EcomCrew Podcast

E146: Under the Hood with David Wilson Part 2 – Taking a Plateauing Business to the Next Level

For those who missed Monday's episode, David Wilson is our Under the Hood guest who enjoyed massive sales growth right before suddenly experiencing a plateau. He tried regaining growth by increasing ad spend, to the point that his profits were in danger of drying up. He needs cost-effective ways to get his sales back on pace, and that is what we talk about in this episode.

On Monday's episode, David and I talked about the basic things he needs to take care of before he can move on to actual growth strategies, which is delegation. We talked about his need to hire VAs and let Amazon FBA handle his inventory so he can have some free time to focus on high-level tasks that only he can do.

Today we get into the “meat and potatoes”–the actual strategies David needs to employ to boost his sales. In particular we talk about the following, among others:

  • Improving product photography
  • Utilizing all listing image space provided by Amazon
  • Using infographics
  • Shooting lifestyle videos and photos
  • Enhanced brand content
  • Running promotions and giveaways
  • Choosing a modern Shopify theme
  • Utilizing influencer marketing
  • Expanding to Amazon EU and Canada

I hope you got valuable practical advice from my conversation with David. If you'd like to get a one-on-one coaching session with me and be featured on the podcast, join our Under the Hood program here.

Resources mentioned:

Pacific Customs Brokers

Thanks for listening! Until next week, happy selling.

Full Audio Transcript

Mike: This is Mike, and welcome to episode number 146 of the EcomCrew Podcast. Today we're going to be doing part two of our Under the Hood segment with David Wilson. If you haven’t listened to part one, you can go back and listen to episode 145 just from a couple days ago. Again I want to thank David for coming on and talking about his business. We love doing these segments.

And if you want to be on your very own Under the Hood segment with us, just go to We're going to get right into part two right after this intro. We’ll see you then.

Mike: I have a bunch of recommendations. And there was a method to my madness on the get someone to help you with the other stuff with the manpower part, because I think these things I’m going to be talking about are things that only you can do and are going to add just way more value like to your business. I look at kind of where things are at, I mean you're you have a great product. Obviously I mean you got a lot of reviews on your website and on Amazon. It's like a 4.5 star product, people are really happy with it.

To have a four and a half star product in fashion like you're doing really well, that's hard to achieve. You do have some repeat business; some people are buying multiple things. But I think that just the presentation of it could be improved, just both on the website and on Amazon to a point where I'm pretty convinced that if you were to be able to do those things that alone would get you over like that 250k mark. So would you prefer to start with the website or Amazon?

David: Either or, whatever you think is best.

Mike: Well I just happen to have the tab on Amazon open right now. So I’ll start there just because that's where I was at. As someone who has been selling on Amazon now for several years and we've learned a ton from this stuff and we've done a lot of split testing specifically with Splitly. And I see like just a ton of opportunity for you in this stuff. But just some of the basics of the photography on Amazon, like I'm looking at — I just pulled up the first thing that came up here when I typed in your brand name, there's three pictures of the product versus the nine that you have available to you.

And having the extra photography makes like a huge, huge difference in your conversion rate. And Amazon is like a flywheel momentum platform. So updating the photography can increase your conversion rate by even just one sale per day. Like getting that extra sale helps you rank organically a little bit higher. Ranking a bit higher organically gets you like another sale per day and it’s just like that effect continues over and over again.

So the things that I see that are necessary on your Amazon listings because the pictures that you have are high quality and great, but it doesn't really talk about the unique selling proposition of your product. And your belt without giving any of the secret sauce away is unique in the fact that it's a little bit different than everything else out there, than the traditional belt, let’s just put that way. And the pictures don't really communicate that well enough in my mind.

I would make what I call many infographics. And when we get off here, I’ll share some of the ones that we've done with you as a part of this in private that have made like a massive difference. And adding those types of things where you have call outs with like little lines too, like the material, like talking about like the type of material that you have. That might be like a high quality material or the belt itself, or the way that the belt mechanism works can make a huge difference.

And also just like lifestyle. Lifestyle photos are massive like having the product on a person in the Amazon photography is like incredibly important because people have to like kind of see that to relate to it. I’m really convinced that you could either double or triple your sales on Amazon by putting that work into it in addition to using something like Splitly to eventually find the main image that gets you the highest click through rate and the other images that get you the highest conversion rate, and also split testing your title as well.

You've added enhanced brand content to your pages which is great which means you have a trademark and you've gotten the brand registry. But quite frankly, I think the enhanced brand content that I'm looking at here is a little bit weak. I just think you could be doing more with it, and I could share with you — again I'll share with you a couple of other examples of things that we've done and other people have done where I think you can just really kick this up a notch to help with your sales.

And I think that that's kind of what it comes down to on Amazon to increase your conversion rate and your sales to a point where I think that you'll need to have extra inventory in there to handle it. You'll be shocked at how quickly some of the stuff can make a big difference.

David: Yeah you know how this is. It’s kind of like you've got a lot of different things to do and there's sort of there are so many different ways that they could be improved. I have been thinking about doing different — adding some photos. And I did use Splitly. At one point I was using it more for the profit peak which actually didn't work that great for me. But it kept pushing my price higher and higher and I felt like — but my sales were dropping.

And then I did have some a little bit of an experience with trying to get the pictures to render correctly when I was doing some split testing. So I'm a little bit just trying to figure out what the best pictures are to put. But yeah I definitely think that there are some great ideas with maybe having some pictures that are more explanatory of what the unique functions of the product are.

Mike: Yeah I think it's like ultra important.

David: Yeah great.

Mike: Okay so the other thing that I think that's really important with your Amazon listings especially for a product like you is you can run promotions for buy two and get X percent off, buy three, get Y percent off, or buy both of these, add both of these to cart and get a discount on the other one. With a product like this, I think that if someone decided to buy the black version of your belt, there is a very good chance they will want to buy the brown or the other version of the belt.

And if you had a discount to incentivize them even more, taking advantage of the eyeballs that are already landing on your Amazon listing which it's hard enough to get people there, but once they're there if you can increase your average order value there's a huge benefit to that. And one thing to keep in mind is when people buy multiple products, you don't pay the — there's like one of the fees you don't pay again like the pick, pack, and ship. There's I think that initial dollar fee or whatever it is.

So even if you offer 10% off for something, you're not taking the bulk of that out of your pocket. There's some economies of scale getting someone to buy a second belt. And if they do that, it's increasing your conversion rate in your average order value which will help you rank organically higher as well. And this is another one of those things where you could set up the first one, write a procedure and then have your VA go through and do it for all the other products.

David: Yeah, that's funny. I typically do have something going on where it's I think if you buy a second belt it's 15% off and then the next one is 20 or 25. I had a promotion, but I must have put a time limit on it, and I actually don't recall it expiring. But I always have a sale going on, so I go back and I have to like re-up the sale every 30 days or so just so it appears that my products are discounted. But I'm glad you pointed out that my promotion has expired.

The promotion I'm kind of interested and I can't really understand. I've done a little bit of research on it. But the whole Amazon giveaway thing, I’m not sure I really understand how that works and how that helps your product in the long run. Like have you done much with the giveaways?

Mike: We have. So we ultimately ever do them is if it's a brand new product because those sales somehow actually count towards your sales velocity. I don't know why they allow it to happen, but if you do a giveaway it does count towards your sales velocity. But what we had a problem with, we did a couple of these giveaways and we were — in my mind I don't want to just give away a price just to get the velocity. That doesn't make any sense and they can't leave a review especially now in today's environment.

But what we are having a problem with, as soon as you like do a giveaway, they end up on things like a fad wallet or some of these giveaway sites. And people that don't even give a crap about your product end up taking advantage of it. So when we were first doing it, we would run a contest or a giveaway to our audience or to a Facebook audience or something hoping to get people that legitimately at least had an interest in our types of products. But then we found out was like very quickly one of those people would post it on a deal site and those are just people that are looking for freebies and will probably take the product and resell it or give it away as a gift or whatever and it's just not worth it.

David: Yeah, I had an experience like that where I had to create a discount code on Amazon, and I had people buying eight at the time. And because I have different variations, I can't limit the amount that people buy at one time because they can just buy in different colors or different sizes and twos and threes and even ten. That wasn't a good experience for me. So I haven't really been doing much with those like high volume discount giveaways.

Mike: Got you. Yeah I mean that makes sense. I don't think that you really need to be even doing that right now. I mean you already have an established product with a ton of reviews. Again that's a 4.5 star product that people are really happy with. I think that I really truly believe that photography can be the number one impact for you like without question. I'm looking at the promise like I wouldn't buy this. That’s like always like the barometer I use.

I think it's the picture that I'm looking at here. It's a beautiful photo, the main photo is perfect. I don't know that you would even need to change that photo, but there isn't anything here that like really convinces me to buy the product. It isn't fully explained like in the photography like how this buckle works. I see it like in the photo here, but there's no call out or step one, two, three kind of thing or any of those types of things.

And again I'll share some of things that we've done with that. We're actually putting together an Amazon course right now on a lot of this stuff. And we're going to be using these photos as a part of the template that people will get. I'll give them to you obviously for doing this. But I think that it'll make a massive difference for you just like knowing your product looking at it here I know kind of what it does. And if you could convey it better and get your conversion rate up, man I just think that you can kind of shoot to the moon.

David: Yeah that sounds great.

Mike: Cool. All right so let's shift off Amazon because it's like the glaring thing I saw on Amazon which is basically the photography, the enhanced brand content and then the promotions, which promotions sounds like you are already doing, you just kind of let that lapse which is no big deal. So, back over to the website now. I think it's similar things to me on the website. I mean first of all I think that you could use a better theme. I think you can go to like the sandbox or one of these other theme providers.

I don't really have a personal affinity to any one of them. But something that just gets really into the lifestyle photos, explains the product more, looks more modern. The site is very dark; it's basically a black background. It doesn't kind of look like 2018 to me. It looks a little bit dated. And I think that a new theme that kind of raise — just has more information raised inside out a little bit better could really make a lot of difference for you especially when you're — the idea would be basically over time to be able to enhance your advertising campaigns to be able to — we're going to talk about Facebook here as a last component thing I think you can do to really help you here.

But I really feel like before you can crawl, you got to walk, or before you can walk you got a crawl. I think this would be like the first step thing I would do is just getting a better theme, something that just conveys what this product does better, has larger photography. Again use those same infographics that you talk about and put it — talked about putting on Amazon, put them here. And make sure that you have some sort of one click up sell type thing installed.

Ezra Firestone has a Zipify app that does one click up sells. I think that this is the type of product that can benefit greatly from those. You mention already, there's a lot of orders that you get where people buy multiple products. But trying to enforce that even more I think can make a massive difference for you. I think that there's a very big opportunity when you're talking about a belt like this for people to need a second color or buy one for a friend for a gift. But the second color I think is really the case. So if they buy a black belt you offer them a brown belt as a one click up sell. I think that can make a massive difference.

So basically it's the theme, just updating the theme which is relatively easy. It's definitely several hours of work, but you don't need to be a programmer if you buy an off the shelf thing for a couple on a box. Just book through the Shopify theme store and just do a search on Google for Shopify themes. I think you can find a much sexier theme that will help sell the product better.

David: Yeah, so should I get a paid theme, or you think that one of the free themes? I guess at this point I shouldn't be nickel and diming over 100 bucks or whatever paid theme costs. This one was kind of getting the job done, but I do agree and I especially think I should have one where at least the photography can zoom in so now that they say that that's a big thing on Amazon is the ability to zoom in.

Mike: Yeah.

David: I feel like some of the different themes don't actually offer the zoom functionality though.

Mike: Yeah I agree. I think that you want one that puts the photography like front and center for this because it's a fashion product and allows you to zoom in. And I would definitely pay for a theme. I think that something some $500; I wouldn’t spend more than that. I don’t think it's worth it for your sales level to go higher than that. But the reality is that this should be the lifeblood of your business, at least 25% of your business.

If you can get that up to a third or 50% by having a better website and you think about like all the time and money and effort you put into the product and in advertising and all the things you talked about doing, if you could increase your conversion rate by just a fraction of a percent, it would make a massive difference. And I think — again I just look at when I'm doing these types of things I look at would I buy from this site. And honestly just again I wouldn't.

I mean I look at it as it just looks dated. It looks like something that I'm not sure I could trust this website. I'm like oh man, like this thing looks like it's built in Front Page in 1988 or something or 1990. I mean it just it doesn't look like something you could easily again with one of these paid themes just really, really kick it up a notch.

David: Yeah, yeah. I mean I guess it has converted at around 5% or so which I think is not bad for e-commerce. A lot of my customers tend to be a little bit on the older side as well, so maybe they're not quite as savvy, but I mean definitely that’s one of the things that's kind of on the list of things that I would like to do at some time. But hopefully this conversation will spur me to investigate the themes more thoroughly and pick a good one and then get it transitioned over.

Mike: Yeah it's really not a massive difference of a project. I should say that the biggest part of the project is researching the themes, like finding one that you like. And once you pick the one you like, implementing it relatively quick. You don't have enough traffic to like stress about like what happens when I – it has to be at this perfect transition because there's 10,000 people coming an hour to my website, and it can't be broken.

You could launch it, and I'd be broken for a few hours even a couple of days and it's not going to have any material impact on your life or your business, you'll fix it. And just as long as you're thinking long term, I think it's going to make a big difference. And I agree like I was even hesitant to even mention it because you do have like a spectacularly high conversion rate. I mean it's awesome.

It’s just kind of goes to the fact like you have such a great product but I’m very convinced you can improve upon that conversion rate and start to tap a new market because if you do have older — like I agree our ColorIt audience is very old and they kind of “fall for all the tricks in the book” from a marketing perspective because they're not savvy on the internet as some of the millennial type people.

But I think that your product doesn't just appeal to old people. I mean you have a product that I would want to wear, although I guess maybe I'm getting older now. But I think that also people in their 20s and 30s would certainly wear your product and love it. It's a great product and a fresher looking website I think would appeal to them for sure.

David: Yeah absolutely makes sense.

Mike: So the last thing I had on my list here is Facebook ads because I've seen a knockoff if you will of your product on Facebook advertised to me. And I think that a great video if you could at some point when you can afford to take the leap to put together a product video that kind of demonstrates the product and why it's so awesome, why a traditional belt that has holes and kind of like doesn't really work very well and frays and has problems because of all the different things that a traditional belt has that your belt fixes. When you have a big meal you can just kind of loosen a little bit or shrink it when you're walking or whatever it might be is really cool.

And I think that a video versus just a static ad can do wonders for you on Facebook advertising. But I do think the first step is kind of fixing the website and making it look a little bit more modern.

David: Yeah definitely. I mean these are all things I just I've been thinking about. It’s really just making the commitment to invest the money in the photography. I've talked to the friend and he was talking also about having a video. And I totally agree, I think on Facebook that would be good especially because it's driven by audience engagement. So having a video that combines some sort of more like lifestyle images, maybe some product demonstration, maybe some storytelling branding what have you, it's just — I mean I have a GoPro and I've done a little bit of like video editing and it's really time consuming.

I'm just thinking I need to hire someone to help me with that. And I definitely should be paying some people to do the product photography. I just need to really commit to investing the money for those things. I really think that they could help. I just haven't I guess made the commitment to hiring a professional photographer. I did have some of those shots that you said were higher quality. Those were done by a place where you mail them your products and have them shoot them and then provide you with the photos. But I haven't actually done that for all of my products, and I do think that I need to do more professional shots with like an actual photographer.

Mike: Yeah. I think it's well worth the investment for sure. I mean my recommendation is like one of these things where you hear someone else say it and it's still a big investment and you're probably still skeptical. What I would recommend doing is taking your best selling product and investing in that one. That way you can have real data and just see like what happens, Mike Jackness maybe is a crazy person and why would I go spend $5,000 on photography to go out and do all my products. And if it fails he's not going to give me the money back.

So I get it but my recommendation there would just be do it with one product, take your – you know what your best seller is. I look at these photos that were clearly done by the professional, and they're just like heads and shoulders above everything else and they're really good. There just isn't enough of them. And you've got a product here that I think like you're just so close with, you're already selling it, it does well. Just think about like what could happen with the extra photography. We got some pretty crazy results with some of the things that we've done where it's like more than doubled sales almost overnight by replacing some photographs. I think that that's definitely possible here without much of a question.

David: Yeah awesome. What I really feel like — yeah I definitely agree that those are all areas that I can improve on for sure. I kind of feel like because it converts at a reasonably well rate and it's popular, and it's reviewed well, I feel like if I can just get more eyeballs on it — so I guess there's two different approaches. We're taking kind of more of the fixing the leaky bucket approach and then there's also the approach of just getting massive exposure.

So I was thinking if I could just get some like a low level athlete to somehow start putting this on like their Instagram page, or I mean really like any exposure would just really I think get a lot more sales, because it already converts pretty well and clearly it's pretty popular. So I'm just trying to think of what ways there are to kind of organically get more exposure for my product.

Mike: Yeah, and I actually had on my list here FameBit influencer marketing. I think that's like a big one for you, like a really good potential. But the question of fix a leaky bucket or throw more water in it, for me I’m of the opinion that fixing a leaky bucket is better especially in this case first because it amplifies everything down the road especially with something like Amazon where — because if you think about like how much effort has to go into getting more traffic, or how much effort goes into converting more traffic, there's less effort that is required to converting better.

And I look at something like Amazon here where they're doing all the support and the shipping and everything for you. Amazon is a wonderful platform from a perspective of like high margin and low touch point, low aggravation. And I don't know I think that if you're looking at the lowest hanging fruit from someone that isn't even working full time in this business and knowing what I know about like influencer marketing and how much effort is involved in getting them and talking with them and going back and forth with like revising a video and then they obviously are going to send traffic to your website or to Amazon.

To me I would want the stuff fixed first because you only really get one shot with them. Once you burn out through all your influencers, it's hard to go back and have them redo it once you fix your foundation. So for me I would work on that stuff first. I know it's less exciting because it's always more fun to get more traffic, but as my friend Dave says that does the podcast with me revenues are vanity and profits are sanity. And I think that this is like a way to increase profit very quickly with less effort.

David: Great yeah that sounds good.

Mike: Cool.

David: So you said FameBit, is that right?

Mike: Yeah they are the like an influencer platform. There's other ones out there as well, but FameBit is the one that we've been using with a decent amount of success. We did it with coloring and it wasn't — it's really niche specific. But fashion does incredibly well with both FameBit and just like — so FameBit does YouTube and Instagram influencer marketing. And this is the kind of product that will I think do really, really well with that.

David: I dipped my toe in with Tomoson, am I pronouncing it correctly? And had some micro influencers. I don't know have amounts but it did a whole lot but it was something that I tried and I may try again. But yeah definitely I have a lot of things I can do on the website and Amazon first.

Mike: Yeah I think so. Cool so we're kind of close to our time limit here. Let me throw an open ended one out here. Is there anything else that you want to talk about real quick that was kind of on your mind that we didn't cover here today?

David: Well I think I mentioned the influencer marketing was kind of one of my thoughts. Off the top of my head I maybe find a little more time to think about it I would come up with something more profound. I mean how about with Amazon Europe and expanding that. I mean do you have any tips for trying to kind of to expedite increasing your sales and getting them to a healthy level when you enter a new marketplace like that?

Mike: Yeah, I don't unfortunately because we're in the process of doing that ourselves. If we have a follow up on a few months I could definitely tell you more. What I can say is that we are in the process of adding everything in our catalog to Amazon Canada and UK. And as a part of the UK, Amazon gave us our rep. I don't know if it's because our sales in the US or whatever tripwired that. But they gave us like a free translation service and everything to get all of our stuff into every platform in Europe. So we're rapidly trying to get all that done and all of our stuff should be in Europe by January.

As far as the process to do that, we use the company called SimplyVAT to help us get all of our tax ID numbers and stuff set up over in Europe and they’ll also do all of our filings for us. And we're using — I forget the name of the company up in Canada to do our transportation. I can follow up with you after this. We’ll throw it in the show notes as well. I just can't think because we don't use them a lot yet. But there's a company we use…

David: Yeah I kind of some of that stuff already. That's funny because I attended an Amazon webinar and they had mentioned that they would assign a rep to help you out. But I think I'm too much of a small fry. I filled out a form a couple of times and called and they just basically ignored me. But yeah I mean I guess I would just say listening to your podcast and hearing the level of sales of you guys, I have tried to do the mental math myself and I think of how many orders I get in a day and how I need to like double, triple, quadruple, it's just hard to imagine how you get to that level of sales. It's kind of mind boggling. So I am just trying to hear what you're saying and apply it.

Mike: Yeah I mean I totally or completely can understand what you're saying here because we've been in that doubling and tripling mode every year since we've been in e-commerce. And I actually just recorded an episode about the struggles in 2017. And this was definitely one for us as I look in to 2018. It's something I definitely have on my radar because as you double when you're smaller it's not as hard, but as you get to the size we are it keeps getting harder and harder to do that.

But I'm really convinced, like I don't know if you're drinking the Kool-Aid from me on this, but I'm convinced that you can easily do that over the next year more than double by just some of these basic building blocks with the photography. And before even expanding into Canada and expanding, and sell in the UK, I would do that US stuff first because I see just a massive opportunity here for you. I know it doesn't seem like photos can make that much of a difference, but we've proven it time and time again with our own stuff internally to the point where we are all in on this right now.

We've been convinced with stats and black and white numbers to the point where we've made it one of the highest priorities for our company. We've hired multiple photographers and models and a couple of full time graphic people in the Philippines that are — we're trying to on a much bigger level than this because we have more than — I think you have like three skews here on Amazon for the different belts plus the variations obviously which multiplies things a bit. But like we're talking about for us thousands upon thousands of photos and we're going to do that because just the results are unequivocal.

So I think that you have a lot of runway here. And once you do that on Amazon US and you got everything kind of ironed out, then I would be thinking about getting an Amazon UK and Amazon Canada because I think when you launch on a platform you want to hit with a big of a bang as you can. So once you got in your statistics as best as they can be on Amazon US, you can then be in a better position when you launch in those other platforms.

David: Yeah absolutely.

Mike: Cool. Well hopefully you found all this helpful. I again really appreciate you coming on and doing the Under the Hood segment with us. What are your — any final thoughts on the thing you might work on first or are you excited for the next year?

David: Yeah, I'm really excited. Like I said, I think that there's definitely been the two ends to work on improving web presence on my site and on Amazon and also creasing the traffic. I mean I'm actually going to a Christmas party with a friend of mine who is a photographer, and that's tomorrow. So I might have to talk to him and maybe he can give me a friend discount. And yeah he does a lot of shots for fashion and also actually his brother does the same thing.

And so now I'm fired up to make the investment in the photography, in the things — I don't know that he does a lot of product photography, just the product by itself. But I think I should definitely tackle that first. And once I have some really cool kind of lifestyle photos as well, maybe go ahead and update my theme to feature the lifestyle photos more prominently and incorporate — I can use those photos also on Amazon and really flesh out my listings with better photography.

Mike: Yeah perfect awesome. Hopefully we can follow up and maybe get you back on six months or a year from now, and see how much the stuff helps and excited for you over the next year. If you ever need anything, you know where to find us.

David: Sounds good, thanks a lot Mike really appreciate it.

Mike: Thanks again David.

And that's a wrap folks. I want to thank David again for coming on and doing the Under the Hood segment for us. I hope that you guys all got a lot of value out of this. The whole idea here is to help somebody one on one that also can help you in your individual business, get you an opportunity relate to other people out there that are struggling with the same things that you might be struggling with. And I hope that you guys found this episode helpful.

If you want to be on your very own Under the Hood episode, just go to, or go to to get to the show notes for this episode. We’d love to hear from you. We're back with another episode next week and until then happy selling, and we'll talk to you then.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.

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