How Amazon sellers can setup automated business alerts ⎜ FeedbackWhiz ⎜ EP 176
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. Hello, everyone, welcome back to another episode of Crossover Commerce. This is my corner of the internet where I bring in the best and brightest in the Amazon and e- commerce industry. It's been a while since we've been on, but this is episode 176 as I mentioned earlier. But before we get started, just want to give a quick shout out to our presenting sponsor, PingPong Payments. PingPong Payments is helping people save more of their hard earned money by saving when they send or receive payments. It can be anywhere from working with suppliers and manufacturers to VAs worldwide. As you're sending money, sending in local currency has never been easier in real time. Instead of waiting for your money, you can get it to them quicker and more effectively and saving on those fees and then receiving money. As your business grows and it becomes more omnichannel and becomes more international, you can receive different currencies and save on those conversion fees as well. So go ahead and sign for PingPong Payments. When you get a chance, for free, go ahead and mention Crossover Commerce, or you could do so by going to crossovercommerce or usa. pingpongx.com/ podcast, and you can sign up through that as well. That's where all of our content lives. Like I said, this is episode 176 where we go live on our social channels, but then the audio and video formats go and live on our website, so you can catch up on all the latest and greatest speakers, talks, and insights that we have available on that page. So much content going on and so much has happened since we last got on this show. Without further ado, I just wanted to hop on and mention to everyone, again, Crossover Commerce is a live podcast. If you're watching this on our social channels, you can ask your questions in the comment section, wherever you are watching us, or if you're listening to us, you can obviously submit those questions via email. You can do that by sending an email to crossovercommerce @ pingpongx. us. Without further due, that we actually named this episode... It was a little bit last week, there's been a lot happening in the last week as I mentioned earlier in the intro. So much has happened in terms of announcements. There is an event that happens with lots of Amazon and e- commerce space, that was Amazon PowWow, and there's just a lot to cover. I know I personally have talked to different forums, different people about it. What we're going to be talking today is a little bit more of the automation channel, and we are going to discuss how Amazon sellers can set up automated business alerts. But not just that, how these alerts can effectively help your business grow in both the supply chain, logistics chain in terms of order management. And also just in terms of following the Seller Code of Conduct, making sure that you don't have anything that goes against your storefront or your brand or anything like that. So, of course, I wanted to bring back a friend of the podcast who hasn't been back in quite a while since the very beginning of our podcast. Wanted to bring on Henson Wu of FeedbackWhiz. Let me go ahead and bring him on here. Henson, welcome back to Crossover Commerce.
Henson Wu: Hey, Ryan, thanks for having me back.
Ryan Cramer: Of course, it's been a while. I think I had you go on, gosh, on my first 50 episodes. Since then, lots has happened. Different look, different feel, but the content has still somehow changed. You guys have gone through lot of changes too as well, and fresh off of this event that we talked about at the top of the show, Amazon PowWow. The voice is a little horse, you were saying pre- show, so we'll make sure we don't go into too much detail along winning this with you. But, again, I appreciate you hopping on early there on the West Coast. How's it been since you last hopped on? Lots of things going on with FeedbackWhiz. What's been life and business like since then?
Henson Wu: Yeah, everything's been great. Just this is like pretty much year four in this industry for us and for me, myself too. It's been quite a journey, it's been awesome. I really enjoy being in this e- commerce space, being in this software space, and just being able to meet all the great people in this space like you guys and all the other providers and sellers. And just learning and looking back and seeing how fast Amazon progressed in the last like eight years and where they are now. Now it's like things are normalizing a little bit, I would say, but at the same time, it's always changing. The world has changed greatly since COVID, and like people are just... everyone's buying online now and everyone's behaviors are different. Yeah, I would say it's been quite a ride and everything's been great and just happy to be in this time right now and enjoying everything that's going on.
Ryan Cramer: Right, lots of growth, lots of opportunity, I think lots of has happened. I would say since the last time we had initially spoke on this channel, and obviously, off channel as well, so many different things happen, right? In terms of business growth opportunities, there's accelerators, there's aggregators, there's different sort of operation in terms of Amazon's code of context. It seems to be updating once every year or more than that. There's lots of different tips and tricks. You're seeing the comings and goings of different tools, softwares, and things like that. You guys have been pretty consistently inaudible over the past four years, have been staying and helping people grow in that regards. As of this past year in 2021, and I saw the statistic and I haven't posted 50 days on Christmas. Crazy it's this close yet somewhat far away. What's the remainder of the year looking like for you personally and the team? And then what's the forecast looking like maybe going into'22 that you're really excited about? Like you said it's been somewhat consistent but there's always these changes going forward.
Henson Wu: Yeah, as an organization for FeedbackWhiz, we've been constantly just developing new tools and software and solutions for Amazon sellers. Currently, there's not just Amazon, but the whole e- commerce channel is growing a lot. So other channels we see like Walmart, Shopify, obviously, is humongous. There's a lot of opportunity right now for sellers to, I'd say, expand their business. Even in international marketplaces, we've seen Amazon expand to pretty much the Middle East, places like Japan, India. They're growing extremely fast and I think the world is starting to adapt to this Amazon shopping model. I think over the next course of five years or so, it's probably going to pretty much take over like how everyone around the world shops. Yeah, for us, I'd say like the year is winding down, so things are, I'd say, slowing down a little bit. But, at the same time, is actually moving faster because we're bringing onboard a couple new team players really to help us try to grow our business within US and outside of US. We want to try to do as many events as we can next year, and I know this year was we started off slow because of COVID and then we weren't sure how everything was going. But now we realize, man, there's such a huge population of sellers everywhere and they're all happy to get out and meet people. I just came back from the PowWow conference in Miami, which was awesome. I wasn't expecting such a large turnout, but it ended up being quite a surprise and had a really good time.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Well, I think that's what a lot of people were in certain beginning or the middle of the part of 2021, how that would impact. Events kept popping up left and right, and I had a call yesterday and we were discussing... This is an agency in the Amazon and e- commerce space and they said, " Q1, we're going to 24 different events." I just like dropped my jaw and I said, " 24?" Of course, that's attending, that's in exhibiting every single one of those. But there's so much ramp up, it seems like there's going to be lots of networking, partnerships, lots coming through from the past 16 months, 18 months, whatever you want to call, 20 months or so of maybe yes we get together, maybe no we don't. I think that whole sleigh of 2022 is going to be jampacked with lots of people interacting and growing. Is that the easiest way for a company like in a software space? I personally was at a software company. Is that the easiest way to have those conversations with people is face to face, or is it more of like that virtual interactions where you can show people? How do you like the different factors in that regard? I'm curious.
Henson Wu: Yeah, in this space, it's difficult because you're basically trying to target e- commerce sellers and it's not easy. Because they can live anywhere, they could be anywhere, and you got to have to just do a little bit of everything in terms of marketing, outreach, different channels. And going to events is definitely one of the biggest, I would say, the biggest avenues to, not just meet potential clients and sellers, but really to network within people within the industry. Like most of these big events have a lot of All- star influencers that have a lot of reputation in this world. Just being able to make that connection with them is pretty invaluable. Yeah, even when we started, we started back in 2017 and nobody knew about us and we started our first event was a prosperous show in Las Vegas. Just going to that event really just built up our brand reputation. People didn't know who we are, but once we went there, it gives you a little bit of street cred that, " Hey, these guys exhibit, they have a team, they have a good software." Then from there it's really just building up your client base and then word of mouth. If you develop something great, if you have a great tool, great service, people will recommend your tool. And going to Powell, and even going to all the events this year, is really awesome because it's not... For us it's like, yeah, we have a pretty good share of the market in terms of the software we do. Just being able to meet our customers face to face, you don't see them, you don't know who they are, and them giving you feedback and just hearing like all the great things that we've done for them, help them grow. It's like really heartwarming. It's like, " Wow." It's a great accomplishment, I would say, so it's pretty awesome.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Being in the service side of the industry, as you know, in either software or service or any across the board, I think that's one of the most reassuring things is that you're doing a good job. That you're going to continue to push and help other people be successful, which is really neat. I always toy with the notion of if you're not at events, do people think that you're a legitimate individual or thought leader or a business? On the flip side, if you're just busy enough and life doesn't allow for you to escape, is there that balance that you find you and your team that you have to balance? You can't be at everything, but which ones do you pick and choose to be at, to be most impact for either? Does that make sense?
Henson Wu: Yeah, I would definitely agree. You need balance in life, just got to do a little bit everything. Just you got to talk with people, you got to network, sometimes you got to focus on data. Data is very important, a lot of things are data driven. Sometimes events might not be the best ROI for people, even for attendees or for exhibitors. But the factor that you can go out there and it's like a mini vacation at the same time as work, but you can network with people, and networking can bring you greater returns in the long run that you might not be able to see right in front of you. But meeting someone today, they could help you down the line in two years. You never know. I truly believe life is really just about networking, meeting great people, and being able to flourish that way.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely, and I love telling this story and I think it's a funny joke. You're the one person, of the 176 episodes I've had on this, I've truly only met one person in real life, and that, believe it or not, is you.
Henson Wu: No way, are you serious?
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, I promise you. It's not a joke. I wish I was joking. I feel like I know a lot more people without touching or feeling or hand shaking or anything like that. Believe it or not, all the things that we've done, the networking that we've done, I said we, myself and our company, is all done virtually. It's one of those funny things that I say story wise, but look out 2022. Hopefully, that's when a lot of people are going to be, surprisingly, meet me, hopefully, in person. That's something I always like to joke about. I've only had one guest that I've met it in person.
Henson Wu: That is so funny, wow. Man, I got to tell PingPong to get you out there.
Ryan Cramer: They try man. They're constantly asking me, " Do you want to go here? Do you want to go here?" I said, " Let's just start fresh in 2022. Not for any other reason, but just it's hard to point." That's the thing too, and that I believe that Rob Stanley's watching, former employee of FeedbackWhiz and friend of both of ours. He said meet up in San Francisco in December. I have no idea what he means, but at some point in December, I'm already thinking, that's three weeks away, that's so hard to plan with the family of friends. I guess my other question, I know this is really event focus for a lot of people, but I think this is really important to talk about because you've been in the industry a long time. You have a service, but you also have a software. How do you do that balance of, at a moment's notice, where lots of people, whether it be their own businesses, they'd be selling on Amazon or a software, and at a moment's notice, you're like, " Yep, I'm going to be there and I'm going to book a flight. I'm going to go to this event. Maybe spend a couple days, maybe a week or more away from family." How do you do that juggling and balance? Is that something you found successful or is that something you continuously have to work at, if you will?
Henson Wu: Yeah, it's hard in the beginning because it's hard to plan and figure out like how much time can I take off work? Because a lot of time you go to these events, you miss out on the work related stuff. I'd say planning and scheduling is very important and being ahead of doing research ahead of time. So most of these events that we look into, we're probably like at least two months out early. Just making sure that we got all the logistics set up, making sure like we block off our calendar and we have set up partnerships and things like that. Planning, I would say, is the biggest thing. Just staying ahead, and of course, having family is tough because you have kids, they go to school. I don't know, like other people's situations sometimes you might have to find a nanny and things like that. Yeah, there's not much really you could do, just if you have to go somewhere, you have to go somewhere. It's for work and I just say you just have to plan early and then get everything in place. Then once it's planned, then you just go with the schedule. It's just like everything else.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, and there's a lot. Yeah, there could be flexibility but there's also this consistencies doing that moving forward. It's always important to be planning and talking with and continuing to know when people going to be at places, so you can schedule around and optimizing schedules. Speaking of planning, I'm going to go ahead and segue into our conversation. Look at me, I'm a great host over here. I like to segue into our topic, how Amazon sellers can set automated or scheduled out business alerts inaudible. If something happens in this regards, I can't be everywhere in the world. I'm not going to have my Seller Central dashboard up all the time. It can be refreshing at moments notice. I have so many things on my plate, if I'm a seller. There's so many different tools out there that maybe help with this, but they don't have the insights that you guys have. I've not seen the updates that FeedbackWhiz has done before, but why is this important to be talking about setting up automated alerts when, at a moments notice, something either good or bad can happen? Why was that super important for you to build that into your tool set?
Henson Wu: Yeah, so when we first launched FeedbackWhiz, we actually did have some of these notification alerts. One of the things that we really wanted to do is to help Amazon sellers improve their brand reputation. So outside of email automation for reviews, we created a pretty sophisticated system to basically capture events that happen for your business. We started off with seller feedback and product reviews, and those are pretty much the two biggest things for your business is really that basically gives you the baseline of how well your business is doing at a reputation level. And product reviews are more important than anything else. That's pretty much gives 90% decision whether or not someone should buy a product or not. Setting up alerts on our system like product reviews. We decided to really focus on that when we first launched FeedbackWhiz. It really was how fast can we get these product review alerts to the customer, right? Like when someone writes a review, it takes a while like Amazon doesn't offer product review alerts. They don't tell you when someone writes a product review. It's something that you have to pretty much go on your own listing page and then look it up and see if someone wrote you a review. As you expand in this space, you might have tens and hundreds of products. There's no way that you could go there every day and start looking for reviews. We decided to build a platform just to capture these reviews and then help sellers manage the reviews itself by identifying commonly used keywords, being able to search and filter for different ratings, what people are telling them. Even when we first launched in 2018, some of the legacy users... No, we used to have buyer review matching, so we used to be able to identify who wrote the review, tie it back to the order, and then you can automate emails to them. But that's all long gone, that was a long time ago crosstalk-
Ryan Cramer: The good old days.
Henson Wu: Amazon doesn't like that stuff. They've been constantly just cracking down on some of the things that are favoring sellers or manipulating things. We had to adapt, so we do everything we can to make sure that we adhere to all of Amazon's developer policies, communication policies. That's really the way to go because having like crazy Black Hat tools and stuff like that, it's great. It might help you boost your business in the short- term. But in the long- term, it could really hit you. If you get your store taken down or something like that, or you violate, you can lose your entire business overnight. Just like some of these Chinese sellers that we're trying to manipulate ranking and manipulate reviews. It's not a good business practice. So come 2021, we are, right now, we just launched a very sophisticated alert system. What this really does is that any data, Amazon metrics that gets pulled from the API, we give you the ability to set these alerts. Whether it's product reviews, Solar feedback, Hijacker, Buy Box, Title Change. Anything regarding your listing, your product reviews. But these tools have been around for a while, and we have all of them, a lot of other tools have them. But what we've done is now we've not just taken these product reviews and listing tools, but we've also now taken profits, revenues, costs like order manager units, repeat buyers. All these different types of metrics that you should be tracking. Then also giving you the ability to set up alerts for them, and not just like alerts of if this happened, but we give you the ability to set thresholds on when you want it to happen, like how are you want to alert it? So some of the examples might be like we have a profits tool that displays everything like gross margin, net profit, cost and stuff like that. You can now go in and set your own threshold on a specific ASIN and say" When my gross revenue drops for my blue t- shirt by 20%, send me an alert. Not just send me alert, but you can send it to my US business team, or my US marketing team." We give you a lot of flexibility within our platform now to basically set up customized alerts for specific groups of a ASINs, specific ASINs, and then being able to allocate these alerts to different groups within your organization. Yeah, this is awesome because I don't think anyone else has anything like this, and we're from here, we're just really trying to develop more of these alerts and not just business alerts. But mostly you can tie different types of alerts together, so event A happens and event B happens, send me alert. Then being able to track when these alerts happen and then trying to correlate how these affect my sales, my growth. Yeah, it's really exciting to be able to introduce this product to the Amazon world.
Ryan Cramer: Well, I think that's needed in a couple different levels. You mentioned if you have a team, if it's not just you, and the person doesn't have eyes on it all the time. If they're PVC spend, or if it's an inventory company you're working with, or some sort of outside entity, if that automation can trigger some action, whether it's email notification, whatever that tool or trigger is, very impactful. Because, at moments notice, if, like you said, your listening is hijacked and you go below a certain inventory threshold, or if you get inventory in, again, that, on the positive side, hopefully a lot of people are getting inventory in now. Once you get that, you can start to scale up PC campaigns. You can start to full throttle a lot of your marketing campaigns. I think a lot of those triggers, a lot of people have to manually do and that wastes a lot of time and money and effort. Is that ultimately where you're trying to do this? Like get more things done quicker or get things resolved quicker in that regards instead of letting it linger, maybe costing tens of thousands of dollars on a given, depending on what that issue might be?
Henson Wu: Yeah, absolutely, and exactly. You nailed the point, it's like playing defense in a way. Like some of these alerts can really help grow your business, but a lot of times these alerts will prevent you from losing business. Like things like inventory stockouts, if your inventory runs low, I know Amazon has some of these alerts. But, in general in this case, like you want to know when you need to reorder. Or you get a bunch of negative product reviews coming in for a certain product and everyone's telling you the same thing. The same keywords are saying that maybe I'm getting the wrong item. Or even for order returns, there's order return reasons that Amazon basically tells the sellers. Like there's a reason why they return the order, and a lot of times sellers get a return and the reason is product not as described. Why is that not as described? Sometimes it could be a hiccup in sending in the product. Maybe they send in a bad batch, a wrong batch. These are alerts where you need to get these alerts pretty much immediately to fix the problem. Otherwise, you could lose a lot of money. Your listing could be suppressed, you could be losing sales. I think it's a valuable tool and pretty much any Amazon seller that has more than a couple products definitely should have some alert system monitoring set up. The cost of it is extremely affordable. For you to hire a dedicated person just to monitor your business and stuff like that, it's not really worth it. That person should be the one that's reacting to these events that happen. You should have a software tells you when things happen, and then that person can basically figure out what to do next. That's really why we really focused on this part of this system.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Well, there's things that instantly come to mind in terms of how you can effectively handle and manage these events. I know one thing that comes to mind initially is how does this really impact and help with my order management system? Whether it be inventory levels or reorder triggers or anything of that sort. How does this really help me forecast when I need to reorder inventory, whether it be like short term or for the next six months or whatever that might be? How do these alerts really affect and help offset these issues that a seller might have on a day to day basis?
Henson Wu: Yeah, that's a great question. Right now, the version that we have right now doesn't have the inventory forecasting. And inventory forecasting is a tool that we'll be releasing in 2022, next year, and we've actually developed something huge, and I'll probably jump on another podcast and talk about that and it's awesome.
Ryan Cramer: What a tease.
Henson Wu: Yeah, so I don't want to get too much into that, but definitely for inventory is a huge part of it. Not just being able to get alerts from stockouts or low inventory, but getting alerts to send for new orders. Like being able to know when I need to reorder or part of our product or manufacturing is running low, running slow. My inventory is stranded in the port of LA. These alerts can help you make the next move on how to adjust. If I'm not going to get my product in time for Christmas, I need to know that early. I need to know that weeks, months, way before. If you're just constantly manually checking or sometimes even Amazon inventory alerts are not just first order, they don't really tell you much besides of what kind of data that they have in their system. But if you have other data of like your supplier information, they send you emails or updates like that data can be used to set up additional alerts to really help you forecast much more accurately.
Ryan Cramer: Gotcha. Well, the tease is real, and again, I think that's the biggest issue with a lot of people are trying to understand if the sooner you know those things, the quicker you can respond as an entrepreneur making those difficult decisions. Or go to plan B or C in terms of making sure your inventory levels are going to be great. A lot of people are even talking about suppressing listings so they don't run out of inventory, turning down their PPC strategy so they don't run out in Q4. Just for the fact until they reach that restock availability, whether they're goods are waiting and getting to warehouse, or you can flip on FPM. All those things are really important because, as you know and most of the listeners know too, once your listing runs out inventory or gets low, Amazon will naturally start suppressing that listing or they'll just torpedo it to the bottom. And that rank strategy that you have in place will just be more costly to get you to the back of where it was before you ran out of inventory. I can imagine that that's a super big thing. Lots of sellers that are using your tools are going to be really wanting in the future. What about, I guess, shifting focus to something that you do have? What about reviews in terms of monitoring? You had mentioned back in the days, you could reply back to people, and I think recently Amazon is now allowing you to respond back or at least engage with, at some capacity, whether they're limited or full on at a one to three star view. Is that correct? Like what's the update on that, if I was to ask?
Henson Wu: Yeah, it's interesting. Amazon opened it up for people that have brand analytics to basically contact people who've written you a review. They give you opportunity now to remove the review, or at least give you contact to them, which is pretty surprising. Because the years back they were doing everything they can to try to prevent communication between the reviewer and the seller. Now for brand analytics, there's probably been a lot of feedback from brand sellers saying that, " Hey, if we can't communicate with the people that review our products, it doesn't give them a chance to have a voice on responding to like what the problem is." I think it's probably a good move by Amazon to not be so strict about it. But, unfortunately, if you don't have brand analytics, there's still no way to know who wrote you a review. But FeedbackWhiz platform, I think at some point the API will open up for brand analytics. So third party software developers like us will be able to get access to that kind of data, and then we could develop tools around that. But as of right now, if you're just selling on Amazon without brand analytics, you don't really have much insight on the reviews coming in. Our tool basically will pull in all the reviews pretty much in real time as posted on Amazon. You have the ability to basically manage all those reviews on one page. If you have like 200 products, you could see all the reviews come in for all 200 products. You don't have to scroll through 200 product pages on Amazon and try to read them all. It's really a pain. Then we also have like keywords that help you identify like what are the most commonly used terms in a specific time period? Let's say you want to pull in reviews in the last week, and then you could see exactly what are people saying about your reviews? What are the commonly used phrases? Like is it defective? Is it awesome? Is it great? Just getting that insight early on will really help improve your product. Not just improve your product, but if there's any problems with the product, you probably pretty much want to know about it right away. I'd say that's pretty much the biggest advantage is right now of just reading reviews. It's to get the real time gauge of what people think about your product.
Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. I have a question and I'm curious if you have any insight on this with the review ecosystem. When you go to a product page and you're reviewing everything, a lot of it can be relevant in up thumb like thumbed up, or I find this helpful in those regards. I also see data as potentially a negative thing. For whether it be a tactic of a competition or anything like that. Not that we're supporting any tactics, but how do you get rid of either bad actors who are upvoting negative feedback? For example, if a product doesn't work this way and you fix that problem and they are upticking that or suppressing good reviews when there's other reviews that are maybe not so favorable to your brand. Is there a way to, either as a brand manager, have a hand in which will ones are being featured on Amazon's platform, or is that strictly just on their side? What's the most" relevant" or are they pulling out based upon keywords? What's that background on what's appearing on your product pages?
Henson Wu: Yeah, I wish I knew the answer to that. That's a black box within Amazon. Their algorithm's currently always changing, and how they handle that, it's pretty obvious that they have all that data and information. It's just not so obvious on why some of the listings and why some products get hit and some don't. It's a consistency thing with Amazon that they're trying to improve over time and they definitely got better over the years. I know there's been a lot of these rank... well, not rank, but product review manipulation, like you said, like uploading bad reviews. So when people first go onto your product review page, they only see the bad reviews even though you have a 4. 7 star rating or something. I'd say the only thing you can really do is having a monitoring tool will give you some insights on how fast these things are coming in. When there's anomalies like suddenly you get like 50 positive reviews for no reason, you can report these events to Amazon. You can say, " Hey, by the way I noticed there's been a very weird trend that's not normal. Like suddenly someone's upvoting all the bad reviews up." Just reporting to Amazon will give... At least, there's a ticket in their system, like a flag. Whether or not they decide to investigate or do something about it, that's something that no one can control. But at least you're taking some kind of action. If you don't take any action, then most likely unless Amazon is their algorithm starts detecting things, and which they've actually improved a lot in the last few years, it gives you a better chance to combat some of these bad practices.
Ryan Cramer: Right, there should be a predictive velocity of which you, as a seller, can receive in consistent reviews or ratings. I'm assuming if there's any sort of fluctuation or fluttering, just like in ranking a product on any level, they're going to monitor those things and they have data and alerts and things like that. If it's a good thing or a bad thing, it's still going to put a flag in this and say, " Why is there already so many good reviews as opposed to what's traditionally happening in the past?" Is that something that you've seen brands have to combat of they're receiving too many good reviews that has either suppressed their listing, or it's had Amazon take a deeper look at why all of a sudden that's happening?
Henson Wu: Yeah, I've definitely seen that before. Some of these competitors, what they'll do is still try to post a whole bunch of positive reviews, a lot of times unverified. And that used to trigger that listing game taken down. That was one of the tactics that they did to take down any competitor listings, especially, with the newer listings. But I think Amazon's getting smarter about that. They have so much data on where the review's coming from, who's writing it, which account? They can easily identify and figure out whether or not it's a competitor doing it, or is it you doing it. But it still is a headache. Just having to deal with things like that, it's that shouldn't be part of running a business on Amazon. I really hope that in the future, Amazon can put in just more detection and algorithms to help prevent some of these bad actors. But it is what it is, right? This is a trillion dollar market and everyone's competing for that small real estate, that page one. They'll do whatever they can to try to prevent in any new competitors coming in or making a dent into sales. As you can see, like Amazon's really progressing over the years. They're trying to tone down on all the different tactics that sellers are doing, whether it's trying to rank or keywords and all those. Even with the communication with reviews last year, they came out with a whole guideline on making sure that you're not incentivizing people to write reviews. You're not giving them free stuff or trying to direct them to contact you if there's a negative issue or negative problem. They really want the experience to be genuine. If you had a bad experience, you had had a bad experience. Write about it, don't try to cover it up by giving them something and making it seem like everything's great, but it might not be.
Ryan Cramer: Well, that leads me to a probably a final point of the episode, if you will. As we've alluded to the top of the show, there was a lot of buzz about these updates. You've mentioned updates regarding reviews and incentivizations. That was actually posted and officially part of the Seller Code of Conduct in terms of what's bad, what's not, what's acceptable, what is part of day to day? What can sellers expect. That it was a forum. It's an open forum on the Seller Central side of things, where it was from a moderator that opened up the floor plane and said, Based upon the series event, this is why a lot of people took this a little bit more serious than maybe some other things. Of the series of events where you had FCC regulations coming out against businesses. You had this notification of a software tool service that said for ranking manipulation, or however you want to do it, rebates and ranking was their forte in rebates. In terms of they were no longer going to be a part of the ecosystem, Amazon ecosystem, I think as the inaudible 17th of November this month. Then you had the notification and forum post of this is what ranking manipulation is deemed by us in terms of rebates, coupons, anything like that. It has to all be done in Amazon's ecosystem. It can't be incentivized outside. Shift the e- commerce world in terms of, or the Amazon world, I should say, in terms of super vague still, still not part of the Seller Code of Conduct. Is this something coming from Amazon? Is this a moderator's point of view? What is, what isn't a part of it? Is there any insight that you guys have received as a part of going through this entire process of being notified by Amazon as, " Hey, this is no longer acceptable. This is not going to get people to use your tools." No longer going to be a case at purpose and then we'll get suspended or you'll be removed from Amazon's storefront. Is this up Amazon's alley of consistent behavior, or is this something new that you guys have seen moving forward that you've experienced on your end?
Henson Wu: Yeah, it's a great question. I think it's when you hear stories like this, it really just scares pretty much all the developers on Amazon. It's like they have so much control over your business, and in the click of a button, they could shut you down just for whatever reason it is. Traditionally, I say in the past like, in 2018, we used to have the buyer review matching tool, which was basically we'd take a code from the review side of the page. Then we would match that code with the order site of when the order is placed. We put those two pieces of code together, and then we can basically say, " All right, 100%, this is the person that wrote the review." Then from there, you can automate the communication on, " Hey, if someone wrote you a bad review, can you please remove the review and we'll give you a free item." That's very common. Like that was before Amazon's regulating anything. They caught on very quickly with that feature. Back then, yeah, I don't know about everybody else, but having some people you know within the organization that work with you within the team is very helpful. Because you pass some questions along and ask like, "Hey, is this something that is okay?" But back then, yeah, they reached out to us and basically said that, " Hey, we don't want you guys doing this anymore." They give you a timeline to say like, " You need to stop this by a certain amount of time otherwise there's consequences." Obviously, everybody knows what the consequences are. This was actually before the app store came out, so they weren't as strict. But I'd say now because there's so many Amazon apps now, the app store's humongous. It's like growing exponential with all these service providers. I'm not sure of the communication if they have the bandwidth to manage and talk to every single third part developer. And some of these new restrictions, even last year with the communication policies, we had no insight or warning when it happened. It just boom, they posted and this is it. We'll give you a time where you have like three months to fix everything, and this is what we're going to do. But in this subject with the rebates and rank manipulation, I think this is something that is pretty much everybody knew about this like years ago. That it's not really Black Hat but it's in between. It's iffy like it's giving them a rebate and then giving them the ability to go to a URL to boost the page, boost the sale. To make the sale look like it's a genuine sell. That's always been in that gray zone of rank manipulation. I think the parties that offered some of these services, they knew about it but Amazon never regulated. Now they are because they're probably under political pressure or whatever it is that to say something about it. I know that Amazon if they was no pressure on their side, they probably wouldn't care either because it's good for Amazon's business. If sellers are doing well, Amazon's doing well. But I think at this point they probably don't have much of a choice, so they have to enforce some of these rules. To answer your question with the moderator, yeah, I would say that's probably a precursor to what Amazon will probably make an announcement very soon. Because if someone within the Amazon organization is posting something so detailed and then some of these apps are getting actually shut down, that basically tells you like they are internally changing. They're making a change just maybe they haven't finalized all the wording and stuff. But, most likely, I would say probably coming pretty soon, look inside Seller Central under the news. You'll probably see some new... there'll probably will be a post detailing some of these new practices regarding rebates and links and URLs and stuff like that. But, yeah, it's scary. It's like you don't know when they're going to announce something. My advice for other companies and even ourselves is like stay far, far away from anything that is even remotely like Grey Hat, it just it's not worth it. Just try to develop things that are useful for sellers, but not in a way that violates any of Amazon's policies.
Ryan Cramer: Exactly. Well, initially, I think there was a fear that this was just an example to be made of, and almost a scare... Not a scare tactic. Again, Amazon does this for a reason, and if you look at the series of events, you can probably match them all up and a lot of people agree with that of this is not coming out of nowhere. It happens almost every Q4, around Q3, Q4, where they do some shake up in terms of policy. I think trying to protect. I like the ability to protect again reviews. I think that's a holy sacred area to give honest feedback of people who actually bought the product and manipulating that is actually falsifying how good or bad a product is. That makes sense to me. With ranking a product, with it being brand new, it's almost very difficult to understand why Amazon would come in from this way. Again, you don't want a notion of, " Oh, it's going to be at the top of page one in their algorithm." It will naturally resettle itself, and again, giveaways were traditional in the past coupons. Coupons are fine on Amazon because you can still offer them in Seller Central account. Rebates are a very common practice across the board. I think there's those additional benefits that those outlying benefits of doing practices is what they don't like of, " Hey, we can get you great sales with an additional benefit of it looking like people are finding your product." Again, that's very difficult concept because if you're launching a new product, there's no history or track record. How are you supposed to drive people to a new product besides PPC and things like that when there's no review, history, there's no sales history? What are the ways that Amazon expects or wants you to operate moving forward? I think a lot of people want to understand, " Hey, this is the way that Amazon maybe should or you should drive traffic to your listing." Whether it be externalized traffic or social media, you have your own ambassador system or people really want to purchase. I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what way in which Amazon feels it's appropriate to send traffic to your listing so that people can find it to grow on Amazon, to make more sales. So that they get more business and you get more business. It's really confusing in this regards, and again, nothing has officially been changed in the Seller Code of Conduct from as of this podcast episode, as of the 5th of November, almost 1: 50 Eastern Time, nothing has changed officially, but a lot of people are speculating in that regards too. So in the software world, people are scrambling, they're trying to figure out we don't want to get in trouble in that regards too. That's why we want to make sure it's not official, it's a speculative. It's an Amazon employee officially. It's not officially in the terms of service or Seller Code of Conduct.
Henson Wu: Yeah.
Ryan Cramer: It's amazing, stay tuned.
Henson Wu: Yeah, I do, probably, do see that this is just a precursor of a more official change. It's possible that Amazon is building their own internal rebate system or something. Maybe they crosstalk but they want to control it. They want to make sure that it's fair for everybody. I think that's really what it is, is they want to create a fair platform for everybody like around not just having certain tactics that some sellers can do and some tactics other can't do. If they can control the ranking, the rebates and stuff, that probably makes the most sense. I'm thinking that's probably what they're trying to do, but I don't know. It's like it takes time.
Ryan Cramer: It wouldn't be surprised if you saw an internalized rebate system of if you want to do giveaways or anything like that, saw an Amazon's ecosystem. Probably wouldn't be surprised if that came down the pipeline. Who knows what's going to happen, and I think that's the how do softwares help in that regards of helping people take data? Again, we saw this with just keyword research data of Amazon released this new tool that's going to help people in terms of 90 day history, keyword research. Really cool and really functional and really helpful. I think there would be more to that, I think a lot more people would be a little bit less peed off right now of what are we supposed to do? Like this is head jerking and knee reaction, and it's great for a reason but like how are we supposed to operate? The fear is like it's going to start pushing people away to different platforms. But, again, I guess in the minimum amount of time that we have left, and then what's the... is this something that makes you think about how to diversify not just on Amazon or having the solution that helps across different selling channels like a Walmart or an Etsy or a different marketplace platform? Does this make you think about how do we help other sellers grow as well?
Henson Wu: Yeah, definitely. We are definitely expanding our tool to other platforms. As we see that the spaces... As you can see, everything that's going on is hurting the smaller sellers, the ones that are just trying to sell on Amazon. It's harder and harder for them to climb up and make an impact. In the long- term, I truly believe even with all this money coming in for these brand aggregators buying all these brands, it's probably going to be a smaller group of entities or sellers or companies that are pretty much selling most of the volume Amazon. These are the long- term players, and they're not going to just be selling on Amazon, they're going to be selling, like you said, on other websites like their own website, Shopify, Walmart, Etsy, Target. It's this channel is just growing like crazy. Everyone's behavior now is like, " We don't really go out and buy stuff in the store anymore. Just sit on the front of your computer, click a button, it comes to my door." Yeah, I think it's I don't know what's going to happen in the next five years but I would say that definitely e- commerce is going to expand, Amazon's going to get better with their own internal tools. I could see in the last couple years, they've put so much effort in development on their tool site. Which is competing with the third party apps. But, at the same time, they have an app store that has hundreds and hundreds of providers and they need the providers too. So they have to create a good balance between what tools they offer and then how far they go with those tools. They go too far, they're going to hurt a lot of the providers, which will also hurt them. Well, if you don't have us... then we're one of the biggest resources for growing their seller base. Without us like people don't really-
Ryan Cramer: Great advocates and things like that.
Henson Wu: Yeah, exactly. I think there's got to be a good balance. They have to provide a good platform, make it fair. Provide the necessary tools for like just basic whether it's reviews, whether it's emails, whether it's keywords. But don't go too far, let the developers figure out like how can we make it better? We can create a management system, we can create a better platform, things like the alert system. I think having the ability to customize thresholds and put together different data points, that's something that would be very helpful, but I don't don't think Amazon's best interest is to go crazy and develop all these different parts within there. Yeah, I don't know, we'll see. It's hard to say.
Ryan Cramer: crosstalk the space, but it's also a headache and it has a pain in your stomach every day you wake up. What else can you-
Henson Wu: Yeah, for sure.
Ryan Cramer: Very cool. Well, I know we're at the top of the hour. I want to go ahead and wrap up. So what about just in the remaining couple minutes, is there anything that you're seeing with Q4 that's either both exciting or shocking or maybe scary? That across the board, inaudible within FeedbackWhiz, is there any data that you're seeing that might be of concern or excitement personally across e- commerce or in Amazon?
Henson Wu: That's a good question. To be honest, I don't know. I haven't dug that deep into the data recently, especially, for Q4. But definitely noticed there's a lot of activity still in selling. With the inventory issues and people trying to get their products out, I think there's a flood of money out there right now. There's just incredible amounts of cash people have willing to spend, buy everything. It's good for our sellers. People are opening up their wallets and buying. They're buying everything left and right. Look at the crypto market, NFTs, like the holiday season gifts, yeah, it's great. If you have products selling on Amazon right now, I'm sure you're going to do very well this Christmas season. It's not like any year we've ever seen.
Ryan Cramer: Still growth happening, yeah.
Henson Wu: Growth.
Ryan Cramer: I know a lot of people in Q3 they sell somewhat of the back off of growth, but there's a lot of data and outside resource, a lot of outside point you can see of people who are traveling, people are trying to get out of their house more. Of course, it's not going to be that sustainable 20% growth, month over month, year over year, quarter over quarter. It's going to naturally resettle, grow in its traditional pace, but growth is growth. It's still harder to plan in this regards, but people are still finding ways to still optimize, still grow, still take advantage of the need. Again, Amazon's 40% of a 10 to 15% market of all of retail purchasing. To think about that special area and that small pie of the bigger picture pie, there's lots more opportunity in that growth. So it's exciting to see what the rest of this year holds. The data, hopefully, continuing to show growth in this regards and we'll see where more money gets pulled into. But, yeah, a lot of things we covered today. Thanks for hopping on and giving your insights and coming back as a friend of Crossover Commerce. We appreciate the time, the insight, and the forecasting or the future telling, if you will. But thanks again, Henson, and we're excited to see all the new stuff that's coming. And you've already promised to come back on, so we don't even have to worry about that.
Henson Wu: Yeah, anytime, man. Hopefully, I see you next year in some of the conferences and stuff like that. It's been a while.
Ryan Cramer: That is the plan unless the world burns down or does something crazy again. But that's the plan at least this early on or this late in the year. But I've promised a lot of people a lot of things and I hopefully can make up those meetings here in 2022. Of course, 1% in person, it's always good to see you over the screen. So thanks again for hopping on today, I appreciate it.
Henson Wu: All right, thanks Ryan.
Ryan Cramer: Yeah, thanks crosstalk.
Henson Wu: Talk to you later. Thank you.
Ryan Cramer: All right, and thanks everyone else for hopping on Crossover Commerce. Again, I think this is episode 176 of this wonderful podcast I like to call Crossover Commerce, my corner of the internet where we talk all things Amazon and e- commerce with insight experts... I should say insider experts, with experts in the space. They've seen data and growth in their various different ways, whether it's the service provider, expertise, agencies, whatever that might be. This is where we talk to those people and give the insights of topical relevant information. We covered a lot today. Again, we'll wait and see. That's the nature of the Amazon world. A lot of people speculate. No one truly knows, a lot of people have thoughts, insights, and can draw those lines. It's happened in the past. Again, we talk about reviews, how that happened with how that changed in terms of service. But also is this going to change the way people launch products? Is this going to change the way people can sell on Amazon, ultimately, effectively and get their products to top of a search? We don't know, and I know that's where innovation's going to continue to happen. People don't stay stagnant, they always are ebbing and flowing with the waves as they come. It's an industry of lots of different speed boats and not a lot of tankers. So you can make those changes quickly and effectively. That's how you still stay in business and grow as entrepreneurs in those businesses. That being said, this is Friday. Thanks for hopping on. We only had one episode this week, but next week action packed with more episodes. We have three that week and I think already somehow booked out six in that following week, so stay tuned for lots of content coming in. 50 days until Christmas everyone, that is a banana statistic, just fact in general for what's coming. If you're holiday shopping or if you're selling, good luck in the next 50 or so days. And if you like our episodes, go ahead and rake us up by giving us thumbs up on social media, or you can go ahead and rate and review us on our favorite podcast destination. I'm Ryan Cramer, this is Crossover Commerce. Thanks again for tuning into another episode. We'll catch you guys next time. Take care.
Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Henson Wu of FeedbackWhiz one-on-one about how Amazon sellers can setup automated business alerts for their brands.
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