Our guest today is Greg Mercer, the founder of Jungle Scout. Jungle Scout is an application that pairs with a seller’s Amazon account. The software offers a suite of tools for Amazon sellers to help them optimize their product and the product reputation.

Greg also has his hand in other software tools such as Fetcher, Spitly, and Review Kick. On today’s episode, Greg tells us about how Jungle Scout got its start and how their products complies with Amazon’s new system changes.

The topics we covered today are:

  • Greg’s digital nomadic lifestyle
  • Jungle Scout’s product database
  • Jungle Scout’s uses to Amazon sellers
  • Greg’s rules of thumb
  • Why Jungle Scout was created
  • The development of Spitly and its uses
  • Beta testing with Fetcher
  • Using Review Kick
  • Greg’s opinion of where Amazon will be in 3 years

Resources Mentioned Today:

JungleScout

Spitly.com

Fetcher.com

Review Kick

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to ecomcrew.com and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   This is Mike.

Grant:  And this is Grant.

Mike:   And welcome to this week’s edition of the EcomCrew podcast.  This week we have a real treat.  We have Greg Mercer from Jungle Scout on with us and we’re definitely excited to bring him on here in a minute and talk with him, but how are things going with you this week, Grant?

Grant:  They are going good.  Keeping busy, keeping on top of emails, and always trying to source more product after that China show.  How about you?  You getting your sourcing all set and done?

Mike:   Yup, I’m in the samples en route phase right now basically.  Probably have like 10 or 12 of the manufacturers we met with samples en route.  Some of them have arrived and some of them are looking pretty good so we’ll see how things go.  Definitely excited to add some more SKUs to the catalog and get rolling with that.

Grant:  Yeah.  I know.  A lot of people don’t realize that Christmas and holiday season comes a lot faster than you think, so that’s why we’re trying to get these one by the end of the month.  Otherwise we’re going to be way too late.

Mike:   Yup.  For sure.  Sure.  So, as everyone knows, I was at Sellers Summit a few weeks ago, Steve Chu’s event, and I just had a great time out there.  I did some mentoring as a part of a speaker gig for him and then we did a mastermind at the end with all the speakers and I had the pleasure to meet Greg Mercer.  Knew a lot about Jungle Scout and Greg before the show but didn’t realize like what a celebrity he is.  He just had people flocking to him because obviously it’s a great tool and just super nice guy and excited to have him on the show today.  So with that said, Greg, welcome to EcomCrew podcast.

Greg:    Mike and Grant, thanks for having me on, guys.  I’m excited to be here.  I think we’re going to have a lot of fun today.

Mike:   Definitely.  So just real quick, I think one of the most interesting things about you, at least for me, was just your lifestyle.  You know, you basically live this nomadic lifestyle jumping around from place to place every month.  You want to kind of just tell everybody about your four-hour work week lifestyle that you do?

Greg:    Yeah, sure thing.  So yeah, I guess the new term for it is a digital nomad, right?  So I have no home, essentially sold everything I own except my laptop and a backpack full of clothes.  My wife and I, we move around.  We usually move to a new spot every month or two.  We’re in Barcelona right now.  We’re going to go to Ho Chi Minh City next month.  Yeah, it’s kind of the life we’ve chosen to live right now.  We’re going to do it for I think a few more years at least because we’re having a lot of fun with it.

Mike:   Very cool.  So what’s your favorite spot that you’ve been to so far?

Greg:    Both of our favorite spots are Bali.  So Bali’s a great place.  I’m sure I’ll go back there before long.

Grant:  That’ll be a repeat visit.

Greg:    Yeah, exactly.

Mike:   Very cool.  So yeah, before the show here, we were kind of chatting.  I think it’d be god to just kind of tell everybody a little bit of your background.  It’s just as interesting as your digital nomad lifestyle.  It sounds like you were doing the corporate gig and just got sick of that and became an Amazon seller and then I guess transitioned into doing Jungle Scout.

Greg:    Yeah, absolutely.  So yeah, just a few years ago, I worked a corporate job like you said.  I was a civil engineer.  It’s what I went to school for and all signs in life pointed me towards I was supposed to get a corporate job and a house in the suburbs and all that kind of stuff.  So I went down that road.  I found I wasn’t too happy with it and that’s when I kinds started looking for ways out.  So my whole life I had like a strong entrepreneurial spirit, you know, I loved the idea of starting my own business, I just kind of didn’t know what to do.  Selling on Amazon kind of fell into my lap.  I got started with it and I was able to scale it up enough to kind of replace my income as an engineer.  So at that point, I quit my job, continued to kind of scale up that business.

And then, let’s see, about a year or two years after I’d been selling on Amazon, I saw the strong need for a product research tool and that’s kind of how Jungle Scout was born.  It was born out of my own need for it.  So yeah, that was just like a year and a half ago or so.  And then kind of where we’re at today, I spend probably 90% of my time on the software stuff.  I still sell quite a bit on Amazon, but thankfully, once you kind of get a system set up for that, it doesn’t require too much work if you just want to maintain it.  Yeah, now we’re kind of turning Jungle Scout into a suite of tools for Amazon sellers and yeah, the future is very exciting.

Mike:   Yeah, I think so as well.  I mean I’ve used the software and think it’s awesome and I have a lot of friends that use it and I think it’s a great segue into building on the Sellers Summit show we were just at where like a lot of people were just kind of trying to find their way, and I think maybe some people that listen to our podcast are still in that phase.  And your tool really just like helps people find those first products and obviously continue to add to their SKU count if they’re at that stage.  So maybe if you could talk about – just spend a few minutes just specifically – how Jungle Scout like helps people find those products and get those awesome SKUs added to their catalog.

Greg:    Yeah, absolutely.  So Jungle Scout, there’s a few different tools and a few different features.  Kind of one of my favorite ones we call the Product Database inside of the web app.  Essentially, we just kind of rebuild Amazon’s catalog in a way that’s user-friendly for us sellers to search through.  So you could filter by estimated monthly sales, the price, the weight, search by brand and so forth.  So it’s easy to say, “Okay, I want something that isn’t too competitive but it selling well.  Maybe I want it in this category or so forth,” and it gives you a whole bunch or product ideas.  So that works really well.

Kind of the thing we became popular for was our estimated sales equations or algorithms.  So we developed models that were able to pretty accurately estimate monthly sales based off the bestsellers rank.  So a lot of your listeners probably know this, but you know, Amazon doesn’t release how many sales each product makes a month unlike eBay or something.  But they do release the bestsellers rank, which we’ve found is directly correlated to how many monthly sales the product has or how many sales it’s had in its recent past.  So through a whole bunch of data, some sophisticated models, we’re able to pretty accurately estimate sales.  So I think that’s kind of one of the big reasons Jungle Scout because popular, is because people wanted to know like, “Okay, is this product selling 100 a month or 500 or a month or 1,000?  I have no idea.”  Yeah, that’s one part of the tool as well.

Mike:   Yeah, and I think it’s a very useful tool.  I mean one of the things that it’s taken a while for me to convince my wife and friends around me that I’m not crazy buying this stuff from China and stuff like that–

Greg:    Right.

Mike:   But having that data makes this like a much more educated guess, right?  That takes a lot of the risk out of it so I think that that’s definitely an awesome feature.  And I know that you sell stuff on Amazon as well.  I mean what is your strategy?  Is there any product criteria or kind of steps 1 through 10?  Without giving away any of your products and stuff like that, are there other things that you look for as you’re looking to source stuff from China and sell on Amazon?

Greg:    Yeah, so I’ve developed kind of like some rule of thumbs that I recommend to other people as well.  These have worked really well for me.  Of course, they all just are just rules of thumb, so adjust them accordingly.  I’ll actually like look at a niche and I like to see that there’s at least like 3,000 units of demand or sales in that particular niche.  So if I search like marshmallow sticks, if I were to add up all the sellers adding marshmallow sticks, I want to see like 3,000 being sold every month on Amazon.  So I’m looking for like existing demand.  I like to find something that – like the top 10 sellers, there’s like three or four with under 50 reviews, and I found that’s the easiest way to like judge how competitive a niche is.  So like if it’s not a very mature and not very competitive niche, there’ll be quite a few sellers like in those top spots that don’t have many reviews so that’s a really good indicator.

And then me personally, I like to sell stuff that like retails for over $20.  Of course, you know, like smaller and lighter weight stuff is nicer but a lot of that stuff’s more competitive, so nowadays I’m going for some of the more expensive or oversized stuff.  Usually that’s not quite as competitive.  But yeah, those are just a few of the criteria I look for personally.

Mike:   Cool.  And do you have any – like some of the other things that I look for is like it doesn’t have a battery, doesn’t have a plug, doesn’t have a technology component. Do you try to stay away from that stuff too or are you kind of venturing into some of that as well now?

Greg:    Yeah.  So, again, like ideally, I look for like the most simple products possible.  Like we did a case study where we launched a product and they were bamboo marshmallow sticks and that was like perfect because it’s like really hard to screw up a bamboo skewer, right?  So that’s great, but lately I have sources a few products that are a little bit more complicated, and there are more headaches involved with that, you know?  So like if you can find a product that’s pretty simple, I’d definitely go with that.

Mike:   Grant sells bamboo cutting boards.  He can tell you how they can screw that up.

Grant:  So Greg, you talked about looking at a niche by trying to see if there’s, like you said, three sellers maybe under 50 reviews each selling 3,000 units.  And it’s interesting because we actually had the guy from Seller Labs on last week and he was talking about how when they had an Amazon presentation, Amazon kind of said to everybody, “Hey, once you get about 10 reviews, after that, sales don’t really tend to have a lot of impact based on how many more reviews.”  But because you have a lot of this data – arguably, you might be able to access a lot more data than a lot of the other apps out there – would you actually say that there comes a point where you see that reviews stop mattering or is there a magic number that you think generally, as a product that you would want for your kind of critical stage, to get sales going?

Greg:    Yeah, it’s a really good question.  So in my point of view, like the reviews serve a few purposes, right?  One’s social proof.  Of course, no one wants to buy anything on Amazon anymore if it doesn’t have at least a few reviews.  Another one is, you know, there might be a little bit of a factor in their ranking algorithm on how many reviews you have.  The latter one I’m not so sure about.  There probably is, like you said, between kind of like 0 and 10 reviews, but I don’t think you are automatically ranked higher if you’re 100 versus 200 reviews.  However, the social proof thing definitely plays into account without a doubt.  If someone has 100 five-star reviews versus someone who has 10 or 15 five-star reviews, the one with 100 is going to convert better.  And the other thing that I think is going to be better is you just kind of gauge the maturity of a particular niche by how many reviews there are.

So, as you guys probably know, it’s like really hard to outrank listings who have been selling well for a really long time.  Without a doubt, in their ranking algorithm, they take into account like how many sales you’ve had over different time periods.  So if like someone’s been selling really well for like a few years, it’s going to be really hard to outrank that guy.  So I think reviews are more of an indicator of that than like how you’d rank that certain day if that makes sense.

Grant:  Yeah, it does.  So with that said, do you actually take into account like historical sales on Jungle Scout, and kind of use that in your ranking algorithm or factor into your kind of overall scope that you present to people?

Greg:    Yeah, so like inside the Jungle Scout extension, we have an integration with Keepa, who’s been tracking ranking data lot longer than we have.  Now that we’ve been out more than a year, we are starting to collect quite a bit of data, so that’s something that we are going to  put out here pretty soon, more like historical type data.  But other things we look at that are kind of integrated in there are like the Google Trends, which is really cool.  You can kind of see like the seasonality of an item or even more like macro trends.  So yeah, I definitely take into account kind of seasonality, historic data, how well it’s been selling, that sort of thing.

Grant:  Yeah, that’s really awesome.  I’m a huge data guy and I love working with data sets and kind of like taking some kind of actionable information out of that, and to me, like my dream would essentially be to have like some API tap into your guys’ data set and just be able to do all sorts of crazy queries and everything.  Not trying to give you a wish list or anything, but I just think that’d be really, really cool for guys like me and give you a little bit of an extension but don’t let me pressure you or anything here.

Greg:    I absolutely agree.  You know, coming from like a engineering background, again, that’s kind of like how Jungle Scout was born, right?  Like I saw these people.  They were like, “Oh yeah, I only sell things better than 1,000 BSR.”  I’m like, “Well, how many is that?”  They’re like, “Well, we don’t know.  That’s just like the top 1% or whatever.”  I was like, “All right, I need some more data than this.”  Like I’m not one to just kind of go off my gut feeling off everything.  So I agree with you.

Mike:   Yeah, speaking of some of the things that are like 1,000 BSR, I hear different philosophies.  I mean ours has been to actually target things that are at a much higher BSR or bigger number, so lower number of sales, just to kind of be under the radar a little bit and incrementally add things that sell 5 a day or 10 a day versus trying to go for the 100 a day.  What’s your strategy been for that?  Again, like I know you sell on Amazon.  What have you done with that?

Greg:    Yeah, so most of my products – I don’t really have any that do like the 50 or 100 a day.  Most of my products will do like 10 or some of the better ones do 20 or 25 a day, but yeah, my strategy has always been to go for items that would sell like 300 a month.  You know, hopefully more but yeah, I don’t necessarily go for like those moon shots hoping that I can get ranked in that spot, like garcinia cambogia.  That’s telling like 200 a day, right?

Mike:   Yeah.

Greg:    Those are just like too competitive, a lot more cutthroat, usually like a lot more headaches associated with them as far as like always having to do giveaways and that kind of stuff.  I’d much rather just have a nice like quite of products that are each doing like 10 a day.

Mike:   Yeah, I definitely agree with that, and I also just forgot to mention I’m disappointed that you used marshmallow sticks instead of a garlic press as an example.  We broke our garlic press on the podcast string so…

Greg:    Yup.

Mike:   It’s so funny.  So–

Grant:  Now, it’s strange because see, even garlic presses on TV, you know, like those rollaway garlic presses and stuff, it’s like are people really cooking that much garlic?  I don’t know.  This is kind of crazy to me.  But anyhow, all right, I’m off the garlic thing so we’re good.

Mike:   Cool, so one of the things we were talking about, both in our mastermind at Sellers Summit, and a little bit before the call here which is really exciting, is it sounds like you guys are coming out with some new tools.  And if they’re anything like Jungle Scout, because I think Jungle Scout is like the de facto just like absolutely best research product on the market, which I think is why you were such a celebrity there in Miami, do you mind talking about some of the future things you have coming out to kind of pique some people’s interest?

Greg:    Yeah, absolutely.  So it’s cool having like a fairly large user base that you’re close with because they give you lots of feedback, you know?  So of course we’re always talking to them.  Our customers are really good about Tweeting us or emailing us or whatever about kind of like wish lists of items.  And then we also try to like survey them, kind of like what else are you looking for?  So a few things that express that or like are additional pain points were – one was like Amazon accounting or bookkeeping.  As you guys know, Seller Central’s terrible, right?  Like if you have a whole bunch of SKUs, you can’t even pull up one individual SKU to see like what your sales were, which is the craziest thing.  And then of course it doesn’t take into account your reshipping costs and your PPC and all that stuff to see like true profitability.

So one tool that we’ve been working on is called Fetcher.  It’s going to be released into beta probably like the end of this month, which is June.  So it’s going to be like a really cool Amazon accounting app.  We came out with Review Kick at the beginning of this year, which is a tool to do giveaways and send follow up emails to get reviews for your products.  And then one other kind of cool product that is one of those things you kick yourself for not thinking of is a split-testing tool or A/B testing tool for Amazon listings.  And actually I found this tool myself a few months ago.  There were a couple of developers who had built it.  I used it and I saw like some tremendous results from it so I was like, “Holy cow.”  So I started talking to these guys.  I’m like, “Look, how come more people don’t know about this?” and so forth.  So we ended up teaming up.  We’re kind of adding that into now our suite of tools.  It’s called Splitly.  And then yeah, it’s a split-testing tool for Amazon sellers.

Mike:   Yeah, I’m definitely really excited about that.  I’ll be one of your early customers.  We do that so manually right now and it’s just hard to even minimally keep track because we have so many darn listings but it’s interesting.  I mean you can change the title or a photo or some of the information in one of the bullet points and get a much better conversion rate and it’s definitely something that I’d love to put a procedure together for in our business because we’ve been procedural-izing everything and just be on top of that testing, testing, testing.  And you know, we do it on our own website.  We use Optimizely all the time and we’re constantly testing messages or budding colors, all this other stuff but do a poor job with it on Amazon so I think it’s going to be an amazing tool.

Greg:    Yeah.  So yeah, I’ve been using it, like I said, for a few months now but one thing that like is incredible to me is how big of a difference the main image makes.  So if you’re listening to this, this would be like the number one thing you’d want to test in my opinion, is your main image.  So like on one or products, without giving away the exact product, like this would a good analogy.  Say, for instance, you’re selling like sunflower seeds.  So before I had like a picture of a bag of sunflower seeds, right?  And instead I split-tested a few different pictures, but one that absolutely crushed it was like I spelled out “sunflower” (and this isn’t exact because this is an analogy) with the seeds and used that as my main image and it’s crazy.  I got like almost 100% more clicks each day on the product just by changing that.  I guess because all my competitors had like the bag of sunflower seeds, but instead, everyone’s eye was drawn towards this written out “sunflower” with the seeds.  Yeah, it’s crazy.  So I mean like the conversion rate stayed the same, yet I was getting almost twice as many clicks each day.  So you can imagine like how effective that was at improving my sales.  It’s pretty neat.

Mike:   Yeah, that’s amazing.  I hate you now though because we’re recording this on a Friday and I just like basically lost my weekend to split-testing images now.  And my wife’s the one that does all the images so she’s going to be mad too because she’s got to create a bunch of new images.  That’s interesting.

Grant:  Yeah, we’re going to see how popular the EcomCrew podcast is based on how many pictures of sunflower seeds are written out in “sunflower seeds” now.  So that’s our own little testing environment right here.

Mike:   “Garlic press.”

Greg:    But yeah, if you get like creative – because you’ll see a lot of people add like little badges or text or whatever to your main image and I think we all know that’s like against the rules.  Amazon isn’t real strict on it, but instead, if you can take like a picture at a little bit different angle or kind of like get creative with how you display your product like that.  You’ll be amazed like how many more clicks that your product gets.  So yeah, it’s definitely one thing you should be testing.

Mike:   Cool, and that’s Splitly?  Is it Splitly.com or is that going to be integrated into JungleScout.com?

Greg:    Yep, you can just find it at Splitly.com.

Mike:   Ok, cool.  Definitely.  We’ll put that in the show notes and link that up.  And interesting, so I mean it sounds like you’re going to have like four freestanding pieces of software versus putting it all under the Jungle Scout umbrella.

Greg:    Yup.  And that was kind of like a tough decision for us.  I guess I’m still not positive that that was the right decision.  Yeah.  Let me ask you.  What do you think?  Would you have put it all underneath the Jungle Scout umbrella or have different, freestanding apps?

Mike:   You know, I mean it’s an interesting thought.  I think you can make an argument either way, right?

Greg:    Right.

Mike:   I mean Jungle Scout itself is known for doing like one thing really, really well. It could be like eventually you come up with like a company name, like Awesome AMZ or something, just like whatever it is, and have a corporate site with everything kind of underneath of that just to make it easier for people to flip through the different products.  And I also can see like a subscription model where like if you pay X dollars, you get two things or three of the programs or access to all of them.  So I mean obviously, it just kind of depends on what your business model is.  But I know Jungle Scout has a one-time and a monthly fee model, so like I mean if you had a suite of all of your products for a fee that makes sense for people, whether it’s basically the cost of two of the programs, you get like all four or something, I could see a reason for putting it under one umbrella.

Greg:    Yeah, I agree.  I think like in the future, we’ll probably try to kind of move towards that or test it or whatever.  So yeah.  I appreciate the advice.

Mike:   Yeah, of course.  No problem.  So just a little bit more.  You said the beta’s coming out in June.  Is that going to be an open beta or is there a website people can go to to get more information on that?  Because that sounds really interesting as well.

Greg:    Yeah, so if you go to Fetcher.com, you can enter your email there and then once it’s in beta, we’ll get you hooked up with early access if you want to test it out.  So I’m really excited about that one too.  It’s like we’ve had the same core team throughout all of our apps, so of course we’re getting a little bit better with each one, you know, reinvest profits back into the new software.  So we can justify spending more on development costs and so forth.  So that one’s turning out like really nice, both from what we’ve learned and I guess a little bit increased budget as well.  So that’s going to be a really sweet app as well.

Mike:   Yeah, it sounds really interesting.  I mean I’ve used like a competing product out there that does some of that stuff but it sounds like this is going to be on steroids.  And the thing that I always have a challenge with, I mean we’re not just Amazon sellers.  So there’s not one piece of software that’s like the magic bullet for either Grant or I.  It’s actually been very frustrating.  I wish somebody would come out with a Skubana or Dear Inventory or Stick Labs that does like all the things that we need, including–

Greg:    Uh-huh.

Mike:   Some of the stuff you’re talking about that Fetcher can do and it’s tough.  It’s really tough having Amazon as a channel and eBay, Etsy, having our own warehouse on top of our inventory and Amazon, and Grant even has a 3PL.  And there just isn’t a piece of software out there that does all that great so that would be awesome in a future projects.  It’s definitely a much bigger bite to chew off but–

Greg:    Yeah.

Mike:   I’d love for someone to come out with that.

Greg:    Okay.

Grant:  Yeah, and accounting is always like one of the biggest heartaches I think for anybody in ecommerce because, let’s face it, like QuickBooks was not built for ecommerce with the amount of like transactions.  And Xero kind of gets there, but Amazon accounting is like its own beast and I really think other than A2X accounting and probably Unify, those are really the only two options out there at the moment.  And those don’t always connect because A2X only connects to Xero.  Unify connects with both of them but now you’re adding a whole other piece of application layer to whatever else you’re using so it’s just always kind of a hodge-podge.

Greg:    Yeah, exactly.  So we’re hoping to simplify that and hopefully improve on it.

Mike:   Yeah and integrating Splitly into like the Fetcher would be really near as well if you can like see how the A/B testing is affecting your bottom line and stuff like that.  And I’m definitely going to go check out Splitly.  That’s like my project for this weekend.  So we’ll have to have you back on the podcast a few months from now and talk about the results from that because it’s definitely really interesting.

Greg:    Awesome.  Sounds good.

Grant:  And just putting it out there, too, for our listeners just to make sure we’re in full FTC compliance, we are not being paid at all to promote Jungle Scout or Greg in any means.  It’s just, you know, we always talk about the products that we like and that we’re really enthusiastic about on EcomCrew, so again, we are not being paid.  We’re just enthusiastic.  So just want to make sure that’s out there.

Mike:   Yeah.  It’s mostly because Greg might be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.  I was like telling people when I got back.  I always say like Andrew Youderian like the nicest guy in the industry.  Now it’s a competition between Andrew and Greg for who’s the nicest guy.

Greg:    I think Andrew still has me beat, man.  He’s the nicest guy ever.

Mike:   Yeah, you know, it’s because he doesn’t get out of Montana very often so…

Greg:    If I’m to be second behind him, then I’ll be doing pretty good I think.

Mike:   Cool.  So one of the things we haven’t talked much about yet is Review Kick.  So we’ve kind of got about five minutes, I guess, left here today.  Because I haven’t actually used Review Kick.  I don’t know much about it.  You want to maybe tell our listeners a little bit about Review Kick and kind of its secret sauce there?

Greg:    Yeah, sure.  I hate to plug all my products too much, but hopefully I can give you a few valuable tidbits.  It’s a coupon distribution system, so you could put your product up on there.  We have about like 40,000 just real Amazon shoppers who are looking for deals and willing to leave a review in exchange.  So you put your product there, request for people to apply for it.  After they apply for it, you can see a lot of statistics about the particular reviewer, like how many helpful votes they get, how many reviews they’ve left in the past, and things like that.  And hopefully that can make you give out your coupon codes to someone who’s going to leave like a thoughtful, helpful review as opposed to someone who’s just going to like leave three words and just say like, “I liked this.”

Mike:   Right.  Yeah.

Greg:    So that’s good.  And then yeah, it also does the whole email follow up thing.  So just your natural buyer’s – not promotional type, so you can send them the emails requesting they leave you a review or feedback or whatever you wish from them.

Mike:   Cool.  So we just were talking about reviews last week on the podcast and it’s something that gives me heartburn because it’s one of these things where like you have to have reviews.  We all know that a product with zero reviews get no sales and you also have to kind of give away some products to start boosting velocity.  But then you see Amazon doing things like removing reviews that aren’t verified and now using, not a tag, but just removing the Verified Review thing from it.  People obviously have to leave a comment about that it’s a discount and, you know, coming from a Google SEO background and being someone that’s been hurt badly by penalties in the past and just like really learning my lesson and doing like ultra white hat stuff, I just worry about like Amazon and the environment there.  But I feel like a kid that keeps on putting my hand on the stove because you’ve got to do it, but I’m just kind of curious on your take on like the whole review landscape and what you think Amazon’s stance is there and what the long-term liability of that is.

Greg:    Yeah, it’s a really good question.  Look into the crystal ball here.  Kind of my idea on it is of course the more that sellers try to like abuse it or so forth, the more likely they are to crack down.  So I’ve kind of felt like it’s a little bit of my responsibility and hopefully other software provider responsibilities or other people will help get reviews to make sure that we keep everything like totally white hat, totally per the Terms of Service.  We’re super strict on making sure that all of our reviewers actually like leave the disclaimer and that kind of thing.

You know, I don’t think Amazon’s going to change the rules that they currently have anytime soon but they probably will continue to kind of like crack down.  Like now we’re seeing these people who leave 10 reviews a day from these promotional products, a lot of times all their reviews will get wiped out.  Kind of like you said at a certain price point that seems to be kind of inconsistent, it won’t get the Verified Purchase badge.  At one point, I thought that was like 50% off but that’s not necessarily true.  Sometimes products with 8% off will get a Verified badge and 40% off won’t.  Kind of some of the things that I’m doing now (and I would recommend that other people do this too) is I try not to give products away to what I consider like professional reviewers.  So if these are the people that actually have lefts like hundreds and hundreds or reviews like this past year or two years or whatever, I actually don’t usually give me coupons to them.  Instead, I like to give my coupons to people who have left like 10 reviews and they’re all thoughtful, good reviews because I think those are people that are less likely to be like targeted for Amazon to kind of wipe out their reviews.  So that’s something that I’m doing now.

And then yeah, just I guess I can’t stress the importance that like us, you know, as sellers here in the Amazon community, that we need to try to keep it as like white hat as possible and I don’t try to do any of that shady stuff where I’m like, “Hey, if you’re not going to leave a five-star review, email me first.”  None of that kind of crap, you know?  Just like, “Honestly, just leave the most honest review you can.  That’s the most helpful.  If it doesn’t deserve five stars, don’t give it five stars,” and so forth.  And I mean I think if we can all do that together as sellers, hopefully we can continue to do the giveaways because we’d kind of be in bad shape if there wasn’t some way for us to get initial reviews, right?  It’d be almost impossible to get a new product started.

Mike:   Yeah.  I agree.  And I know Grant’s in the same boat as me, but like one thing I’ve been focusing on, it’s basically our entire business model and mission statement is just to basically develop what really, legitimately is a five-star product.  I think that makes life a lot easier than just going to Alibaba, buying the random garlic press, you know, whatever, and doing nothing special to it, shipping it in a poly bag, and expecting it to get a five-star review and being upset when it gets a three-star review.  So we put a lot of effort in the packaging, into branding.  And it’s funny.  Like you can go to Chine – we’ve had this conversation on this podcast before – but you’re like, “Can I get this higher quality?” and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, but it’ll be too expensive.”  You’re like, “Well, how much more would it be if you actually did the high quality?  Just appease me.  Like tell me the price.”  Then it’s like, “It’ll be 30 cents more for a high-quality garlic press.”  You’re like, “Come on, man.  You’re trying to sell this thing for $30.”

Greg:    Right.

Mike:   So we spend the extra 30 cents and a lot of times, we actually spend an extra $2 or $3 or whatever and scrutinize the thing until it really is a five-star product.  And I think that certainly helps, right?  It’s easier for someone to leave a five-star review if it really is a good product.

Greg:    Yeah, absolutely.  I couldn’t agree more.  I try to do the same thing: make sure all my products are high-end.  And one of the little tidbit of information I give out that hopefully will help some people is we’ve also seen amazon start to do something whereas if it is like a crappy product and all of the reviews that people are leaving that are verified, that are not promotional type giveaways are like, say, two- and three-star reviews, but all the reviews that are left after those purchases with a coupon are like four- and five-star, I don’t know the exact algorithm they’re using, but at some point, they start to not factor in those higher reviews (if they were left after purchasing with a coupon) into your review average.

So say you have like 100 reviews.  Maybe 80 of them were left after purchasing with a promotion, but say those were all four- and five-star, and then 20 were left after purchasing without a promotional coupon, they’ll only average those 20 instead of all 100.  The other 80 would still show up if you read all of the reviews, but they weren’t averaged into like the average that they show in the search results.  So that just goes to show again that you need to make sure to actually have high-quality products.

Mike:   Yup.  Definitely agree.  So cool.  Well, Grant, do you have any other questions for Greg before we sign off for the day?

Grant:  Yeah, for Greg, this is something that I kind of want to start asking a lot of our guests that we bring on the show because I think everybody’s kind of a thought leader, especially when you’re in charge of the SAS side and get to see a lot of the data.  What do you think, looking into the crystal ball again, three years from now the landscape will be like for Amazon and just online ecommerce?

Greg:    Yeah, that’s a really good question.  I think as of today, Amazon.com has by far the best opportunities, whether you’re just getting into ecommerce or compared to all the marketplaces or whatever else.  I would imagine in, say, I’m going to guess like a year or two years from now, it’s going to start to get really competitive and there’s not as many of these good opportunities.  However, I’m pretty excited about some of the other marketplaces that are emerging.  I think Germany will probably be the next best one.  And I would guess even like for years and years to come that we could continue to expand into other Amazon marketplaces that are younger, just like Amazon kind of does now.  So I have bright hopes into the future.  I think selling on Amazon is going to be good for years to come.  Yeah.  You know, I’m not involved so much in the other ecommerce stuff so I’m probably not as qualified to give an opinion there.

Grant:  Okay.  That’s all we need to hear.  So that’s always interesting.  And take a note, Mike.  We’re going into Germany next because that’s what Greg said.

Mike:   Yeah.  Well, the first thing I’m going to do is go give Greg my money for Splitly so I’ve got to go do that first.  That’s my weekend project.  Monthly project will be Germany.

Greg:    Nice.

Mike:   Cool, Greg, well we definitely appreciate it, man.  And I know it’s late over there in Barcelona, so go have some wine with your wife and enjoy the weekend and definitely appreciate you coming on the show.

Greg:    Absolutely.  I appreciate you guys having me on.  It’s been fun.

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