024 – Is Your House Built on Someone Else’s Land?

In this week’s episode we take a look at some of the platforms the e-commerce side of your business might be dependent on, with an eye to the following:

If XYX platform got shut down or taken away from us tomorrow, how would that impact our business? Would it be just a bump in the road, or would the impact be devastating?

How could branching out into new platforms add additional (potentially very profitable) revenue streams to our business?

Suspension Horror Stories

You don’t have to look far online if you want to find Amazon suspension horror stories.

One such story is detailed in a CNBC article that was published in November of 2017.

The article tells the story of Pure Daily Care, a brand that had grown to over $10M in annual sales in 7 years, thanks in large part to strong sales on Amazon.com.

The brand was attacked by a malicious competitor who ripped off their IP and got tons of negative reviews posted on Pure Daily Care’s main product.

Pure Daily Care ended up getting suspended by Amazon for 7 weeks during 4th quarter. They lost an estimated $400k in sales, got stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollar of inventory they had to sell at a deep discount, and had to lay off half their staff.

The Moral of the Story?

Building your entire house on someone else’s land is risky business.

Adding new platforms and selling channels to your brand online gives you diversity that:

  1. Can grow your sales, possibly very significantly
  2. Can lower your risk if one platform were to suddenly be taken away from you

Platforms and Ways Your Products Could Be Sold Online

  • Your own website (grow strong sales on your website if you haven’t already…build on your own land!)
  • Amazon.com with a Seller Central account
  • Amazon.com with a Vendor Central account if Seller Central wasn’t viable for you
  • Amazon.com by having a trusted 3rd party be your brand’s exclusive authorized seller and brand manager on Amazon
  • Amazon.ca (it’s easy to set up, and you could add 5%-10% to your Amazon US sales by expanding to Canada)
  • Amazon.co.uk (gives you access to all of Europe, and Europe has a bigger combined population that the U.S.)
  • Walmart.com (become a 3rd party seller on the Walmart Marketplace…you may be able to do 10%-20% of whatever sales volume you’re doing on Amazon.com on Walmart)
  • eBay (yes, eBay…it’s still around, does huge sales volume, it’s better suited than ever to new product sales, has a loyal following that includes people who never shop on Amazon, and it’s really simple to cross-list your products there)

Reasons to Put Energy into Your Own Website and Audience

Whatever you do, develop a strong audience that you own and control online…and grow your own website’s sales volume! Amazon can suspend you, but they can’t suspend your own website.

You “own” the customers who buy on your own website. Amazon owns the customers who buy your products on Amazon.

Building a strong audience of your own can help you improve your sales ranks on Amazon and launch new products.

Limitations to Your Own Website

  • You’re still building on someone else’s land to some extend if you’re using a platform like Shopify (which is a great platform, by the way). You can get shut down or suspended if something goes wrong, and third parties can change their software or policies or go out of business.
  • Your payment processor can suspend you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong (ask us how we know).

Diversify Your Marketing and Your Audience-Building Because…

  • Facebook Advertising accounts can get suspended (and do with regularity, sometimes when you’ve done nothing wrong, and can take time to get restored)
  • Facebook pages can get taken down
  • Facebook can announce, without warning, that for the time being they’re not allowing any new users for Facebook Messenger marketing (chatbots), as they have done at the time of this episode recording
  • Everyone could get tired of one social media platform and start using another one
  • Your email management provider can shut down your account
  • A third-party policy change can instantly kill a particular ad or funnel or marketing method that was working great for you

The Best Way to Grow and Protect Your Brand

  • Grow your sales on your own website (recognizing that you’re still somewhat dependent on 3rd parties as you do)
  • Grow a list of customers and fans who have given you permission to stay in touch with them. Get their email addresses (regularly saved to a good ol’ fashioned spreadsheet…but check privacy laws), their phone numbers, and their physical addresses.

Make sure you don’t get stuck in one way of doing things! Even if one thing is working great and driving most of your e-commerce sales, be constantly thinking 2-3 steps ahead.

Identify the most profitable platforms/channels/methods to grow your sales next. Constantly ask yourself how dependent you are on a platform you don’t control, and what you would do if XYZ suddenly went away.