Don't get scammed - Work with the right eCommerce companies ⎜ Sermondo ⎜ EP 115
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, what's up everyone? I'm your host, Ryan Cramer, and welcome to another episode of Crossover Commerce. This is episode 115 of Crossover Commerce. This is my corner of the internet, where I bring you the best experts in the Amazon and e- commerce industry. So you made it. If you're looking for that, that's where we are right now. They're going to share their insights, and I'll share my insights as well, but they're going to share their insights on the most important aspects of selling online, what you need to be successful, how you might in that specific part of what they specialize in. That's why I bring them onboard, to share those insights for free with you. Again, on live if you're watching this, this is live on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter, so you've made it. We're going to be sharing that all here today. But the question about today was to successfully build on Amazon and expand your e- commerce business nationally and internationally. It's very important to connect with and surround yourself with like- minded people. We talked about that a little bit yesterday with our networking and mastermind courses that we talked with Brandon Young about. But today I wanted to get into cover avoid hiring scammers and how to figure out how service providers can match. If you're expanding, you want to outsource task and have a great investment into your growth of your business. So, that's what we're all going to cover today. So, we titled today's episode, of course, don't get scammed, work with the right e- commerce companies. Very simple, straight- forward. So, as always, Crossover Commerce is presented by PingPong Payments, of course. PingPong transfers more than$ 150 million a day for e- commerce sellers, just like you. If you're around the world and you're selling on different marketplaces, which we'll talk about today, and you're converting money or sending money to different entities like your supplier, your manufacturer or distributor, or just wanted to have money in a different currency, go ahead and check out PingPong Payments. We've converted over$ 90 billion in cross- border payments to date, helping e- commerce sellers put more to their bottom line, saving you money, making you more profitable. Who doesn't want that? So, go ahead and check out PingPong Payments today. Click on that link in the show notes below. Just want to give a big welcome, again, to everyone watching on social media. Welcome, this is an interactive show. If you have a question that pops up along the way, or you just don't know what we're talking about, or if you want to have a specific question, go ahead and put those in and we'll make sure those appear on our screen to answer your questions and get that sorted out as well. But go ahead and follow myself and follow our guest on social media as well. Those are in the show notes below. But this show isn't just about me. If it was just Ryan Cramer, Crossover Commerce, we wouldn't make it past season one, so therefore I have a luxury to have a network of people who know what they're talking about. So, brought in the best of the best for people like you guys. But our guest today, Kristina, is the matchmaker and partner at Sermondo, the largest global directory platform for Amazon services. It's her mission to help Amazon sellers grow their business internationally by connecting with them the right service provides from all around the world. Her passion is creating content that educates sellers in how to successfully establish B2B relationships, interviewing different Amazon experts for the Sermondo Talks Podcast, also something we have in common. Sermondo is a global service provider platform for Amazon services. It is their mission to help Amazon sellers grow their business internationally by connecting them to the right service providers from all around the world. They've worked with categories in 20 categories in over 40 countries, all specialized and experienced in working with Amazon merchants. Whether you're looking for legal advice, logistics, marketing, agencies, or even cross- border payments, check out Sermondo. We'll have the link to their website here shortly in the show notes below, but welcome to Crossover Commerce. Once again actually, she was part of the panel, but this is her first time individually, Kristina Mertens from Sermondo. Kristina, welcome to Crossover Commerce again, I'll say. Welcome back.
Kristina Mertens: Hi Ryan. Thanks for having me. I'm super happy to be here today.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, of course. You're joining us again. You haven't moved since the last time we talked to you, but you're in Germany, correct?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, I'm in the south of Germany in the beautiful city of Munich.
Ryan Cramer: Munich, okay. So, I've been to Frankfurt, I've been to Berlin, haven't been to Munich, but people might know Munich from, of course, Oktoberfest, correct?
Kristina Mertens: And after Bayern München probably.
Ryan Cramer: Yes, that one. I'm just kidding. That as well. If I could speak German I would know exactly what that is, and I apologize for that. It's funny when I talk about Oktoberfest. When I was in college over there, when we were traveling, I was in a train, we flew into Frankfurt. Half of us went down to Munich, and this is in September because it's very confusing, Oktoberfest happens in September. So, fun fact for all of you who don't know that. They went south and we went north, and they ended up sleeping in tents in a field somewhere, and I think that's a commonality down there for that. I'm not sure, but we went north and we saw like the Berlin Wall. We went and traveled and did I feel like more touristy things like see the Berlin Wall and things like that, but it was super cool to see Germany. That's one of my favorite countries to go to just for cultural reasons. So, you've been there your whole life, correct?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Awesome.
Kristina Mertens: If you ever have the chance to get to Munich, obviously I will show you around, show you the best restaurants, and also we will do some sightseeing and drinking beer, obviously.
Ryan Cramer: Oh, of course. Well, this is the beautiful thing. So, I love drinking beer. This is so off topic what we were talking about, but this is a beautiful segue. So, it's something fascinating with food and culture. You can just go off a shelf and drink warm beer and it tastes fantastic. Here in the United States if you drink warm beer it's awful, but in Germany I was so surprised. I couldn't believe it. I don't know what it is, if it's just because they're used to it or if that's how it's supposed to be, but it was awesome. So, I'll definitely keep you up to that. I should have a list of all the people who have promised to take me around to locations once we've had them on.
Kristina Mertens: So I can't worm my way out of this. Now it's-
Ryan Cramer: I swear. I think I can make my way around the world and meet up with a bunch of people. So, that's the beauty of this. So yeah, well again, welcome aboard the show. You were on a round table we had I want to say back in February.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: That sounds about right, right? Yeah. So, what's been new with you, Sermondo, e- commerce, Q1? What's been like for you guys in that regard?
Kristina Mertens: Nothing really changed that much. The only thing that we have seen growing more than ever in the last few weeks and also months is the whole FBA acquiring industry. There are so many new service providers popping out of nowhere, and we're in steady contact with a few of them, trying to vet them and see if we can get any FBA acquirers onboard at Sermondo.
Ryan Cramer: That's awesome. You're right, because there are so many different ones that are popping up out of nowhere. I think there's over 100 where it's either specific categories that they're featuring in, or it's in different, just in general like a Thrasio, right? So, that's a category you guys are specifically working on and trying to vet?
Kristina Mertens: We don't have a specific category, but if there's an acquirer who is specialized in, yeah, acquiring FBA businesses that already have a certain value, then they are really interesting for us to add to our platform.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. This is strange too because you're now seeing all this money being thrown around. Even one of our partners here at PingPong, they just raised I want to say oh, this was like$ 775 million. It was nuts. I think it was Perch. I'm going to incorrectly quote that number, but it was the largest single round in history of raising funds. So, for what's going on right now? I'm curious to see. You guys say you're vetting these companies, and I think that's fascinating to hear that. What do you mean by vetting and kind of maybe bring in Sermondo? What's your guys's focus in that regards?
Kristina Mertens: So, just in general every kind of service provider that we onboard to our network is vetted by us. So, we want to make sure that these are trustworthy companies, and especially when it comes to anything that has to do with financials, such as payment providers or funding services, or FBA acquirers. We don't want to have companies on our website approaching the users that use Sermondo, the sellers that use Sermondo to find services when they are not legit and trying to scam money out of them. Because as you know, the more players there are in the field, the more bad apples are among them. So yeah, we're just in contact with a couple of companies, trying to see if it makes sense to build partnerships. If we have a good feeling about them and all the information they provide is correct, then yeah, we have a good feeling letting them on our platform. So, when someone wants to sell their Amazon business and they don't know who they want to sell it to, they can also go to Sermondo, fill in a form, tell us the value of their company and what category they are, et cetera, RPP, and then we will put them in touch with the right companies.
Ryan Cramer: Well, that's fascinating to me because there seems to be a story, like an about us section why you guys started this, because a vetting process always means that there's some sort of thing that happened to you, the founders, yourself, or something like that, where they got spurred or hurt by something where there was no processes in place to do that, therefore you can find out why you made Sermondo. Is that the case why you guys started the business?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, that's absolutely 100% correct. I mean, I never sold on Amazon, and I'm really open about that, but my business partner, Tobias, who also had the idea for Sermondo, he was an Amazon seller himself, pretty successful here in Germany. Then he got scammed twice. I think the worst one was the fulfillment center who promised him yeah, we will store your goods and then deliver within two to three days so you never run out of stock, when eventually that never happened. He ran out of stock, his ratings went down. Everything went south, let's just put it that way. The problem was he got his recommendation in a Facebook group. I'm not saying that Facebook groups in general are bad. I think it's great to share ideas and to engage with other sellers, talking about your issues, but a lot of sellers, especially newbies, are not really aware that when they ask for recommendations, like hey, does anyone know a great 3PL in Germany or a freight forwarder, that a lot of people that are commenting are either the founders themselves or affiliates of someone. So, you don't necessarily get recommendations for a company that fits you and your project and your business best, but just recommendations from people who try to squeeze some money out of you.
Ryan Cramer: I agree with that, and I think that's a hard field to navigate too, especially when because I work with affiliates and I work with brand ambassadors. I work with influencers and people, you want to trust them. You want to take what they say at face value, but like you said, there's almost in the last decade there's been this naturing of falsitivity, if that's a word that I'm making up, I don't know.
Kristina Mertens: crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: But just like this false nature. Yeah, just this false nature of making up or just presenting yourself in a false way, whether that's on purpose or not. Just trying to either coerce people to join because of affiliate commissions or anything like that, or there's just another... They have their blinders on and they only want to give business to another company, when that might not be a good fit, but ultimately you guys want to make the good fit, find a good fit for people who are in need of some sort of business. Is that a better way to put it?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, that's the perfect way to put it, yes.
Ryan Cramer: So, what's the flaw nature? Is it just the human aspect of it? How do you guys separate the human aspect from businesses? What's a trusted company as of Sermondo, and how do people not feel like they're going to get scammed? Is it just length of time in business, is it quality of work? What's kind of those kinds of thresholds that we can look for when it comes to not being scammed?
Kristina Mertens: So, on Sermondo we work on a review system, but we only publish reviews that are verified because we don't want to be another Trustpilot, or Yelp, or Glassdoor, whatever where the service providers can just write themselves and say, " Oh yeah, we provide a five star service." So, what we do is I cannot personally work with every single service provider that we have on Sermondo, obviously, but what we are trying to do is reach people that have worked with these companies before, get them to leave reviews on the listings. We also encourage the people who use Sermondo to not only trust us as the only source of finding reliable service providers. I mean, all the service providers that are on our site provided correct information. They have been through our vetting process, but eventually you also have to take some responsibility and really try to get to know the companies that you're working with eventually. A lot of people rush into partnerships with agencies, for example, even though they have never spoken to them before face- to- face or at least by video chat or something. They are just relying on what we said in an email. So, that way you can never find out if you're a good fit, if you have a certain feel for the other person. That's also very important. It's not only about service quality, but also if you get along pretty well, especially if you want to form long- term relationships. I mean, if you use a translator one time for one listing, it doesn't matter if you both like football or not, but if you try to work with an agency for like one, two, three years or even longer, or an accountant, bookkeeper, stuff like that, it should also click on a personal level. So, what I always recommend is get an overview from reliable sources, not necessarily Facebook groups. I mean, if you're in a mastermind with other people and it's a closed group, and you know you can trust recommendations, that's also fine, but don't just go to Google, because the first 10 results you will see are just the companies being best at SEO, not necessarily the ones that provide the best service, but yeah. Go to a website just, I mean, like Sermondo. It doesn't matter if it's Sermondo or not, but go to a website where you get reliable sources. Then check their experience, what languages they're speaking, if they have experience with the marketplaces you want to sell in, because let's say you want to sell from the US to Europe and then you get a German agency, but maybe that German agency isn't familiar with the other European marketplaces, but eventually if you're growing it makes sense to also expand to those marketplaces, and you don't want to work with like six or seven different agencies. So, check their experience. This is something you can do, for example, on Sermondo. We have marketplace experience. You can see it at a glance. So, see if they're a good fit for now and the future experience wise. Short list like three to five, and then hop on a call. Take the time. I know it can be tiring and you have to invest maybe a few hours getting to know them, but it's really worth it eventually.
Ryan Cramer: Well, like platforms like us. We pride ourselves in making sure that you can speak to multiple marketplaces as you scale and as you grow. So, having that all in one, whether it's on Amazon or other e- commerce platforms. That's why it's super important to know that, like you said, not just adding on different services, and that can get expensive. People can't rely on that. They don't have a holistic view of that. So, I think that's super important to look at. So, what are maybe, if I'm a new seller. It sounds like this is very much a new seller or someone who is looking to grow internationally, which is what we look at too. What are some kind of red flags right away? If I'm looking for a partner, are there questions I should ask or there should be red flags that should raise if something happens or you hear from them, they say something along those lines? What are those things that should instantly raise a red flag for myself?
Kristina Mertens: Okay, it's hard to give a general answer because obviously you ask a sourcing agent and a freight forwarder different questions than you would ask a marketing agency, but as a rule of thumb you should always be aware of how they answer your questions. So, before an interview, you should come up with a list of things you need to know and you want to know, and also add some things that might not be too comfortable being answered by the service provider. Then see how they react to this question, because if they weasel their way around the answer and don't give you a clear response, then that's definitely a red flag. It doesn't matter which kind of service provider you are, crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: Is there a story that maybe a seller shared with you, maybe that at first they were told this one thing but then they came to you guys, they found a vetted and reputable person? Is there a story maybe that comes to mind when you talk about that? It doesn't matter what category.
Kristina Mertens: No, but it's the other extreme. There are two things. First of all, if they don't answer your questions in a clear way. The second is if they promise you the world, then it's like if it sounds... I like to say if it sounds too good to be true, then it's because it's too good to be true. So, we had a lot of sellers coming to us after having a bad experience with let's say a PPC agency said like, " Yeah, I will bring your ACOS down to like 10% within three weeks." And they were like, " Okay yeah, sounds good." But obviously that didn't happen because no one can ever promise how the project will develop. So, it's really important that they are realistic. I mean, obviously they try to pitch their services to you, but there should be a certain level of transparency and honesty. So, this is something that we deal with I would say almost on a daily basis, or reinstatement services that promise to get your account back. There is no promise, because it's not in their hand. I mean, they can try their best, but there's never 100% guarantee.
Ryan Cramer: Right, they're selling the promise of trying to get your stuff reinstated, and their success rate is much higher than other people, so that's what they're selling, is the higher success rate. They kind of know how to work hard. We had Riverbend Consulting, which I know is on your platform.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah. crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, exactly. I had Lesley on the show. So, she was talking about there's just certain thing like it doesn't matter how often or how long we have to work on a project, that's kind of what it is. It's we're telling you we're going to get your account reinstated. It might take us 20 back- and- forths with Amazon, it might take us two. You never know going into the fact, and it's just that she called it a dark box or a black box, if you will.
Kristina Mertens: Black box, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, exactly, what they have to go into every single day. So, promises that oh yeah, it's going to be per interaction with Amazon, this is how much we charge you. Well, you have to think about yourself of how often is that going to happen. In that case it made sense, we're going to take this situation and resolve this situation and it's a flat fee. So, that's where in my mind a good service provider makes sense in working on behalf of the seller. Of course they charge a fee, but that's what it is. So interesting. Are there companies that you thought would be, that have pretty good reputations, like are popular around the space that after you guys did a little big of a deep dive into them that you were pretty disappointed in their service offerings and what they were, the results they were driving for people?
Kristina Mertens: Obviously I can't name anyone.
Ryan Cramer: We won't name names, but do you give them a side eye every time you see them, if they're still in business?
Kristina Mertens: So, there was one logistics company. I talked with Francois and Lisa on their podcast about it, and they were pretty often recommended, especially in Facebook groups. They had a really good reputation, but then we got a few reviews for them, verified reviews, because as I said, the sellers that rate the service providers have to provide us with some form of proof of cooperation, either like a blackened out service contract, or email correspondence so we can see okay, there has been a collaboration. So, we got a few of them, and we tried to, how do you say, like mediate between this company and the disappointed customers, but there was no response. So, eventually we had to take them down, their listing down from Sermondo. They are no longer with us. Now every time... Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: And to be clear, this is a company that they recommended to Sermondo, not a inaudible, correct?
Kristina Mertens: No, no, no.
Ryan Cramer: That you take down.
Kristina Mertens: No, no.
Ryan Cramer: Okay, this is something that you were talking.
Kristina Mertens: inaudible.
Ryan Cramer: Just that's what I'm clarifying. Yeah, exactly.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, yeah. No, no, no, let's call the other company ABC company, the bad one.
Ryan Cramer: Okay, I gotcha. I was making sure we're on the same page.
Kristina Mertens: So ABC logistics, let's just put it that way.
Ryan Cramer: Sure.
Kristina Mertens: The fantasy name ABC logistics.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Kristina Mertens: Then a few customers said like, " Yeah, they didn't reply. I don't know where my cargo is." Or they were late six weeks. So, we reached out to ABC and we're like, " Hey, we have a few people complaining. Maybe you can sort this out." Because we don't only see us as review rating platform, directory matching service, whatever, but we also try to when there is a problem and we see that someone is leaving a bad review, a lot of times it's just miscommunication, because then they say like, " Yeah, I can't reach anyone. No one is helping me." So we reach out to them directly and say, " Hey, can you please help resolve this issue?" Because that way it's not like I'm not happy with the service, I'm just leaving one star and then it's just bad blood on both sides, but then in the best case eventually they can resolve it and the business relationship continues.
Ryan Cramer: It sounds like the spiteful seller or the buyer metric of they're not happy, therefore they're going to leave a one star review, even though there might not be something wrong with the product, Amazon might delay it or something out of the seller's hand. So interesting. What category is the most difficult to vet in your eyes?
Kristina Mertens: Logistics in general, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Is that because the thing in place is time allotment and obviously measurables is when you're delivering products or goods. Is that the biggest one?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, and logistics I would say, logistics and accounting are two of the most complex environments, I would say. It's really hard to get to the people responsible, I feel like, because when I'm talking with an agency, for example, it's usually no problem to speak with someone at the C level, but with logistics companies always another representative, and then you're like, " Okay, what's the structure of this company? How do you work?" And then oftentimes you also get provided with false... What's the name? When an ex customer says something about the service.
Ryan Cramer: Oh, just like a false review or like a...
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, yeah, like false crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, a negative review, but it's a spiteful review basically.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, and it's just because there are so many scammers, especially in logistics, especially like freight forwarding from China and yeah. So, it's a harder job than vetting a good marketing agency in the US, for example.
Ryan Cramer: So, is it based upon category, is it based upon you're seeing it more region of the world where there's a lot more scammers that might be in play?
Kristina Mertens: Both.
Ryan Cramer: Both, okay.
Kristina Mertens: Both, I would say, yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So, if I'm a new seller, what's the easiest one to kind of vet through? Is it software, is it agency, or you said agencies? I feel like when there's people in play. I think that that's the first barrier, the first threshold of who do I have to deal with and are those people legitimate. Software might be in its own little category of how accurate it is. Is that kind of the basis of what you guys look at?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, and I mean, with software you also have always the opportunity, or at least almost always, the opportunity to test it in a free trial or whatever. But usually when an agency or another service providers where there's human work involved there's usually no free trial.
Ryan Cramer: That's typically an error when you're working with someone like us especially, yeah. People like I forgot something, or I guess that's the difficult thing to measure. Is that also maybe an unfair assessment maybe, because they might have one bad apple in the bunch and they might just have one bad customer or service rep but the company is still legit? Is that a fair thing to measure someone's success or reputable nature?
Kristina Mertens: No, and especially I think a lot of Amazon sellers are aware of that, that one bad review doesn't necessarily speak for your whole product or your whole customer experience that you provide.
Ryan Cramer: So what's kind of... Yeah, go ahead.
Kristina Mertens: That's why I say when we get a bad rating, obviously when it's real we will publish it, but we also try to get them to get along again, because oftentimes let's say you're working with an agency and there is a guy named Tom, and you don't like Tom, and Tom doesn't like you. So, you leave a bad review for this agency, but the rest of the team really worked their butts off to help you succeed and maybe get your product launch, whatever. So, just because you don't get along with Tom, it doesn't necessarily speak for the whole agency.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Kristina Mertens: So, that's why we try to get the conversation starting again. Hey, what's the real issue here? And maybe you get a new account manager within the agency and then suddenly it's all sunshine and rainbows.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. Tom sounds like a jerk. He shouldn't have a job anymore, so.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah. Yeah, we had bad experiences with him.
Ryan Cramer: I don't like those Toms. Well, the other kind of avenue I want to go around, because obviously we're trusting in nature, we're not all about the negative things in this space. Let's talk about the exiting things in the space, growth internationally. Where are you guys as a company seeing the most growth? You're in Germany, I'm expecting Germany to be one of the top places of growth that you're seeing in terms of e- commerce sellers moving overseas from the US to Germany. What's kind of your own take on that?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, it's usually either Germany or the UK that sellers start with when they're trying to enter the European markets. Yeah, I'm just excited to see, let's put it that way, I'm excited to see how Amazon Netherlands, and Sweden, and Poland develop over the next few months, because when I read it correctly, it didn't really take off as much as Amazon was hoping it would. So, I don't know.
Ryan Cramer: On the buyer side or seller side?
Kristina Mertens: On the buyer side. A lot of sellers rushed into those... I mean, obviously it's the I would say like low hanging fruit to add another multi place.
Ryan Cramer: They're diversifying.
Kristina Mertens: If you're already selling on six European marketplace, it doesn't matter if you have the seventh one or not because the fulfillment network is so good, but buyers wise. I think Amazon didn't have as much of an impact in Sweden as they were hoping to have, and the same with the Netherlands. I'm a big fan of Amazon, otherwise I wouldn't work in this field.
Ryan Cramer: I think we all are.
Kristina Mertens: And I think eventually they will prevail against the other marketplaces like Bol. com, and yeah, become the key player in every country.
Ryan Cramer: To kind of build on that, I've heard there is a lot of data that backs up Amazon and saying that they're not going to push difficult, push a lot into trying to be the number one source for purchasing. I think in Marketplace Pulse, which I love frequenting and I love the data and the analytics that they put together. They said that of all the marketplaces in Europe, Amazon typically hovers around 10% in each country in terms of usability. That seems extremely low, which it is, but there is just other players that have been established more in the place, Cdiscount. I mean, every country has their own pretty well established marketplace. Just in the United States there's only so many we have, like Walmart. com. You have direct- to- consumer sites, of course Amazon, but in other countries there's other marketplaces where sellers can buy their goods. Wish is very popular, eBay is very popular still around Europe. So, I think Amazon was more of we're going to wait and kind of have people adopt their own nature and their logistics system. Do you think that the hindrance right now is when the UK kind of moved away, that sellers are just trying to figure out do I move more of my products in there, just inventory availability? Is that maybe an issue that you think that maybe more people wouldn't look at to enter that marketplace or those marketplaces?
Kristina Mertens: We saw a lot of people switching from having their base sort of in the UK to Germany after Brexit.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Kristina Mertens: So, we got a lot of inquiries for storage and fulfillment here in Germany.
Ryan Cramer: Because a lot of people are moving, shipping more of their goods into Netherlands and then Netherlands in fulfilling.
Kristina Mertens: crosstalk. Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: I think that they became the number one biggest port of one of the areas of import, one of the biggest ones in all of Europe because-
Kristina Mertens: Europe. Yeah, Rotterdam.
Ryan Cramer: ...it used to be UK and now it's Netherlands because of the UK, or excuse me, the EU connection between all of that. What are the easiest ways that if you're giving advice to sellers, what's the easiest places to start growth internationally? You're recommending these top businesses to start looking to. Is it localization? Is it translations? What are the key components that sellers need to have in place that you guys are recommending?
Kristina Mertens: I think localization really sums it up. You can't expect your products to sell the same way in Germany than they do in the US, because the cultures, different language obviously. It's really important that because... Let's take Germany, for example. When people shop online, they're super alerted every time they see a teeny tiny mistake on a website because they think they're getting scammed. So, when they're on an Amazon listing and it's not 100% perfectly translated, then there's no way they're going to buy your product or... There's also, I don't know how to put it, because I also don't want to offend anyone, but the way of advertising is a little bit different in the US. I feel like in the US everything is extreme, and bang, and colors.
Ryan Cramer: I'll go and defend everyone. We like things big, shiny and very low attention spans, and we'll throw money at whatever if it looks colorful. We have what's called shiny object syndrome. If it looks cool, fascinating, people buy it. That's why we're the number one e- commerce marketplace in the world, I'm pretty certain. You can throw a little widget, if it spins or blinks or lights up, we're going to buy it.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, I mean, you put it... I mean, I didn't say it, you said it, but-
Ryan Cramer: It's true. I'm allowed to say it. I'm from crosstalk.
Kristina Mertens: You're allowed to say it. But here people in Germany, they pay attention to other things. They look more into functionality, and they do way more research. Also fun fact, the return rate in Germany is much higher than in other marketplaces because we're super picky. Then also a lot of sellers think okay, I will enter the EU, so there is a cultural difference between, or let's say Europe, let's don't leave UK out, okay. You say okay.
Ryan Cramer: They can join. They're on their own right now, it's fine.
Kristina Mertens: I'm going to expand to Europe, so there's going to be cultural differences to the US. But also within all the countries, like Italy and Spain are somewhat similar, but between the British, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch people, there are so many fine nuances and also super different cultures, that it's really important to adapt your content, your listings, your advertising to each and every single one. So, you couldn't run the same PPC strategy content wise in all marketplaces and have the same level of success.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, that's the number one component of localization, is no matter who you're talking to, and I love going back to this component. We had a professor of local e- business, and he calls it e- business because localization is part of that component of it doesn't just talk about the language, it talks about the belief system, the religious aspects, the what people grow in, what are their values. When we looked at e- commerce websites like IKEA, he said that's the best one he looks at because it not just localizes by country, it localizes by language specifically in that region, but then they will go down to imagery that they use, of if it's important for family to be featured, if it's important for men, or women, or children. Who are they talking to? So, it really goes deeper than that, and I think that's, like you said, this sounds really bad, I think that there's a very broad nature of you can cast a net and we think we, the United States especially, we take things at face value. We don't look past behind what is being presented. We don't think about how are they marketing to us all the time. I say we're getting better at that, but we're used to saying, " Ooh, celebrity X, Y, Z promotes it. I'm going to purchase it." Which is why you see lots of companies investing money in influencers or celebrity endorsements, things like that, but the consumer is getting smarter and they want it to apply to their lifestyle. As technology becomes more innovative and accommodating to people, companies that speak to that or brands or e- commerce sellers that speak to that I think will really start to stand out, especially as they grow internationally. So, that's kind of the key component to really keep in place. Of course translation is super important, but once you're speaking on a imagery or on a content listing, it's very important to make sure that you're speaking to that audience as well. A good friend of mine here on the show, Emma Tamir from Marketing by Emma, she said, " Even if you're not marketing or you're not saying something, you're saying something." So, even when you're not saying something about your brand, you're saying something about your brand. So, everyone has to keep that in mind. It's not just a pick and choose, you're always representing something with your brand, no matter where in the world you might be. So, super interesting. Kristina, let me ask you. Again, if everyone who is watching this online, let me just kind of reset real quick, is if you're watching on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, go ahead and ask your questions about maybe or have a story about some business that you didn't think that was reputable and you felt that there was a service out there that maybe could've helped you on or someone who could guide you along the way, let me know, or if there's any sort of story, let us know, or if you have questions about it. We can certainly help you out, but of course, you can check out Sermondo. Just go ahead in the comment section, we've linked out already to their website. So, check them out for sure. It's free for any seller to check out, correct. So, definitely a must check out. In that regards, I guess my question could be if you could be an expert in one of these fields in Amazon, you said you're not a seller, which field would you be an expert in instantaneously if you could?
Kristina Mertens: Photography.
Ryan Cramer: Really?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Why is that?
Kristina Mertens: Because I always had a passion for photography and I really like what you just said, even when you're not really saying something, you're saying something. I know that the images of the listing are like the single most important thing to catch any user's attention. That's why I also love tools like PickFu, for example, where you can really test out which photos work best. Yeah, just when I'm shopping on Amazon I'm I would say 80% influenced by the pictures. So, if there was one discipline that I would like to master, then it's product photography. I know I have a lot of our network partners on LinkedIn, and they always show behind the scenes. So, when you, especially in the food industry or cosmetics, when you see a great shot, it's insane how much work there is behind it. I think it's just really fascinating, so yeah. This is something that I would get into if I wasn't working for Sermondo, I think.
Ryan Cramer: I think it's very funny that you say that, because I am also of a visual graphic design background.
Kristina Mertens: Oh really? I didn't know.
Ryan Cramer: Yes. So, I have graphic design in my blood, but I've actually had professors tell me, " You should definitely look at other parts of the world, and this is going to be a passion for you, not a profession." So, I'll take that as a you're probably right. I'm good at other things in life, let's just say that, but I doodle on the side. Yeah, go ahead.
Kristina Mertens: If there's ever a day where I'm starting to sell products on Amazon, I will hire you, just because I trust you.
Ryan Cramer: Oh thank you. I appreciate it. Oh thank you, I appreciate that. Well, and that's the thing, is over time my taste has changed, but what they grade you on in, we're talking about photography and design, is design and what looks good is in the eye of the beholder, right? So, that's really hard, in my mind, to conceptualize of why doesn't it look good to you but if it looks good to me. If I put in the work it can be acceptable in some culture or some segment of the world, but if it doesn't look good to you, that's completely hard to imagine why that would make sense in that regards, but there is a lot of work to be done, and it's more like the layout and the design, but I can see visually it's expressing to other people maybe what that looks like, and they put it together quicker than I do. I don't know what that looks like. I can visualize it and I can talk about it.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Maybe they were really telling me to go down the path, podcasting and partnerships, that's what I excel at, so. It is what it is, but yeah, a graphic design background. I see what you're saying. It's interesting to see the behind the scenes shoots on social media, Instagram, things like that. When you see what the end result looks like but they show you how they made it in the beginning. I get draw in by that kind of stuff because I think the perception and looking in the eyes of what the ultimate customer is going to be looking at and how they achieve that is so fascinating. I think that's part of being a seller online, is what do you want this product to achieve, solving a solution, giving a sort of feeling and how do you achieve that by definition of marketing, definition of product photography, your box, just how you describe your product. Do you think just is that the thing that's changing the most over time as e- commerce has developed, is we're more visual creatures instead of reading a listing throughout dimensions and if it fits a space?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: We don't really care, as long as it looks cool.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, because I think the attention span is so short, not only in the US but worldwide in every country. I think everyone can relate that when you're clicking through either an online shop, eBay, Walmart, Amazon, you will instantly devote more time to the listings where the images really catch your attention. I think that has gotten even worse or better, I don't know how to put it, over the last years, because there is just so much offering, so many different products, so many different brands. We have so much to choose from, so you've got to start somewhere. I talked with Anthony from PickFu about this. I think we all have this automatic filter in our brain that instantly says, without you even realizing like, " No, no, no." Just because you don't like the picture, or it's just not as appealing to you as another one. Then you shortlist automatically from 20 listings maybe three or four. Then you read the title and say like, " Okay, does it have the most important features that I'm looking for in this product?" Let's say Bluetooth speakers, are they ones that are waterproof? If that's super important to me, it should be in the title. Then I shortlist, again, two of them, two of the four I shortlisted before, and then it's only the time when you start reading bullet points and really devoting time to this listing. But yeah, the attention span in the first, I call it like the first stage is crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: It's an unconscious biases.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Of we subconsciously, and that's why a lot of... I was looking at the subconscious nature of social media, and I was watching this video last night actually. We were talking about the nature of which content gets delivered to a consumer, and this is just on all social platform where content lives and how to get there. Things like TikTok, where for example it's what's being delivered to you, you have no choice but just going through the feed in swiping nature. It's either it catches your attention right away and you swipe up. So, that's where a lot of new... People are literally being trained how to access new information and new content by just swiping, and that's how it's being delivered to it. Now, Facebook it was always like a scroll feature, it's still scrolling, but you would have to read content, or you would have to go through different tabs and have to search for it. It's now being delivered to you in even a I'll call it a dumber nature, where we just literally swipe through it and have limited the amount of the capability of spending time searching through a platform to find content. That's why more people are spending time on that platform. So that being said, tying this all back to e- commerce, if you can capture people's attention quicker, go through their imagery and it looks really great, stands out the most, and then they can sort it, and will limit their time on other people's listings, you've instantly won that person's mentality and that buy, if you will, subconsciously.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: So, I think it's super fascinating. Also a shout- out to PickFu for their new website redesign and launch.
Kristina Mertens: Oh yeah, inaudible.
Ryan Cramer: Shout- out. I want to give them, if they're listening to this, Anthony and Justin and those guys over there, they're doing fantastic stuff. So, shout- out to them. I know I got that notification here last week. So, congrats to them. Kristina, what will people look back in maybe 50 years and kind of be shocked by or appalled by in what's going on right now in the Amazon or e- commerce space, do you think?
Kristina Mertens: Okay, let's just hope it will be like this, that in 50 years people can't believe how bad seller support was back in 2021.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. I can see that.
Kristina Mertens: I really hope that will be the case and that we are not sitting there in 50 years like damn, it's still the same. I can't reach anyone, no one can help me from Amazon. Yeah. I hope that more and more people come to the conclusion that it's sometimes worth investing in a service rather than doing something yourself. Let's keep the photography, or just like listing creation in general. If you're a creative person yourself and you're successful in creating and designing listings, which are a few sellers, then fine, maybe you can do it yourself, but I really hope that over the next years that there will be more a mentality of I don't have the cost of a photographer, or I have the cost of a listing optimization service, but it's more seen as an investment. I really hope-
Ryan Cramer: Those are the key words to use, yeah. Investment instead of cost.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Cost is a negative connotation.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Investment is you're putting effort into something that's going to yield results.
Kristina Mertens: For growth. Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, and I really hope that.
Ryan Cramer: Is there an industry that you think that people don't invest in enough? Is it photography that you think, or is there other parts of the components of e- commerce? I would almost venture to say like it's almost tied. I would say photography and maybe logistics. I would say that those are the two that people don't invest enough time, resources, energy or just education in general. Is there other places that you think that people are not spending enough time?
Kristina Mertens: You could ask Jana. I think a lot of people also don't invest enough time in translating their listings correctly.
Ryan Cramer: I'm sure.
Kristina Mertens: So, I would say listing optimization in general, because a lot of people think, I mean, they can do it themselves. There's no one stopping them from doing that, but so many people just want to save every cent they have maybe to put it in their PPC campaigns or whatever, but your listing will not convert if it looks shitty. It doesn't matter if you have 10,000 a month for your PPC campaigns. So, I think there is a long thought process to go, so yeah. Sometimes it's worth even when it seems much like spending five, $ 600 on product photos or translating your listings, having your listings translated by a professional, but eventually it's an investment. You do it to grow your business. It's good for conversion. It will be good for your reviews. I really hope that people start seeing the bigger picture sooner in their seller journey, yeah. I would put it that way.
Ryan Cramer: And if you're looking for extra capital when you're selling internationally, there's a good solution out there, I've heard, called PingPong that can put money to your bottom line to invest in things like that stuff.
Kristina Mertens: Also, also.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, exactly.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, I think a lot of people are still hesitant about getting funding, because they're scared of, I don't know, going into debt, but there are so many great solutions like PingPong nowadays. I mean, you can't grow without putting capital, and if you don't have the capital yourself, you have to get it somewhere else.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah.
Kristina Mertens: There are services for that for a good reason.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. I mean, there's fantastic services for investment into yourself or your product. Obviously I think the number one component of sellers where most of their money goes is in your inventory, and if it's just sitting there on the water, like it might be here in Newport Beach, or here off the coast of the West Coast of the United States, or if it's just sitting there, or Amazon has told you you have way too much inventory and you have to figure out what to do, that's where a lot of people's money is and they have to spend it. So, it's important to either if you need more product, to go to those services where they can get money upfront and invest in that, or you find services that can help just the income on different marketplaces. When you're converted over, you want to make sure that you're saving every dollar you can, and that's the most important thing. I think it's fascinating. People don't understand that when... Especially internationally, we were talking about that earlier, sellers don't understand that there is this component of different value in different countries around the world. A dollar means something stronger in different countries, but it can be weaker in other components of the world. They don't understand that, they're like, " I thought I was getting this much, and when I converted it back to the dollar, I didn't expect, I wasn't getting as much." I said, " A, those fees, but also B, the dollar in the Japanese yen or something like that, yen to the dollar, I don't know what currently stands up, but it could be weaker or it could be stronger." So, people don't think about those components of the subtle nature of internationally. Whether you said logistics, they could be costing you money if it doesn't get to you on time, or translations. You offend somebody if it doesn't translate correctly or if it doesn't speak in a localized way, but then also money. That's an international language. People understand if you're not getting as much as you thought.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, and I think that-
Ryan Cramer: People freak themselves out.
Kristina Mertens: ...a funny thing to observe, I mean, it's not funny obviously, but that so many people don't want to invest in certain services because they say, " Oh, I don't have that much of a budget, or it costs too much." But then when it comes to choosing a good payment provider when they're doing business overseas, or getting funding, or taking care of their reimbursements, they're just not doing it. They're not doing any research and there's just their money that's being left on the street that they could use to invest in exactly the services they are now saying are too expensive, they can't afford it. But if they would do a little more research, and pick a payment provider, a good one that gives you good conversion rates and also doesn't rip you off with 10% fees or that you hire a good reimbursement service so you get the money back from Amazon that you deserve. So many sellers are not even thinking about that, which I think is a weird thing. It's your money, so.
Ryan Cramer: Well, I think a lot of people take it at face value, right? Because Amazon gives you and enables sellers to do all this through their own ecosystem, but they're going to charge you an arm and a leg for it, and that shouldn't surprise anyone that the fees that they charge for those kinds of services, with convenience comes cost, but you put in the extra effort. This is why I think that there's not as many people that when they get into this industry they say, " Oh, it's too hard to do. I'm not going to do it." They think that the barrier is too hard, they don't want to overcome it or problem solve. Now, that can be done with more capital or that can be done with more time, and effort, and energy, and that's why I think it's important with services like both of ours that educate people and say, " Listen, there's ways around what your problem is. You're just not looking hard enough, or you're relying on the wrong resources to help you guide you through this barrier, or over this barrier or around it." Finding reputable companies, like what you guys do, saving money on transactions, such as receiving your payments every two weeks from Amazon. Those things are all possible, but people just think this is what the cost of doing business is.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: And they're just taking it at face value, don't go down that rabbit hole. They're like, " I'm just going to worry about my product and the keyword research." Those are all important, but to be successful down the road so that you can continue on this path, this is where the actual work needs to happen. So, that being said, is there any other with... I know, and I was been highlighting this ever since it was announced. We have Prime Day coming up on June 21st and 22nd. That's still happening in Germany at the same time, correct?
Kristina Mertens: Yes.
Ryan Cramer: What are you guys expecting in terms of this was quickly announced? It's only a few weeks away. You had mentioned earlier in the show about inventory restrictions. What is the expectation from your side of things for Prime Day? Are we going to see it be successful? Are we going to see it be limited because of all that? What's kind of the expectation from Sermondo or yourself?
Kristina Mertens: I mean, I would have to guess completely into the blue, but I think it's going to be pretty successful. Even though they didn't take that much time to promote it as maybe not last year but the years before, I still think European sellers usually wait with a lot of their purchases until Prime Day rise because they know they can get good deals. So, I think it's going to be pretty successful. We also have seen fortunately that a lot of sellers took action right away when the date was announced. Now it could be I'll try too many new things for example with your PPC campaigns like now, but you can still make a few adjustments maybe to your listings.
Ryan Cramer: Right.
Kristina Mertens: crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: And they should've already been doing that. Yeah, they should've implemented that earlier on, but yeah. If you're not-
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, definitely.
Ryan Cramer: ...acting now, start now, and make sure that you're starting to ramp up those campaigns for optimization. But yeah, I think it's interesting. There's been a couple things that have piqued my mind when people have talked about this. One is this is going internationally, but because of the storage limits it's fascinating that the timing matches up with around what the inventory limit restrictions have pretty similarly, but there is a rumor that they might do a second one before even Q4. I mean, that's just a rumor. Again, it's a possibility. I don't know how reputable it is, but I've heard a lot of buzz around there might be a second one before Q4, which would be also very fascinating on top of the inventory restrictions. So that being said, I think it's just a very difficult field to navigate right now, especially with your inventory in general. People trying to get inventory into Amazon and figure out the logistics chain of if I run out, am I going to have a warehouse I can just get it there and time it out? There needs to be innovation in that space, and hopefully this is going to be something that sellers can all find out or figure out, obviously with the help or Sermondo, like what's a trusted 3PL, and people with warehousing and things like that. What's kind of the future for you guys the rest of 2021? I know it's like the middle of the summer already right now here. What's kind of that focus for you guys that's going to be worked on moving forward? Is it the aggregator space that's going to be the biggest component of what you're working on?
Kristina Mertens: I think we are actually going to focus a little bit more on full service Amazon agencies the next few months because we want to try a few things and want to establish even closer relationships. But yeah, also we are looking to expand the acquirer side on our platform, because we just know that there is such a high demand. I think it's, besides Thrasio and maybe Elevate, super hard to find good names where you can sell your Amazon business to, but there are more than these two great companies, and yeah. That's why we are trying to build like a microcosmos there on Sermondo for this not so niche anymore topic.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah. It's been about almost two years now that everyone's kind of not surprised, but now learning about I can exit my asset. My asset is my brand. I can now exit it and get a nice little payday. Circling back to that, Perch was$ 775 million that raised in their latest round. So, it is officially the largest in the space.
Kristina Mertens: crosstalk numbers.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, now they have raised in one round more than any other aggregator out there. This one just happened to be a little bit more than Thrasio's initial big raising, which I understand that whole number game, but again, for everyone who is listening to this, that's to debt towards acquiring businesses. That's not all equity. So, it doesn't mean that they're investing in the actual business themselves, it's to acquire brands. That's a topic that I love talking about as well. So, past episodes of Crossover Commerce we've talked about that, acquiring businesses and what that looks like moving forward. Do you think that there's going to be a... I guess my final question for you, Kristina, is what's the kind of prediction, do you think? Do you think there's going to be a lot that fail and just don't succeed and get gobbled up by bigger ones? What's kind of the prediction, since there are so many-
Kristina Mertens: You mean the acquisition? The acquisition crosstalk?
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, in the acquisition space.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: Is there going to be a ... There's a lot of-
Kristina Mertens: I think it's a huge shark tank and a lot of the new players will not survive. They will either go down or being captured by the bigger sharks, such as Thrasio. So I think eventually there will be a few big players, but not too many small ones, because it just demands so much capital to run such a business, and I think maybe investments will then more go towards the big fish.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, and I think that's what a lot of people also see as well, very much so. So that being said, I'm going to go ahead and wrap up this episode, if that's okay with you. Where can people learn about Sermondo? Where can people reach out and connect with you? What's the best way to do that in that regard?
Kristina Mertens: Yeah, obviously you can just visit Sermondo. com. It's free to use for every seller. We also have a personalized matching service. So, if you're looking for any kind of service, you can just fill out a short form telling us what you need and then we are, I look manually for a good match for your inquiry. We also have a YouTube channel with our own podcast, and we do publish a lot of educational content, especially in expansion topics on our blog. If you would like to connect with me personally, the best to do it is Instagram or LinkedIn. Yeah, I guess that's it. You can also shoot an email to kristina @ sermondo. com. Yeah, there are like 100 different ways crosstalk.
Ryan Cramer: All the ways. All the different ways. Yeah, you're all over the place. crosstalk.
Kristina Mertens: You will find a way. If you want to reach me, you will find a way.
Ryan Cramer: Write a handwritten letter to Kristina, everyone, and we'll make sure that somewhere in Germany she'll receive it. Just send it to Germany and I'm sure she'll find it, so.
Kristina Mertens: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: I'm just kidding. But anyways, hey, thanks for hopping on today. It was a lot of fun. Make sure everyone that can check out Sermondo. It's there in the comments section as well as the show notes. So, check that out if you're looking for reputable companies. We'll have you back on again as a friend of the show. Thanks so much for hopping on Crossover Commerce.
Kristina Mertens: Thank you Ryan for the invitation. I really enjoyed this.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, no problem. Again everyone, thank you so much for hopping on. Again, this was episode 115 of Crossover Commerce. Don't get scammed, work with the right e- commerce companies. Go ahead and check out companies that are listed with Sermondo. Their job is the reputation of those other businesses. They're going to vet them, make sure that you're working with the right kinds of businesses that are going to be on the best. They're looking out for the consumer or the seller, I should say. So, make sure that you check those out there, and if you're a business listening to this, go and check them out as well if you want to list with Sermondo. Always important to make sure that your business is offered in all the locations in the world. But great stuff that they're doing over there, great content as always, especially growth internationally. As always, that is what we love talking about here on Crossover Commerce with PingPong Payments. So again, this week we have one more episode. We're going to be hopping on tomorrow with SellerApp with Ram. We're going to talk about data driven, using BPO reports to open new sales opportunities. Super excited about that. They're about what their growth opportunity is in India, but also in the United States, that focus as well. Kind of more for those who are more data nerds like myself. I'm really excited to kind of hop in and kind of learn from him in that capacity as well. But if this is your first or 115th time on Crossover Commerce, thanks for listening the whole time and tuning in. We appreciate you always stopping by. We go live about three to five times per week in order to bring the best and brightest in the Amazon e- commerce space. That being said, thanks for tuning in to this episode. I'll go ahead and catch you guys next time on Crossover Commerce. Take care, everyone.
Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Kristina Mertens of Sermondo about working with legitimate companies and avoid getting scammed.
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