh something... Minichat and chat marketing in general. The ability to own the entirety of that customer journey, and you weigh that against Amazon, they are in as absolute stark contrast as you can imagine. Again, taking the PPC billboard example, it's you pay to play, to show up, to transact, versus Minichat, I can talk to that customer in realtime, automatically. I can have certain conditions to customers going to certain parts of my flows and getting certain offers, or certain eligibility requirements. It's why we lean more heavily on those types of tools, to mitigate and hedge against the relative lack of control on Amazon. I think sellers really need to weigh that into their strategy, figuring out, " What's my highest control mechanism?" We're seeing email making a bit more of a comeback. Messenger, again, has undergone its changes. It's as imperfect as Amazon. There's not a disparity there, necessarily. Then same with the use of this customer data and it phasing out. A mirror of that is how we use things like SMS via Minichat, because it can be a very intrusive way of contacting a customer, unless that customer really wants to know who you are and engage with you on an ongoing basis. So, if you work with that premise, you really do cultivate a great relationship. Those types of high control, but with great power comes great responsibility strategies, are working absolutely... It's exceptional. Right? Because at the same time, if you have an objective you want to achieve on Amazon, if you send a customer a text message, they may be acting in five or 10 minutes. You send them an email, you're going to wait 48 hours to maybe get the open, to maybe get the click. crosstalk

Ryan Cramer: Three percent of open rate.

Troy Johnston: Exactly. crosstalk

Ryan Cramer: You funnel it all the way down there. Interesting. Does this push people more towards platforms like a Shopify, or a commerce site that they have full capacity in terms of owning that customer journey, driving traffic, but then also capturing that information? Do you think this is another check mark in, " Hey, get on freaking Shopify. Get on these other marketplaces that your brand fits and your products fit." Is this just another push in that direction, as well?

Troy Johnston: I think so, but I add that with a bit of hesitation. My determination for success, when I look at a brand, or running a brand, is you want to win a majority, if not all, of your keywords for your product.

Ryan Cramer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Troy Johnston: There is probably about a handful of the millions of sellers on Amazon that really actually do that. Right? There's still so much meat on the bone for why you're on Amazon, how to win on Amazon, the potential of what that really looks like. So, I worry about that for brands, of thinking, " Oh, okay. Here's this major change. Now I need to bolt on and more substantially increase my own website, or this other channel that I was maybe considering, but I don't have maybe the optimization know how, I don't know what levers to pull to predictably scale there." So, there may be, as a reaction, that pivot, but I would add that as a bit of a caveat. Don't let it be so damaging to the point where you're just reacting as opposed to analyzing your strategy and saying, " Well, maybe I'm going to bolt on some of these higher control mechanisms." You can still scale your website, but I know that there's a lot of lean operators, smaller teams. You can only do so much. You can only spend your time in so many places. If that's considered, just make sure it's not just an, "Oh, this happened, so I have to do this." It's more of, " Okay, I'm going to mitigate some of the downside by maybe growing my list. Maybe I start cross- pollinating my lists and some of my offers with my website."

Ryan Cramer: Interesting. What's that line in the sand then, Troy? What's the point that's going to push Amazon sellers or 3P sellers... They can't function on this platform anymore? You take this away, I can't build a profitable business. What is that threshold, if you will? Is it a quantifiable thing that Amazon provides people, like seller data in this example? I know you will see people, " Hey, no more on Amazon." What's that quantifiable thing that's going to move people completely one way or another? If Amazon enhanced it, or got rid of it entirely?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. I mean, I think the answer, in terms of innovation really being a result of this... I think there's always going to be ways of figuring out what Amazon rewards. Sometimes you may feel like you're doing it with one hand tied behind your back, and you're limited in the ways in which you can do that. Sellers are creative. It is wild to see how they can really grasp what the algorithm is telling us, reading the tea leaves, and then being able to implement strategies that are relatively future- proof but will welcome some amount of adaptation. Because at the end of the day, we all get on Amazon to rank on Amazon. That's the pie in the sky. You're organically ranking to where if somebody searches for a relevant keyword or phrase, you're the top result. You've won on the largest commerce platform to ever exist. So, it's one of those things where what we know the algorithm wants is perceivably organic, diversified traffic turning into strong buyer intent. This is where those control mechanisms, with that lens and that strategy, really aim to serve you. I think as long as we have some amount of control, which we should. Right? We're driving external traffic. We have control over that mechanism. When you have a conversation, or even if you're utilizing emails, if you can close that loop... This one- way communication is what was really problematic with things like email, historically. SMS and Messenger, obviously, get around that, where you can have a conversation. " Oh, well, go complete this over. Well, let's have our conversation." We can have the continuity. We can have the support. We can address head on the intentionally transactional nature that Amazon wants to be. Right? Their philosophy is you're transacting with their customer. We always fight against that. Right? That's the tug- of- war that we have, and this is where you get the interpretation of TOS and the spirit of selling on Amazon. That's really just not going to go away. Yeah. I mean, I feel like every year, shoot, for Amazon, every six months, we have a new table that's set, but there are threads of these consistent themes of what does the algorithm reward? You're on the platform because the leverage, the ease with which you're able to access millions of customers. So, you get there easy, and then the scalability is really what does the algorithm, ultimately, reward? Owning the customer, that's a crucial piece in the equation.

Ryan Cramer: Right. So, this affects not just first- time buyers. This change affects loyalty in customers and repeat buyers. Does this effectively enhance the need to advertise with DSP, or just any other sort of ad network that Amazon comes out with in the future? Does this enhance that ability to say, " Look how more valuable we are? We know the customer." It's almost like you used to know the customer but we actually know the customer. So, you can get in front of that customer with our resources. Does that lend that way to you at all?

Troy Johnston: I think so. I think that's a bit of the organic transition, where DSP has enough of an access barrier, but it has such great utility in terms of the insights. I mean, you have to spend hours, and days, and weeks to really take DSP to its potential, but I think you're right, Ryan. It's like this is this powerful thing that was a supplement, too, where it's going to start expanding in terms of its influence and its value to sellers. We're, obviously, utilizing it in our brands, and that's what we're exploring, is what kind of advantage does this get for different audience networks, different audience insights, different ads that we can deliver at scale. Yeah. It's a really powerful... I think it's getting to a place where it's going to be essential for most sellers to explore utilizing it to really validate it, but it's also really robust. It's a pretty huge system from which Amazon makes all these little features available.

Ryan Cramer: Exactly. You are a seller and still, you have brands on Amazon. What are the exciting things for people that you're still saying, " Hey, even though all this is happening, shoot, you can still be a successful seller on Amazon. You can still build a successful brand." What are those things that you're still able to play up and say, "You've got X, Y, and Z. There's still all this opportunity out there for people who might be dipping their feet into Amazon or selling on E- commerce." What's still that pitch, still, for you?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. For sure. I think all of these changes, for somebody who's maybe just getting in, or just getting their legs underneath them in terms of selling on Amazon, viewing a lot of these changes and a lot of the frustration positively. The dust has yet to settle. It's one of those things where that's what we're doing with our brands, realigning our strategy and trying to create predictable scale. So, major shifts right now, I think, are more exponential because you have a lot of people that are just unsettled. Again, we see this on the Minichat side, where only just now is the foundation resettling. This change, a lot of people where they're delivering ads for inaudible traffic, that mechanism may go away. They may explore DSP but maybe it's just an idea. They're not actually pursuing it actively. I think with all of it, it's one of those things where if you can operate with more certainty and be a bit more aggressive, I think it presents a unique opportunity. I had a conversation with a seller the other day about this. My perspective is on the SaaS side versus my perspective as a seller. As a seller, I love this. I love it. It's great. Uncertainty makes people lack confidence. They're not as quick to move. They don't maybe necessarily explore those opportunities. As a tool provider, we want people to be like, " Hey, chill. Figure out maybe what you want to do next. We offer different solutions and automations that support you." It's the different perspectives you can take on this, but I think that's the key point. How you approach it, I think it can lend itself to somebody, if you just can cut through while everybody else is just figuring out what's going on. There's more exponential returns there.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Innovation, that's where it comes from, but it also is the nightmare that keeps most SaaS companies up at night, of, " God damn it, Amazon." One change and you get calls from customers on emails. This is a story. I remember when Amazon changed their review policy. I was actually with friend of the show, Hinson Wu. We were in- person. This was, what, two years ago, the request review tool became a one click automation function. That was the core of their bit. It still is a core of their business. They've innovated since then. Emails upon emails and messages, you're like, " Oh, you still use us like it's okay." Then it's months later, we had to rewrite certain components of it. We had to change other things that were just the basis and foundation of what we built on. That's just frustrating from a SaaS company to constantly, again, either launching your products, being a final launch. We did that five different times, at least when I was there. I know other launch companies, PPC companies, are constantly changing, and ebbing, and flowing. With more information they can get, they can build out more features and functionalities and whatnot. It's a dizzying place to be in. Why are you doing it? That's my question. Why is Seller. Tools still like, " We're still going to stick it out. We're still going to be out there for our customers?" Why are you guys still doing that for them?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. No. It's a great point. It's right at the crux of, I think, the point you made earlier in terms of innovation. We see things aren't what they used to be. Things have changed quite dramatically. So, what unique way can we address a pretty glaring pain point, while still focusing on the key objectives of Amazon? I always talk about ranking reviews. Your day, disproportionately, should be to get a quality product to Amazon, and then it's ranking reviews, ranking reviews. That is your 80/ 20 of success on Amazon. So, we really try to look at these impediments, these hurdles that sellers are experiencing, and then we say, " Okay, how do we reverse engineer? If ranking reviews is still the disproportionate focus form, how do we do that while addressing these pain points head on?" Not to say that some of the innovation itself hasn't presented some challenges. Like I said, with Minichat, a lot of people know us for that. We had to weather that storm where so many were getting tagged, compliance, EU, Facebook general sensitivity post- election, post- election, and we had to really weather that. Now on the other side, it's exciting to tackle these types of things, of figuring out how you can own your customer, reliably know who they are, understand that Amazon likes a higher quality customer, how do you mitigate, maybe deal chase? Those types of things that we know from just launching products and building brands, we know those pain points all too well. That's the stuff we deal with day in and day out. It's our frustrations, and beating on the desk for all the things that we have to deal with. It's fun. That's the fun thing. If you can add the tech, we can add the automation. We're the same way with our brands. We're very small, very agile. So, tools like ours almost become a necessity just by virtue of the fact that we don't like a lot of bloat, a lot of excess. It's just how do we get the most important things done, and scale from there.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah. You said with Minichat, obviously, that's your favorite topic. What changed? I only know very high level information. What was the major component that changed, whether it's good or bad for sellers, and how sellers, if they haven't used Minichat, maybe they look at it as a component of their business moving forward?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. It was a wide variety of things that we saw, one after the other. One of the things that popped up was tag compliance. So, there was the interpretation of how Messenger, Facebook, shares how you're supposed to apply tags. Many sellers were running into the mis- implementation, the general misunderstanding. Minichat has helped to illuminate that a little bit more. It's become far more clear. One of the other things that we saw was Facebook pages being pinged, that there was claims of potential fraud, deception, where people were offering things, maybe using language they shouldn't have, or not following through and then a customer is reporting them. There seemed to be an elevated sensitivity to that for a pretty short period of time. So, we were seeing that. We were seeing tags. We were seeing pages come down. We were seeing EU, if you had somebody on your team who was out of Europe. Admin notifications, you were getting pinged and notified for that, and then EU itself. European activity had its own set of rules and regulations to abide by. So, everybody was really stressing themselves over all of this cascade of changes to where the dust has settled a lot more now for Messenger and Minichat. Similarly, in a smaller scope, those that have pivoted to email, SMS, that have created more lookalikes of their existing audience, have focused on a warmer audience and gotten away from direct response. That's a big part in this, too, in terms of owning your customer. If you're not always constantly throwing out your fish pole to find fish, in this analogy, instead, taking the reality of Amazon, how easy it is to transact, and focusing more on the post- purchase. You can open up that communication loop with that customer. You can encourage sharing with friends and family. You can potentially even incentivize it to where you grow a far more receptive audience instead of just throwing out that fishing pole and seeing who's going to bite.

Ryan Cramer: Where's the information that people can just grasp Amazon's not going to rain on my parade? Is there a list? Is there certain ways that people can look and say, " Oh, this is an easy thing for me to do?" Is it an insert? Is it a product, photography, or part of the packaging? What are the easy ways for people to consume? " Maybe I ought to look at this a lot more and try to come up with my own idea, that I'm not going to get in trouble with." Right? That's everyone's major focus. " I don't want to get in trouble with Amazon, but I also want to innovate and grow."

Troy Johnston: Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: What are those ways that people can push the boundaries? I say push boundaries, within reason.

Troy Johnston: Right. Yeah. No. I mean, one of the things that we ... not to pitch this. We just did it, and I think it's a great way to approach it. With that product insert strategy, we actually have a free flow that helps to do this, where you can...

Ryan Cramer: Oh, cool.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. Have your customer scan a QR code, go through a Minichat flow. You can offer them a free product, a free sample, value. You want to focus just purely on value post- purchase. Then what we're actually able to do with that is... You might think, " Okay, well, I'll just request a review write in Minichat." What we can actually do is trigger the Amazon 2S compliant review request. So, we just use the function of Minichat to time that well to where you have this good will. Right? If somebody sends you a$ 20 gift, you probably have a nice, and happy, and warmer feeling about them, versus they just transacted with you on Amazon. They're just one of many on their list of orders that they've completed as an Amazon shopper. That helps you get in front of them, deliver value. You can decide to request a review, or you can take it for what it is. Now you have the value of a customer, and you can grow from that. As soon as they're in Minichat, you start to know who they are. You can request additional information but Facebook gives you a lot more insights at that customer avatar level. It's far more granular than just transacting with them on Amazon, and now we know, again, what kind of reports you don't get to know who that customer is.

Ryan Cramer: What's the must- know piece of information to have a customer? Is it the email? Is that the golden goose? That's the thing you have to have in order to make a relevant audience lookalike, or a relevant customer? Essentially, that's the one component that you have to have. Not name, not phone number. What's the most valuable piece of information you can get from a customer?

Troy Johnston: We like to have both, honestly. We like to have email and SMS. crosstalk I know.

Ryan Cramer: I thought I was going to get one or the other. crosstalk

Troy Johnston: I know. I'm sorry.

Ryan Cramer: It's all good.

Troy Johnston: Email is strong. Phone numbers have the greatest confidence level. Right? So, if we think about this, and this is something we're exploring more, your phone number, you've probably had it for, what, two, five, maybe 10 years?

Ryan Cramer: Probably 10 years. Yeah.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. Same goes for me. crosstalk

Ryan Cramer: It was when Cingular was bought out by Amazon. No. Who bought Amazon? It was an orange logo. I forget now. I think it's Cingular.

Troy Johnston: Cingular. Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: That was a long time... That was at least 12 years ago.

Troy Johnston: Did you have a Nokia phone, too?

Ryan Cramer: No. I'm trying to think. What did Amazon become? Maybe I did. Maybe I did. I might have. So, this is a funny thing. I say that because some company has bought the data from Cingular and now they can spam my phone number, which is why I know if you have 765... That's my area code, from North Indy to Lafayette, close to near Chicago. If you have that phone number, you're definitely going to get spam because if it looks like... Because you get those spam calls now. It's really frustrating. Anyway.

Troy Johnston: Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: You're saying phone number, number one. inaudible is part of the key, too.

Troy Johnston: Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: Along with email.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. It's very strong. If you can capture both, and obviously, this just starts painting more of a picture for your customers. Minichat makes this really nice, where you can create local likes right in their tool, right in their platform. So, it really just feeds into itself. I like the analogy of a snowball. Once you have 50 customers coming in, once you start knowing who they are, capturing phone number, capturing email, you can create a relevant lookalike audience. You can serve them a flow that incentivizes sharing to friends and family. That may be another really captive audience, an in- market, product- relevant, captive audience. Then you really start growing it from there. The beauty, too, is once you have phone numbers, you don't need this exorbitant list of 5,000, 10, 000 customers. You can have a very curated VIP list of 1, 500, maybe even 2, 000 people. Once you have that awesome open rate, awesome follow through rate, and you handle it with really great care, it's really powerful.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah. So, when you basically have built that lookalike audience, like I said, it doesn't have to be big. What's that look like to your audience? Are you serving them relevant sales information? What are you guys doing to say, " Handle with care?" What does that mean to you? Is it certain cadences that you're always going to send? How often you're going to be sending them information? You don't want to spam them. What does that lookalike package that you guys tout to sellers?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. So, if you're taking, too, a lookalike of, let's say it's 100 of your current customers. You've brought them in post- purchase. You have their Messenger information. You have email. You have phone. Then you create a lookalike of that audience. Now, mind you, you'd probably want to go a little bit more than 100. Of course, the more, the better.

Ryan Cramer: Right.

Troy Johnston: More data.

Ryan Cramer: Of course.

Troy Johnston: It just paints a clear picture. This is where tools like Zontracker are really powerful, again, for giving you a more complete tapestry of what that audience is, and can be. Then what we often do is still build out a funnel, a top, middle, and bottom of funnel. This is where, depending on your budget, depending on your ad spend, you may be mitigating more of that... or doing less of that top of funnel. Let's say it's not as informational, it's not as how you can use this product or how it resonates with a niche. Maybe it's more getting into offers, getting into interest, and getting more direct response, too. Right? I really like things like BOGO offers, which fit very nicely with some of the categories I sell in. Usually the numbers make more sense. It also is a little bit more compelling, sometimes visually, sometimes, again, what your product is. It's more direct response without just saying, " Here's 50% off." Just an over the top offer to get a customer in. So, it is still building out a funnel. It's still trying to give them enough of an experience to warm them up, if your budget permits. Yeah. That's an audience, too, we'd go back to, and try to get them to transact. What I would say is that 1, 000 foot view, in terms of your overalls strategy, is just making sure that however you're getting your both pre and post- purchase, is that you are feeding into this a lot more, and not making these types of executions one- off, where you're just doing, " Oh, okay. Now I've got 100. Now I've got a lookalike audience." Because you're leaving parts of your audience on the sidelines. A paid broadcast messages, let's say you've exhausted your 24 hours. You've exhausted your one- time notification. You may go back to those 100 customers and say, " Hey, we have this other product," adding in another relevant keyword, " that you may be interested in. As part of it, we'd love for you to share in your social media channels to be eligible for this offer." So, letting your audience create your audience is also a big part, and should be a big part, of your strategy. That's the other aspect of using chat marketing or Facebook- centric marketing. People are already in that social mindset. There's no this hesitation, necessarily, to share if you make it quite easy.

Ryan Cramer: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Troy Johnston: That's where you can bolt that on, versus just saying, " I've got one audience. I need to make another one." It's, " How do I grow this thing to where it starts to feed itself?" Then you're curating as opposed to just, " Okay, whoever comes in the door, I'll take." Who's following through? How are they acting? How are they responding to my bots? What kind of offers are more compelling to them? Then you get to have some fun with the segmentation and the curation.

Ryan Cramer: Well, even on top of that, you can go down the funnel of, " Hey, I'm looking for more lifestyle imagery for a new product, or a product that you purchased. Hey, if you send us images of your product that you purchased, we would love to feature those in our social channels. Just tag us or whatnot," and you use the social proof of your customers to post it on, again, the influencer network that they're more than likely to be sharing this one, and tagging you into it, building up the proof. People end up following you. So, it's easier to get those free audiences and build up those social channels, as well, but then, again, working that influencer network, or the micro- influencer network, to really tout, like you said, share with friends and family, or share with your audience, or build it out with this. Even giving them free product, or say, " Hey, we'll give you a discount in the future for the next product or next product launch." Yeah. I agree with you. That's really how they're trying to innovate and use those audiences to manufacture this wave to, again, make your brand feel better when you go to exit, make you more valuable in that context, as well. I know we're at the top of the hour, which again, an hour always flies by with me. I've always just been like, " Well, it's going to be an hour." You never know. We're always going to go down a rabbit hole. Yeah. Troy, what are the best ways that people can learn more about you, Seller. Tools? Obviously, we just scratched the surface in owning an audience. What are the best ways they can learn more about the things you guys are doing, or connect with you in general?

Troy Johnston: Yeah. No. The first thing I would mention is what we touched on in terms of that product insert flow. We actually have a template for the product insert you can take a look at. You can find that at Bitly/ freegiftflow, or through the Seller. Tools blog. I would definitely encourage checking that out if you're looking at ways of building out your post- purchase strategy. Everything is also fully customizable. A lot of times you see a template and you think, "Oh, I only have to use this," or, " I can't change anything." Whether it's the messaging, whether it's the sequence, that's the real beauty of using a tool like Minichat and Seller. Tools. Yeah. If people want to join us in FBA Kings, if you're not already part of that, definitely join the group, a conversation there. Yeah. Reach out any time. Seller. Tools, hello @ seller. tools. You can always mention if you have any questions for me. Glad to help everybody out. Yeah. Those are some ways of getting in touch.

Ryan Cramer: Awesome. Thanks for everyone watching, again, from Christina. Great stuff, guys. Entertaining and really informative. We appreciate all the social commentary. It's always good to know that people care about what we're talking about. Right? You don't want to talk about... No one's listening, so it's always crosstalk

Troy Johnston: I don't mind chatting with you, Ryan. We can riff all day.

Ryan Cramer: Yeah. Exactly. That's where things like freaking Clubhouse and other things exist out there. I'm getting into that. I don't know. Does Seller. Tools do rooms and...

Troy Johnston: We haven't yet. crosstalk I've been trying not to fall down the rabbit hole just yet. I've been in a few rooms, and it's been great. I'm handling it with caution.

Ryan Cramer: I call it professor office hours. When I see more brands and more service providers that are just like, " Yeah, this is our two week room that people can just listen to," and I'm like, " How do you build that into your schedule?" It's unreal. I mean, they have a couple hundred people in there listening. So, it's, obviously, very informative, and people can educate in that space, too. Always happy to chat with you. Yes. Friend of the room. Friend of the room. Friend of the show now. This is not a room on Clubhouse. Maybe we'll get there one day. Hey, Troy, thank you so much for hopping on today and spending some time to educate the audience.

Troy Johnston: Yeah. Thanks, Ryan. Really appreciate it.

Ryan Cramer: Awesome. Again, this is Crossover Commerce. Thank you for everyone who is joining us live on social media. Again, we're on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If this is your first time, or if you have been here for all 70... I guess, what, 74, 75? 72. We'll get there eventually. 72 episodes. Thanks for joining us for another episode. We'll be live again tomorrow. Our audience will be bringing you the best tips and tricks in the E- commerce and Amazon space. Make sure you follow us on social media. You can follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or search Crossover Commerce with Ryan Cramer on Facebook, as well, for upcoming episodes. Definitely go check out Seller. Tools for more information with Troy and his team over there. Great stuff, as always. Again, Ryan Cramer with the show Crossover Commerce. Make sure you tune in every four to five days or so. We'll be going live. If you can't catch us live, watch a replay on YouTube, or go to where you listen to your podcasts and search Crossover Commerce. We'll catch you guys next time on another episode of the show. Thanks.


Ryan Cramer of PingPong Payments talks with Troy Johnston of Seller.Tools, about "owning" more of your Amazon Customer. They also discuss systems and automation in FBA businesses.


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Today's Host

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🎙 Ryan Cramer - Host

|Partnership & Influencer Marketing Manager

Today's Guests

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Troy Johnston

|Co-founder of Seller.Tools