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June 16, 2021

EPISODE 27: Expert FBA Sourcing Tips

MerchantWords' Sell Rank Win Podcast: Sourcing Profitable Products from China the Right Way

In This Episode

We reached out halfway around the world to chat with Andy Lee, owner of FBAlous Training, also known as Andy Amazon Advocate in Asia. Andy walks through some of his strategies on how to source profitable products from Yiwu, the biggest commodity market in China, and stay successful as an Amazon seller.

TRANSCRIPT

Tommy Beringer:

What's up you data-hungry Amazon sellers. This is your host, Tommy Beringer of the Sell Rank Win Podcast from MerchantWords. And in this podcast, we give you the answers to your most burning questions, actionable insights that you can take away and implement into your business today. So let's go ahead and dive right into today's episode. What do you say, let's go.

What's going on everybody? Welcome to the Sell Rank Win Podcast from MerchantWords, I am your host Tommy Beringer. And as always we have a very special guest with us today. My next guest literally wrote the book on sourcing and Yiwu. We'll get to what Yiwu is in just a bit. He's been selling on Amazon for seven years and coaching for five and has over 4,500 students worldwide. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Andy Lee, better known as Andy Amazon Advocate. How are you doing today, Andy?

Andy Lee:

Hey, hi, thank you so much. I'm good. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast, man. Thank you.

Tommy Beringer:

Man, thank you so much for getting right back to us. When we reached out to you our marketing team was like, "Hey, you should check this guy out, Andy Amazon Advocate." And we just looked at everything you do and loved it and wanted to get you on the podcast. And we just made it come to fruition here within just a few days, right?

Andy Lee:

Yes. Yes. This was so fast.

Tommy Beringer:

Where are you right now you're in Taiwan?

Andy Lee:

I'm actually going to do a series of events in Taiwan. So actually having my quarantine now in Taiwan in the hotel. So they should issue my quarantine actually tomorrow.

Tommy Beringer:

Cool. And then tell everyone out there what time it is for you because I'm here in LA and it is 12:00 PM for me.

Andy Lee:

It's actually 3:00 AM. And I especially make sure that I attend this podcast because I'm not sure whether Tommy knows but because I didn't tell you previously, but I'm actually a really big fan of MerchantWords. The reason why I say that is because my wife started eBay selling many years ago, and then MerchantWords was the first tool that we use for all the keyword research and everything. And then after that when we go to Amazon this was also the first tool that we use to do all our-

Tommy Beringer:

Very cool.

Andy Lee:

... keyword research and everything. So I really thank you guys and that is why what you guys told me that you want to get me on your podcast, I'm actually very excited and I'm very happy here thank you.

Tommy Beringer:

Well, awesome thank you for coming on Andy we really appreciate that. You love MerchantWords. Thank you so much for that. And I just want to say thank you for coming on at 3:00 AM your time that shows a lot of dedication and thank you so much again.

Andy Lee:

No problem.

Tommy Beringer:

So what do you say, let's go ahead and dive in to the podcast. What do you say?

Andy Lee:

Yes. Thank you. Sure.

Tommy Beringer:

All right. All right. All right. Let's start off tell us a bit about how and why did you get into selling on Amazon?

Andy Lee:

Okay. Me and my wife we actually have the e-commerce background because she's the one who started eBay selling in 2005. But of course it was not on a very big scale. It was just more on a free-time basis, selling things online and everything. And at the time I was actually a insurance agent in Singapore, my income was actually quite good and doing quite well, but I actually went into so-called gambling and I actually went bankrupt. And that was quite many years ago and of course after I was... When I was doing my bankrupt that period of time I started going to Amazon everything. And no soon after I was discharged, I pay off et cetera. And I was discharged. And I think also rather it was also a fate to be an e-commerce seller, I'm thankful all the experiences I have last time all the bad stuff that happen to me. And made me stronger today to appreciate more about money and what is important in terms of how to manage your money properly.

Tommy Beringer:

Yep. Yeah, no, absolutely. You learn from those mistakes. You take the bad and make it good, make it better and that's so that's the only way. When you're at that rock bottom point the only way from there is up.

Andy Lee:

Yes. Yes.

Tommy Beringer:

Well, that's good, that's really good to hear. Really good to hear. So I wanted to ask you about what, what marketplaces are you selling on Amazon? Are you selling across all the marketplaces?

Andy Lee:

So what happened is I failed some marketplaces before and I also selling in some marketplaces. I fail in India it was actually a very bad experience but of course I learn. The return rate for India was actually quite high. And I lost quite a lot of money. And after that, of course, I'm also in US definitely. I'm also in UK and Germany, also in Japan and in Japan, Japan is very interesting because I only sell very, very niche category. And also I fail in Singapore as well Amazon, Singapore. I was there for about a year, but the sales and everything is really, you can compare with the big boys in Singapore. So these are the market places currently I am now in.

Tommy Beringer:

Got it. Got it. So that's interesting to hear that there is a high return rate in India. Was it the product that you launched out there, or do you think it's just that's how the country is there. They just return a lot of stuff.

Andy Lee:

First of all, this is not politics, so I'm not singling out any countries. But India really the return rate not only for one product, but most of my products are very, very high. If I can give you an example I sell light bulbs, the return can be as crazy as on the 29 day they'll just do a return. And then sell rather I see them buying the same thing again for me again. And it starts to return again after the 29 days and then they start to buy again, and that the trend I saw in India and I think that it's really very crazy. So I retreat from India and I was a experienced leaner as well.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. Definitely smart move there. There's a lot of volume in India, so there's got to be somewhere to make money out there, right? Got to be.

Andy Lee:

Yes. Very big volume there.

Tommy Beringer:

I haven't sold in India just yet, but I'm thinking about it. And I heard Japan actually has a very low return rate.

Andy Lee:

Oh yes. As a matter of fact Japanese people actually value things. As long as your things are very high quality they appreciate quality more than the cost itself.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. And then across those different marketplaces are your selling strategies any different, do you do something different in the UK opposed to doing something in the US, maybe running a different type of PPC campaign or is it same across the board?

Andy Lee:

Of course, I think my two main marketplace would be UK and US. The way we do our marketing campaigns are I will say that a lot goes down to who are the influencers that you know in the different countries because different countries have different influencers. By the way, I do a lot of inference marketing and also Facebook ads and Google ads opposing to the PPC. But of course PPC I still do, but it's not as much nowadays. So different countries have different cultures and even keywords are very important. And that's why I always suggest people to really use good apps, like MerchantWords to find the correct keywords. Because examples like sometimes you call this A, but you will call something else B in the UK.

So it's very important that you know it very well. Like one of my very good product now in the US, I have some very interesting Spanish words that I added in them into my search terms. And these words actually I found using apps and tools. And because of all this interesting keywords, I can actually do some very interesting PPC campaign at a very low cost. So a different market really have different strategies and the influencers cost differently as well. I will say that it's much more easier to work with influencers in the US rather than the UK.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. There's a lot of Spanish keywords being searched into Amazon US and we see that a lot in our data and MerchantWords too. And you can definitely get those for a lower CPC. Absolutely. You get a lot more bang for your buck on those Spanish keywords in the US for sure. That's a tip right there. Thank you Andy.

Andy Lee:

Yes Yes. But you can use the Spanish words in the UK. No, it doesn't work over here, so really different-

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. It's a high volume. There's a lot of high volume on certain Spanish keywords out there for sure. So one of the main things I wanted to talk to you about here is the Dream Trip that as you call it to Yiwu, that you take your students to. Let our listeners know what is Yiwu. Tell them what is this place and why is it so beneficial for Amazon sellers to go there?

Andy Lee:

Okay. When I first started going to Yiwu itself, which was about six years ago, not much people knows about it. Of course, I think many people knows where is Yiwu nowadays. Yiwu is actually in China, of course, in Zhejiang. And what happened is this place is the biggest commodity market in the world. It has a total of five districts and each district could be maybe six to seven indoor stadiums that big, and it's about four story high. And if I were to walk from district one to district five, if I just keep walking and I can stop to see anything just keep on walking it will take me about two hours or more to reach and this house is crazy. And there's a total of 700,000 vendors inside this whole place it's ridiculous.

Tommy Beringer:

That is amazing. Oh my goodness.

Andy Lee:

So I've been there for 41 times, 41 times, and I know the place very well. As a matter of fact I pay a lot of tribute to the place because that was really where I started my Amazon dream. But of course nowadays I do source from different areas as well. I source from Vietnam, I source from Indonesia different countries as well but that was really the place where I first started. And it's really a very good place to go if you have totally no experience in doing e-commerce, whether it's Amazon, whether is it your local platforms in Southeast Asia like Lazada shop you know anywhere.

This is a very good stop for you because it's a very big supermarket. You can see many, many things maybe you can see this and this and then you actually add them together as a what do you call it as a bundle ID, et cetera. So what I do is we have this thing called nesting. Nesting means what happened is I'll bring my staff to one of the shop and then we'll nest inside for about one or two hours. And then whatever product we see we'll do all the research immediately on the spot to get all details.

Tommy Beringer:

Very cool.

Andy Lee:

And then we'll take photos, we write out a price and everything and then we'll do a second research where we head back to the hotel. If there's no COVID-19 when there's a very good time, I can actually bring my staff there and within five days we can really purchase a lot of products just for the initial kick start. And it's a very good way to kick start the e-commerce business.

Tommy Beringer:

Very cool. Even if someone who's been selling on Amazon for a long, long time I think it's still going to be beneficial, not just for the beginner sellers to get out there to Yiwu. I haven't been there yet. I've been selling on Amazon since 2014, I know the ins and outs of sourcing and having a good sourcing agent and things like that. But I don't think that compares to actually being there physically in Yiwu. And I might have to hit you up for one of those trips the next time you go, I might have to come with you guys.

Andy Lee:

I would really love to see you. Because the trip itself basically, I don't only bring my guys over there just to see the commodity place. But actually I have special events like for example I brought my guys to Alibaba headquarter in Hangzhou before for [inaudible]. I also brought my students to a fulfillment center in China to see how the China people do their fulfillment just like Amazon. So there's a lot of extra activities there, so basically it's just not going there to learn to do sourcing, but also to go to other places that is related to e-commerce as well and it's a very fulfilling trip.

Tommy Beringer:

Absolutely. And I also heard that when you go out there it's a lot easier to see, because the manufacturers in China they can see where the market is going they have a sixth sense for that. And they can say, "Look, this product-" Just the other day a friend of mine sent me this new fidget toy for that category. I've never seen it before I even showed my kids. I said, "Hey, check this out. Have you seen this toy before?" Because they're always up on what's the new stuff. And they're like, "No, I have no idea what this is but I would love to have one of these things." And then I showed all my nephews and nieces and everything, and they said the same thing.

So my little market research was done there. But they know these things out there and when you go out there you can talk to the people about maybe what's going to be the next new thing, and talk about doing a test order testing them out on your store on Amazon. There's a lot of benefits that you can get going from Yiwu, Not from my personal experience from what I've heard. What are the top benefits that a person or a seller can get from going to Yiwu? Is it finding products? Is it just learning the way that the global logistics work and the manufacturing what would you say that is?

Andy Lee:

I have many students of course they learn because they learn from me how to do the Amazon business. So we give them the steps so step by step how to do sourcing online if you cannot go to China. But many time when you do the research for a moment they get to be distracted, or they do not really know which directions they are heading to. But if you go to Yiwu itself, you see the product on the spot. And then you can even see many interesting things you cannot even think of the keyword when you're at home. So it will lead to many, many interesting product. And when they go through there I will also show them a lot of products that I make a lot of money before.

And I also show them some product that I fail very badly before as well. You're so right. There are many products they will tell you that these are the trend now. You may want to go into this trend and et cetera. And of course you were talking about a fidget spinner. When I first saw the fidget spinner many years back one of my sons and distributor told me I was laughing at them. I say, "You must be crazy. Who are you?" But after a while it became such a big hit I went to buy also as well. But the price has almost doubled then the initial stage. I did make some money but not a lot... So nowadays whenever they tell me, I will really take into consideration and think about it. And I don't know whether do you know the banana holder the holder that holds the banana it's like a banana shape.

Tommy Beringer:

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Andy Lee:

I was among the first few to sell in Amazon when it first started, I got this in Yiwu itself. And I bundle it together with a banana cutter. Of course today there's lot of copycats and everybody is selling it everything et cetera. But it was a good experience and I actually made the first wave and I made quite a lot of money from the first wave already so that's how it goes.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah. I know. And I was there I know exactly what you're talking about because I was there on the first wave before anyone really knew about the squishies, the squishy toys.

Andy Lee:

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Tommy Beringer:

That was crazy how much money was made in just a few months. And then like you said it's like a wave and then it just drops off. Because then everyone it becomes that me too product, and then the margins just go down and then it's not even worth it. It's fun while it lasts. You got to catch that way right in the beginning when there a blue ocean, not that red ocean with all the shark in it.

Andy Lee:

Yep. And it's also very important because as you all know that nowadays there's more and more Chinese sellers here. If you look at the statistic last year was like 75% of sellers, new sellers are from China. Why is it that I still want to be so connected in China is because I want to know what are the sellers thinking about? And so I will always have events to mix up with the sellers to listen to them. And whenever I'm in China I will make sure I attend those events that they will talk about. Black hats, tricks to know what they're doing. I'm not saying that we got to do it, but at least we know how to defend ourself just in case.

Tommy Beringer:

We got our hands on a course that they give in China. And in the course it talks about all the black hat tactics that are straight up no-no, that you could get your account suspended for and shut down on Amazon. So they teach those especially the review tactics, getting fake reviews and stuff, which is a huge no-no as everyone should know out there. And if you don't know now you know, trust me, don't do that. Do not try to go to like a review farm or one of those Facebook groups that says they can get you reviews... You're playing the short term there, this is a marathon it's not a sprint. So if you want this for longevity, you want this for a real business don't take those shortcuts and those black hat tactics, it's not worth it and it sounds like Andy's on the same page with me on that.

Andy Lee:

Definitely. Definitely.

Tommy Beringer:

Cool, Andy, thank you so much. We like to keep these podcasts short and sweet and we're going to go ahead and wrap this up. And towards the end of every podcast I like our guests to go ahead and give our listeners at least one tip or trick that they can take away after listening to this podcast and immediately implement into their business and or life. So what do you got for us Andy?

Andy Lee:

I wanted to share a tip if you are going to Yiwu since we're talking about the Dream Trip itself. If you do ever go to Yiwu itself do always take note and very, very careful especially when you place the orders. The way you write the invoice there's a lot of skills involved. Especially if you do not know Chinese it's better to have a translator to be with you to assist you, someone they can trust. Because I've been tricked before. Even for me I'm a Chinese, I'm from Singapore by the way. I know Chinese, but I still get cheated before once awhile. So one of the very important tips that I can always share with you guys, it's about writing the invoice itself. The way you write your date, make sure your date is written properly when you're going to deliver and et cetera.

I will suggest if you can you can always write like something like the 15th of May 2021 write in full. Rather than you know you always write 02/05/21 don't write like this type of dates. Because in China itself the month is always first before the day. So there was some instances before that our students got cheated they actually say that the thing's supposed to be delivered three months later and not now, and everything got into very screw up.

Tommy Beringer:

Also, it's very important. I think the negotiating strategies as well, I'm sure you can help with that as well.

Andy Lee:

Yes. They always, always will mark up the price at least 20% first before they give you the price that they want so always bargain.

Tommy Beringer:

So there's always room. There's always room. Always negotiate.

Andy Lee:

Yes. So there's a lot of things that we teach during our Dream Trip about how to negotiate, how to place the order and all the steps in getting the correct order to be placed and et cetera and that's it.

Tommy Beringer:

Go ahead Andy. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Andy Lee:

And of course I was saying that because I do own shipping company Yiwu eSell, I've been working with this person for many years. And in the end I'm so impressed with her. I invested in her company and I bought over her company. So now I have a shipping company Yiwu eSell. So of course, all my students will actually consolidate all their goods and will be shipping over via by my shipping company Yiwu eSell. So it's actually safer because shipping in Yiwu eSell is a very, very cowboy town is really very crazy. A lot of people always get cheated due to shipping is also in China, especially in Yiwu so be careful.

Tommy Beringer:

Wow. Yeah. That's very good to know. I think I've been getting some pretty good shipping quotes, but maybe I haven't been so I don't know. Maybe I need to talk to you about that offline.

Andy Lee:

Sure. Sure. Sure.

Tommy Beringer:

For sure. You know what Andy you got my brain working really quick before we go what is one negotiation strategy, when you're trying to negotiate that price? Some key words that you can mention to them, whether their face to face or in a email, what should you say to them to try and get their price to drop down?

Andy Lee:

Okay. The reason is because whenever we are in Yiwu we are always using it to do a test. It's like a test bot, we use it to test the market. So definitely when we go there we are buying many, many products at a very low quantity to sell on Amazon to check whether is it selling well. But once you know that it's selling well it's time to negotiate, that's why I say right you need to buy maybe 1000 pieces, you need to do your packaging, everything. I think the keywords is also important, but rather I will say that it is how you behave or how you talk to the supplier. They know that you're also going for the long run, not just a hit and run thing. So I will usually tell them, "This is my company I've been selling on Amazon for many years. And this is a product that I am not very sure whether it can work or not, this is my first time."

So be frank and be true. Don't do pretend that you are a very big shot or something like that where you are not. And I told them that, "To be true I just want to test out if it's okay I will come back to them." And whenever I come back to them to get the next stage where I get 1000, 2000 pieces, they'll be so impressed that I kept my words and that is when the trust is there and then we start to negotiate a price. So I think it's more of the feeling you give them rather than the key words that you use that will make the difference. Because they themselves they met so many buyers every day. They also know what type of things you are going to talk about, so be truthful and don't be fake that's all.

Tommy Beringer:

Absolutely. You got to be thinking right now because I've been... It's my flagship product that I've been selling for six or seven years.

Andy Lee:

Wow.

Tommy Beringer:

Yeah, I know it was a first product that I launched and it's been one of my best products. It stood the test of time for sure. So you got me thinking I need to go back to them and try and negotiate my price down a little more like, "Hey, I've been working for six years now so you got to drop it down, give me 3 cents off or something," right?

Andy Lee:

Of course, I have a book called Yiwu-merce it's selling on Kindle now. If anybody want to know more about how to buy things from Yiwu it's like a book that you need to read before you go, so that at least you have some preparation. I will really suggest you can get that book. It's only about 9,99 USD. So hope you guys can support me. Thank you.

Tommy Beringer:

And I'm going to go check that out. It's so Y-I-W-U M-E-R-C-E, correct?

Andy Lee:
There's a dash in between. So it's like Y-I-W-U-M-E-R-C-E it's like e-commerce-

Tommy Beringer:

Got it.

Andy Lee:

... but it's called Yiwu-merce, so that was it.

Tommy Beringer:

Got it. Got it. Got it.

Andy Lee:

Thank you.

Tommy Beringer:

So Andy where can people find you... Where can they reach out to you? Do you have an email they can contact you at? What are your social handles, Twitter, Facebook, if you have any and just let them know how they can go ahead and reach out to you.

Andy Lee:

Oh, you can definitely find me on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. You can just search Andy Amazon Advocate. You will definitely find me.

Tommy Beringer:

Perfect. Perfect. And I think on your next trip to Yiwu let me know because I think I might-

Andy Lee:

All right let's catch up then.

Tommy Beringer:

Maybe take that trip.

Andy Lee:

Let's catch up.

Tommy Beringer:

Andy, again, I just want to say thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate it. Taking the time out of your day talk about that. It's 3:00 AM where you are that's craziness. I felt bad when you told me that for a second, but you were like, "No, you know what? Let's do it. I'm up here. I'm up at this time anyways. So let's just do it." So perfect. I really appreciate that.

Andy Lee:

All right.

Tommy Beringer:

I want to say thank you so much for hopping on the podcast. Thank you.

Andy Lee:

My pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you.

Tommy Beringer:

All right.

Andy Lee:

All right. See you.

Tommy Beringer:

Thanks Andy. Talk to you soon.

Andy Lee:

Bye-bye.

Tommy Beringer:

All right. Bye. All right. Thank you guys so much for listening. And if you got any value out of this podcast at all please let us know at the place that you listen to it at, whether it be iTunes, Stitcher, whatever it is, give us some love. Give us an awesome review and let us know maybe some things you want us to talk about on the next podcast until next time guys stay awesome and be awesome.

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