303: How To Sell Oversized Goods And Manage Your Supply Chain With Liz Mercer

303: How To Manage Your Supply Chain For Oversized Items With Liz Mercer

Today, I’m thrilled to have Elizabeth Mercer on the show. Elizabeth helped start Jungle Scout with her husband Greg but she’s since stepped down to start a 7 figure ecommerce business selling ergonomic furniture over at SleekForm.com.

Now in order to sell products that are large and heavy, you must manage your supply chain efficiently which happens to be Elizabeth’s specialty and in this episode, she teaches us the tricks of the trade.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why Liz decided to sell furniture
  • The challenges of selling large oversized items
  • How to launch an oversized item on Amazon
  • How selling oversized items differs from regular goods

Other Resources And Books

Sponsors

Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
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Privy.com – Privy is my tool of choice when it comes to gathering email subscribers for my ecommerce store. They offer easy to use email capture, exit intent, and website targeting tools that turn more visitors into email subscribers and buyers. With both free and paid versions, Privy fits into any budget. Click here and get 15% OFF towards your account.
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EmergeCounsel.com – EmergeCounsel is the service I use for trademarks and to get advice on any issue related to intellectual property protection. Click here and get $100 OFF by mentioning the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast.
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SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.Sellers Summit

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast the place where I bring on successful bootstrap business owners and delve deeply into the strategies they use to grow their businesses. Today, I have my friend Elizabeth Mercer from Sleek form on the show and Elizabeth sells Furniture online. And in order to sell something so large and so heavy you have to get your supply chain down pat, which is what we are going to cover today.

But before we begin I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo helps brands build relationships across any distance delivering email marketing moments. Your customers will appreciate, remember and share in good times and bad. And since it is all driven by real-time e-commerce data, you can make sure every interaction feels more personal. Now when you have a 360 degree view of the customer the growth possibilities are endless. So visit klaviyo.com/mywife and try for free. That’s KLAVIYO.com/mywife. Now on to the show welcome.

I also want to give a shout out to Privy who is also sponsored the show previously tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Now, what does privy do? Well Privy is an email list growth platform and they manage all my email capture forms and I use Privy hand-in-hand with my email marketing provider. Now, there are a bunch of companies out there that are managing email capture forms, but I like Privy because they specialize in e-commerce. And right now I’m using Privy display a cool Wheel of Fortune pop-up basically user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prizes in our store and customers love the gamification aspect of this when it implemented this form email signups increased by a 131%. Now, I’m also using their new cut pop up feature to recover a Abandoned carts as well. So bottom line Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers, which I then feed to my email provider to close the sale so head on over to privy.com/steve and try it for free and if you decide to need some more advanced features use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s privy.com/steve. Now on to the show.

Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so can spend more time with your family focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the my wife quit her job podcast. Today, I am thrilled to have Elizabeth Mercer on the show. Now, Liz is someone who I met at seller Summit many times and we’ve hung out on a number of occasions as well at various events. Now Elizabeth helped start jungle Scout with her husband Greg, but since then she has stepped down to start a seven-figure e-commerce business selling ergonomic Furniture over at Sleekform.com. And it turns out that Liz was the brains behind the Commerce operations at jungle Scout and her skills translated seamlessly to her furniture biz.

Which is doing extremely well and today what we’re going to do is we’re going to pick Liz’s brain and discover exactly how she did it. And with that welcome to the show Liz how are you doing today?

Liz: I’m great excited to be here. Thanks Steve

Steve: So Liz, I’m just I was just always kind of curious. What was your role at jungle Scout? And why did you eventually decide to sell Furniture of all things?

Liz: Yeah. So that’s a pretty funny backstory jungle Scott was always kind of the brainchild of Greg’s and he loved that and he spent all this time in it and so like any good wife. I tried to help where I could and then it turned out that we had really great matching skill sets and they complemented each other really well, so I was behind the scenes and did a whole lot of operation stuff and team creation, team-building Retreat building customer service just a whole lot of operations behind the scenes. And allowed him to kind of take that front forward facing customer facing role and those two things really worked out really well together for a long while.

And then A few years after that I decided that I wanted to kind of see what I could do on my own and kind of you know fail on my own or succeed on my own and see how I could learn a new set of skills that Greg was really good at that. I wanted to see if I could hack it as well. So I got into the furniture business pretty seamlessly because we had a bunch of products that we were selling on Amazon and I’ve always been, I’m just a nerd for office organization office things are always that kid that always love the new Pens that you got when you are first starting your school year.

And so this was a really natural easy thing for me to fall into and then I started to just read up on posture and becoming, we were digital Nomads at the time. And so I was very in other than the whole lot of pain. So my setup wasn’t super ergonomic started to dive into that and then just fell in love with it and just kind of went, you know jump in feet first and start to swim after that.

Steve: You started out this furniture business while you guys were kind of nomading, right?

Liz: I did. Yes

Steve: And how does the logistics of that work? I mean you have to actually see the items and you’re in a different place every month or week. So how does that work?

Liz: Yeah, I was difficult. It’s easier now to be physically in Austin, but while we were while we were nomading, I just had a whole bunch of people to look at the product and various stages. So, you know, there were two people in China when we were creating them in China and then when I got to the US had various people look at them in the Us and then when we would come home for holidays ship a whole bunch of samples to my parents and Greg’s parents house and test out while we were home for the holidays

Steve: So can you walk me through the design process now? I know you’re really into Furniture but being into furniture and be able to designer are two different things. So what is the design process like?

Liz: so design process, I would just work with manufacturers in the very beginning stages and used their designs and their ideas and kind of things that they were already creating and modified from there based on what customer reviews were. We’re leading, alluding to and leading me down the path of you know, whether people wanted a backrest or whether the incline wasn’t great and the cushion wasn’t as thick or thin as they would like or how the wheels worked. So very minimal small changes.

And then when I moved back to Austin, I started working with a product designer out of Portland, and she and I just kind of work together to create even better chairs and she had an ergonomic background and so ergonomics is like a fun word right? Like well, what is ergonomics? And no one really knows but the way I interpreted is just like creating Furniture to fit your body versus having your body fit the furniture.

And so we just took data from a whole bunch of different sizes and shapes of individuals and tried to maximize comfort in a chair that you can sell to multiple people and don’t have to have specific chairs for every one person.

Steve: So when you were looking at reviews were you referring to Amazon reviews or?

Liz: Uh-huh

Steve: Okay

Liz: That’s where most of the information well with Jungle Scout is the background. That one was a pretty seamless information gathering process. And then no one really, Amazon has all that information just right there in front of you. It’s it’s so much easier to grab that information from the customers themselves and that platform that any other platform.

Steve: So you started out selling designs that were very close to what was out there with some minor tweaks.

Liz: That’s right.

Steve: And then later on you you hooked up with this designer and you substantially made your own designs?

Liz: Yep, so we create our designs and then work with factories to kind of keep those for ourselves and patent those and trying to get a patent is quite difficult. So we’re still in the process of pieces of the patent. But yeah quite kind of

Steve: So along those lines of a patent. I’m just kind of curious because it costs a lot of money to enforce the patent. What is the patent actually buy you here in this particular case?

Liz: right now, I’m just in the exploration phase like can it really simply way? You said, can is it really worth all of the legwork they’ve required and this specific type of chair and the specific Niche that I’m in was patented back in the 70s and then hasn’t been patented for quite some time. So it’s working for them. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out is it useful to patent at this stage or is it better is the time and effort better spit and other areas that are already kind of working.

Steve: So this is furniture that you’re selling and I’ve seen a lot of your chairs. I actually I think my parents even had a chair that was kind of similar to the design that you had these items are there big right? And what’s it like selling these larger items either on Amazon or your online store?

Liz: Yep. So I use Amazon for all my fulfillment Network.

Steve: Okay

Liz: And so they they ship and sell everything for me and then I fulfill I sell my Shopify store by fulfill through the Amazon Network as well. Simply because the Fulfillment Network game is tough. That’s why there’s only few players in it. Right? So I pay oversized fees. I send to specific warehouses because those are the only warehouses that house oversized items is little bit more logistically challenging but because of the logistical challenges there are you know less competitors in the space on Amazon and particular.

Steve: what are some things that you have to pay attention to if you go the oversized route?

Liz: your box sighs I’ve gotten into a few sticky situations where the manufacturer will want to create a larger box not necessarily for space of those physical product or for a space of protecting the product with styrofoam or plastic or foam like any type of packing material just for some reason they’ve had those boxes and they wanted to use of boxes and those boxes will put you into a different category and your fees will be significantly higher than what you thought. So paying attention to your box size and where you fall into the, into Amazon’s oversized compartments.

Steve: And I would imagine like when something is as large as what you sell like you can’t ship as many over. You can’t keep them in Amazon’s Warehouse as long just are there certain things. I’m just trying to get an idea of what your methodology is to make sure that you’re not getting charged long-term storage fees, for example, and how you manage just even shipments because you can’t get as many units in as well.

Liz: Yep. So I ship in full containers because the amount of units kind of mathematically to deuced how many years I should have in Amazon. I’m and then when I should restock those and then based on the supply chain, how much time in between how many days in between like when it arrives at Amazon when I should set the reorder and every product is different. So for example, I have one product that I can only ship over 380 and one 40-foot container.

Steve: Jeez

Liz: essentially three weeks before that even hits Amazon. I have to have another reorder on the way and in production so there whereas another order I can have that one. And it will sell out within 90 days of Amazon of sitting at Amazon which is kind of Amazon’s, you know, their sweet spot of selling within three months. And so if you can nail that and then combine that with your lead-time from your supply chain, that’s how I figure out when I should reorder and every Factory is different so factories, I can create a product within 45 days and then other factories take 75.

Steve: What are your lead times like for most of your items?

Liz: average is about 60 days

Steve: 60 Days

Liz: Yes for production in China and then have bucket about 30 days between getting on the boat and getting through customs to get to Amazon.

Steve: So given that you can’t ship as many items over and shipping is probably going to be prohibitively more expensive than a smaller item and yet the price point that you’re selling your furniture at is very reasonable. It’s not that expensive. I’m just kind of curious what you know, what margins you need to kind of even justify going into something like this.

Liz: So I my goal is to hit an 18 percent gross margin and it get every product is different. I’ve spoke with a whole bunch of people who sell furniture and they have like really set guidelines on what their markups are and I because I really want to I want to offer unique things to people with it have been historically expensive. So kneeling chairs for example have been in Europe for a very long time. He said you’re you know, your parents had one those have historically been around three to five hundred dollars per chair.

And my goal is to keep it a hundred and fifty dollars or or less because I think that you should have options and they should not always break the bank and then if you don’t like it, you know, you’re out $500. So my goal is to is to hit 18 percent margin to able to stay in business and keep ordering and keep the business running but not, you know, not a screw myself over either.

Steve: I mean I saw one of these chairs that you’re offering for $99 and if you can only fit a certain number of these in the container 18 percent gross margin meaning like after Amazon fees and everything, right?

Liz: Correct

Steve: Okay, it’s so I guess yeah, it’s just amazing. You have to be really tight on your supply chain. In order to pull this off . What are some things that you have to worry about that not oversized sellers at might have to worry about that you’ve really optimized with your furniture business?

Liz: I’ve tried to optimize How many units I can get into a container in the beginning I would just take the suppliers word for it. Like how many they can fit into a container and I drill down into how many inches need to be on every side of the container to fit the most in I don’t palletize I floor load so you can fit more units into a shipment and then palletize once it gets if it needs to be to palletized about size it once it gets to the United States. So just maximizing Your Capacity inside that container is huge.

Steve: Who are using for your Freight forwarding just curious?

Liz: Flexport

Steve: Flexport, Okay, did you experiment with a whole bunch of different Freight forwarders?

Liz: No we’ve been with flexsport for years or so., but I’ve looked at I’ve looked at other operators and DHL in particular spent some time kind of on the phone with them trying to get different rates and they yeah, they have better rates for sure. But for me the because I am so lean on my staff, the extra work that it requires to work with DHL would require me to hire somebody to somebody else and it’s cheaper to go flexport for me and to get what Flexport gives me that it is to hire somebody else.

Because expert has a whole lot of information. I love their dashboard. They’re constantly making improvements to the online portal that allow me to truly just understand at a glance where all my shipments are and what’s going on and I don’t have you know, I have a lot of friends who have way more shipments than I do. And it’s still very complicated and they use DHL that they have, you know, two or three people working just in fulfilling and moving their products from point A to point B.

Steve: I’m just curious. How big is your team?

Liz: My team is three people myself included

Steve: Oh wow Okay, that’s tiny. So when it comes to Furniture, like a lot of times people will significantly discount their products to launch a product on Amazon. I would imagine like with Furniture you can’t really just give away anything because it just costs too much and it’s too much to ship. How do you actually launch a Furniture product on Amazon?

Liz: Yeah. It’s pretty difficult right now. Let’s see. I have one or two things in the works that don’t have any history. But right now if I were to launch, let’s say if I were to watch a new type of chair, I would parent-child it on Amazon and be able to use some of that sure existing demand an existing kind of street cred and then I built it been about 18 months ago. I started to really really dive into SleekForm and just go go full time and you know figure out how to make this thing grow and

Steve: Selling on your own website as opposed to relying on Amazon

Liz: correct

Steve: Okay. Got it. Cool.

Liz: And it really just totally like leave jungle Scout and start Sleekform.

Steve: Okay. So with Amazon, like if you weren’t able to parent-child like for example, you sell a table or I saw a table on your website before I don’t think it’s on there anymore, but that you can obviously parent-child that with one of your chairs. So how would you launch that from scratch?

Liz: I would you do a lot of targeting and then I would I would use sponsored ads to kind of utilize the brand Sleek form to launch a new product, you know really dive into PPC and you would lose a whole you would you don’t I don’t necessarily lower my price. I keep my price really competitive but I go really aggressive on pay per click advertising

Steve: so that gross margin of 18% is that take into account like all PPC costs and everything as well?

Liz: correct

Steve: Okay. And so yeah, so that’s pretty much the only thing that you can do right just focus on sponsored ads. Do you leverage your email list that you have for Sleekform also?

Liz: I do I do now I didn’t have that in the beginning.

Steve: Okay.

Liz: So now we’ve got a little bit of an email list going but in the very beginning we did not we have nobody and in the beginning it was all Amazon and you don’t have the ability to communicate with those people. You can’t really understand what they want what they need. Really they just either return it or they keep it and then sometimes you get reviews. So the ability to communicate with people through Instagram through my own website through my own email list through, you know, creating blog posts and trying to just have that human to human interaction. And Amazon doesn’t allow you to have as a seller

Steve: Can we talk about the competition of oversized items and Amazon. Is it still like pretty wide open? Because it’s much more difficult or?

Liz: It is like closing down. Like I’ve noticed, you know, two years ago of me and one other seller in kneeling chairs and now Now there’s about five main players in kneeling chairs alone. So they’re definitely coming into the game. And you know China for better for worse has figured out how to sell on Amazon really well and they are here and they can sell things significantly less expensive.

Steve: Really, then your price point? Okay

Liz: Hmm, because they can essentially they can tell the US government, you know, they can they can tell the US government in the Tariff. Specifically that they sell this product or they create this product for $15 when I have to tell the government that I created for. I don’t know a hundred dollars, right? they it doesn’t, no one’s really coming after them know what they can really kind of renegade on tariffs in particular and then they’re cutting out the middleman when I saw that they’re going straight to Amazon. They’re cutting out the middleman.

Steve: So they’re kind of would you say they’re like cooking their books in terms of costs or is it real is the real cost?

Liz: I don’t know. No, I don’t. I do not not talk to any. Many manufacturers one-on-one to really know that I just have heard in. You know, what everybody is saying is you they’re telling the government one thing and it’s actually costing another thing so

Steve: Interesting

Liz: I don’t know what they’re doing, but it’s definitely it’s definitely a tactic.

Steve: So let’s talk about sleekform then so it seems like you’re focusing most of your efforts on creating this brand now, how are you advertising Sleekform?

Liz: right now so initially I created sleeper, it was only on Amazon and then I saw Amazon’s competition start to increase and I just kind of thought like what would I want to do if I were shopping on Amazon and I would personally I would be shopping on Amazon and I would go to Instagram or their website or essentially something else too like fact check to see if they’re a real company a real brand and I could if I had problems I wouldn’t have to send it back to Amazon. I could actually utilize the product and support a real, a real company versus some manufacturer selling on China.

Selling from China on Amazon and then two then I that’s what I took. I started to create a blog. I created a website I use Shopify before I used Shopify I use Squarespace and then started to just make it feel more real and so now we’re on Facebook and Instagram, which I’m not great at I’m hoping to do better this year than really, you know, dive into that for 2020 and clear up that Vision. On Instagram advertising Facebook advertising really dialing in on my SEO and because we have a whole lot of stuff out there. I just haven’t been great at dialing that in so that’s my goal for 2020.

Steve: I know if if I’m shopping for like a bigger ticket items on Amazon and I don’t recognize a brand I will always actually do a Google search for that company just to make sure that their website is kind of legit. Would you say that with your chairs At least you are one of the fewer people that actually have spent a lot of effort on the shopping experience. I should say. On your branded website?

Liz: Yeah. Knowing okay, especially my competitors on Amazon and I think that’s what has really helped. There have been a number of other competitors in ergonomic Furniture in general and you know, I look to them for what are they doing off Amazon because I’ve kind of got the Amazon figured out and not figured out from like it’s never going to go away type thing, but figured out to where we’ve got a lot of things running on autopilot and we can focus on trying to spread. Spread out a little bit more and not be so dependent on Amazon.

And so for the Amazon Brands nobody else has a website. They’re starting to actually found a speaking with somebody the other day and we were trying to figure out how to increase my SEO and she was looking at my second competitor, biggest competitor on Amazon shows like wait, they don’t have a website and then like three days later. We actually found it, but they sell you know, what a normally Amazon business sells like kitchen tools and kneeling chair and table

Steve: Yeah, yeah,

Liz: there’s like all kinds of weird stuff.

Steve: I’m just curious since you fulfill with Amazon. Your product does arrive in an Amazon brand box, right?

Liz: Correct.

Steve: Is there any plans to change that or or do you just want well because people might just go and buy from Amazon next time right or does that matter to you at all?

Liz: No, at this age doesn’t really matter to me as long as I’m helping people get the product. That’s what matters to me and I’m trying to build a brand and in general and if Amazon can help me do that. I’m all-in

Steve: is the pricing on your website different from Amazon?

Liz: Amazon. I we have Auto prices going on Amazon on a regular basis and because I am so in tune in like so specific about my supply chain sometimes on Amazon. We have to increase price to slow velocity or you know put on some breaks or turn off PPC or something. So that will change a few a few things margin-wise or Dollar-wise, but we spend time every single day to keep that very very close.

Steve: Can we talk about the repressor for a sec? I actually don’t know a whole lot of people that use repricing for their own private label products. What are some of the uses that you use for your repressor outside of just kind of curbing sales or doing things down?

Liz: That’s really it that’s mainly what we do is

Steve: okay

Liz: because it because I am working with like a 90-day 120 daily time all of a sudden if we if we do something it’s It’s a tough game. I would love if anybody had advice on how to figure this out. I would love that. But because I’m dealing with such a long lead time. I’m bringing products into the state. So I don’t have to deal with such a long lead time anymore. But that you know incurs fees and try to create all that into the grand scheme of things. But if I sell 30 in a day instead of wanting to sell three in a day what you know, that impacts my supply chain quite drastically when I can only put 380 on a container at the time.

So when those things start to start to get Haywire, I do have to kind of you know play with play with our PVC and putting our pricing a little bit to curb or put it back at the way at the normal rate that we were hoping to sell it at.

Steve: What is this? You’re just figuring going out of stock. Like what is I know it’s bad but is the fear that great that you’d want to actually limit your sales?

Liz: Yep. It is for me because when I go out of stock no one really knows on Amazon what there’s two there’s two camps, right? So if you got a stock on Amazon do when you come back do you get you kind of like Get grandfathered in to where you were or do you start from scratch and what I’ve found from just testing and what I’ve been on the back end is if I got a stock for more than you know two weeks at a time. That’s when I really start to have to start from scratch and we have to spend a lot of money and PPC to get us back to where we were when we went out of stock. If I can come back in stock within 14 days, it doesn’t have a huge impact.

Steve: If you sell on Amazon or run any online business for that matter, you’re going to need a trademark to protect your intellectual property. Not only that but a trademark is absolutely necessary to register your brand on Amazon. Now, I used to think that any old trademark registration service would work and that could even try to register my own trademark by myself on the cheap, but I was dead wrong. Securing a trademark without a strategy in place usually results in either an outright rejection or a worthless unenforceable trademark. Now, that is why I work with Stephen Wagner and his team from Emerge counsel. They have a package service called total TM, which provides the same attention to detail and process that large law firms do at a fraction of the price. Now for me personally, I like Emerge Council because of their philosophy, their goal is to maximize IP protection while minimizing the price. So before you decide to register a trademark by yourself or file for other I could protection such as a copyright or a patent, check out Emerge counsel first and get a free consult. For more information go to emergecouncil.com and click on the Amazon sellers button and tell Steve that Steve sent you to receive a $100 discount on the total TM package for Amazon sellers. Once again, that’s emergecounsel.com over at emergecounsel.com. Now back to the show.

I know that’s not the case for everyone because I know people who’ve gone out of stock for months and they come back and they’re back. I guess it just depends on the nature of the product. I would imagine.

Liz: Yeah interesting.

Steve: Yeah, so I had a couple questions on pricing you mentioned this 18 percent Margin. It feels to me as though you know, because you have this brand you have this website and you’re telling a story you could actually charge more when you raise prices with the repressor sales might go down Amazon, but do they go up on your own site as well?

Liz: They stay at, well 5% of my sales come from Amazon.

Steve: Okay

Liz: So I’m not great at at my own website yet. That’s what I’m trying to get better at. So I’m still 95% on Amazon. So if I can play with Amazon lovers that’s a huge impact on my business

Steve: So what is your main strategy then for getting people from Amazon to your own store or to get emails to get emails?

Liz: I’ve I have an e-book that I have out there and then just getting on the email list gives you a discount code.

Steve: Oh, okay it how do people find your site currently?

Liz: most of it comes from Instagram to be honest Instagram or organic.

Steve: Can we talk about your Instagram strategy. What are some things that you’re doing there?

Liz: I wish I like a dialed in strategy. It’s really just trying to trying to spread information about ergonomics and how important it is for your body. We are in a really great time of the wellness movement. So you have the ability to help people and be any we have we have their attention right now because the wellness movement is so huge. And so trying to get great information to people to help them and whether it’s my chair or somebody else’s chair. I just want to give give out information so that you can essentially, you know, make it to 80 and your back isn’t in a C shape for your the rest of your life.

Steve: right

Liz: now, how can we help people? We’re in a sedentary lifestyle period. Like we most of the things that we do are from a seated position and I can’t change that if I can make you more comfortable in your chairs or entering your sedentary lifestyle. That’s what I’m about and so on my Instagram. I really just spread information about how important posture is things you can do to impact your posture. I things you can do to be more productive at work through your seated position. And then it’s just all fun and games Instagrams fun. So we have fun photos and and throw on some jokes here and there.

Steve: any plans to sell wholesale to brick-and-mortar stores?

Liz: Yeah, yeah, that’s all my plan for 2020 matches being with a few people right now. It’s something that’s brand new to me. So I’m learning very quickly how that operates

Steve: and are you running any like Google ads or Facebook ads at the moment?

Liz: No, not right now. No.

Steve: okay. So when it comes to Furniture if you have like a brand-new design, like can you what is like the timeline for creating a new product? And what is generally your new product strategy or you just kind of sticking with your guns with this chair, different variations of your chair.

Liz: Yeah. So about two years ago. I was selling bunch of stuff all kinds of everything from just I was like every other Amazon Seller every things all over the place and then in 2019 Midway through 2018 and all 2019 dialed in cut all the fat and really focused on the things that were that we’re selling well and and creating the profit and creating a margin for us. To be able to keep the doors open and now in 2020 since we’ve identified what’s working. We are trying to speak with our customers and understand what they’re after and what they’re looking for and what we can do to help.

And then either create new products or modify the existing products based on that now that we have, getting the supply chain was a huge huge task for 2019 really getting that dialed in and figure it out. Because we were bringing a lot of time and effort and money into that and dialing that in has saved us a whole lot of time and money. So once we have that now we’re really diving into new products, but all based on customer feedback.

Steve: So when you mention cutting the fat I’m just kind of curious what your criteria is for fat?

Liz: products that weren’t either weren’t converting or we’re converting at a loss that would that would cut away from the from the main products in the line.

Steve: I see so any That was that you weren’t just making money on you. Just kind of liquidated it?

Liz: Yep. That’s right. And so sometimes we’re they were fine. You know, they were they were operating okay, but they just took too much effort and time from my staff to create a baseline products when we could really double down on the things that were really working and we could improve those and spend that time and effort on the products that we’re turning

Steve: I do get this question from time to time like if you want to discontinue a product. Is there a strategy that you have of just getting rid of that product?

Liz: It depends Amazon really kind of dictated that for me for a number of products because of those long-term storage fees. So taking into all those things into account, how much money will we willing to lose or could we not lose anything and really just break even on the product. Amazon had a whole lot of play into that and how long we had those products sitting at Amazon.

Steve: So did you have them shipped back to you or did you just slash prices?

Liz: prices a few of them few family slashed a few of them, I really just Sit there and then number of them. I actually just destroyed like I didn’t even send it back to me. I couldn’t do

Steve: Oh my goodness. Okay

Liz: I don’t have a film and network anyway, so I was like just destroy them. Amazon will run like specials on destroying products. It’s cheaper and that’s what we did.

Steve: It’s funny they always make money. No matter what.

Liz: like I’m telling other people who can then come back and tell them to sell on amazon later.

Steve: you know, what’s funny is I was I was going through your website prior to this interview and I was just shocked at the price point like I’d be willing to pay double what you charge and so I’m just kind of curious what your rationale is with such a low pricing. I know you want to proliferate your furniture, but I feel like you’re just leaving money on the table somehow

Liz: maybe maybe but what’s important to me right now is is getting us into into more people’s hands and showing them that you know this exists and there’s new ways to do things that we have always done.

Steve: Okay, let’s talk about your future plans. For 2020 at the moment. So where are you focusing your efforts on and growing?

Liz: really try to grow our SEO and focus on advertising and bringing people directly to Shopify versus going through Amazon because everybody got on Amazon is already there to shop and buy so trying to understand that market.

Steve: Could we talk about your SEO strategy?

Liz: Sure.

Steve: What’s on the plan? What’s on the horizon? Are you writing your own posts or?

Liz: We are yes, I read it in a blog post. Once every week, but what we haven’t done in the past is we’ve kind of just spoken about what we are interested in and we haven’t really, you know, dug into how it optimize that for Google searching and so we’re going back through Old Post. We’re trying to figure out new ideas and new things what people are interested in right now and put our own spin on what people are searching for.

And so there’s really not going to strategies really just been what’s the information that I learned. Trying to come into this and things I that I dove into what did I learn in books and new way of thinking about you know, sitting essentially and the history of those things because I’m a really big nerd on the history of objects or food. And so I learned a lot of stuff that I thought was really interesting. And now we’re just optimizing all that stuff.

Steve: cool. And then are you trying to get this in the hands of influencers and whatnot?

Liz: Yeah, you know, we’ve had a few a few interactions. People have reached out to us. And those have panned out. I would say three of them panned out. One of them was just kind of break even just you know conversation wise but what is really interesting is I think that’s a huge market and I’m very interested in doing that and working more with influencers, you know, micro influencers, larger influencers and figuring out how they come into the grand scheme of things because I do think that is what’s really hot right now and what will continue to be hot for the next few years until they essentially start stop having clout or trust in their from their audience.

Steve: Sure

Liz: and so diving into that and I’ve learned a whole lot because of those three that have that have panned out. I’ve created relationships from those people and those influencers have taught me how to communicate with influencers. It’s different right? It’s not

Steve: actually how do you communicate with an influencer? I’m curious

Liz: what did not go well was like open-ended conversations. So yeah, we’ll send you this chair. Can you post for us? That doesn’t go all so But also too many formalities and too many line items on a contract don’t, it doesn’t pan out on the other end either so it’s kind of a pendulum just like most things you go really extreme in One Direction you go the other extreme and kind of find where your sweet spot is in the middle and what’s worked for me is allowing the influencers to touch base with me and then communicate with them and work the relationship from that angle versus reaching out to them first.

Steve: That’s interesting. So you have actually contracts with these mostly really large influencers then?

Liz: know they’re pretty small. Why does I don’t know how you define large influencer force of a micro influencer for me. I my sweet spot is people twenty five thousand followers or less.

Steve: Okay. Yeah. So those are I would consider not completely micro influencers, but definitely on the smaller end

Liz: right, right and the contract really just helps me understand what I’m expecting. Them what they think they can deliver because again the supply chain thing comes into play if they can if we do a post with them and they sell let’s say they sell 500 instead of thinking they can sell 50 then my supply chain needs to be able to sustain that and how we’re going to react from that. We’re not going to not sell those because we’ve done this this partnership with them, but it will impact things.

So having them kind of look back their history and their analytics and that’s actually gone over pretty well for them, too. To learn a little bit more about that because they are on the smaller scale. They haven’t really done a whole lot of that and that’s been a really fun really fun project for both of us. We’ve learned a whole lot both ways

Steve: but they have no idea how many they’re going to sell right?

Liz: right.They don’t because a lot of the influencers that we’ve worked with will sell there’s also less expensive items. And while my pricing isn’t huge four chairs. It is is larger than like an Impulse buy right?

Steve: sure.

Liz: You’re not going to impulse buy a large piece of furniture that you have to install and and assemble in your home. So that has been yeah a big question mark and we’ve kind of we you know, sometimes around the money and other times were very wrong.

Steve: so seems like for your business to supply chain is very important in the event that you order too many items. Do they just sit in Amazon or do you have like an intermediate storage place?

Liz: I had put just started working with another open intermediate storage unit because Amazon has been introduced this thing called the Pi score and that is the huge

Steve: Do you want to explain what that is?

Liz: Sure. It’s an inventory performance index and they taken to a whole lot of a whole lot of different metrics in order to figure out what your quote-unquote IPI score is and essentially just telling Amazon this person sells products. They turn them over really well and really quickly so they don’t have to sit in our warehouses because my theory on the history of this is Amazon wanted to be a fulfillment Network system. They allowed you to put anything in the warehouses, whatever size, however long and however many you wanted to put in there and then they started to realize that a lot of they only sold what 10% or so and the other 90% just took of space.

And so this is their counteract to kind of fix the amount of units sitting in their warehouse. And so because of that IPi score, I’ve personally had to pull out like if I thought I could sell something in 90 days Amazon doesn’t always think 90 days is the best so some products if they sell it a hundred days. I Get dinged on those IPI scores and I haven’t really like figured out they published some of the IPi scores information, but not the entirety of it in every mathematical formulation that I’ve tried to recreate on my end. Does it match what they have.

So I haven’t figured it out exactly to the T into the day to figure out what how many units I should have how many I should sell it a day and what the perfect rate is. That’s what I’m trying to do. But so I’ve pulled out I pulled out probably few hundred units just to sit in a warehouse until we can send them back at and don’t have to wait that long period of time to come from China

Steve: this IPI score. How does it actually affect your sales? Does it affect your rankings? What does it affect exactly?

Liz: It doesn’t affect your sales to my knowledge. It affects Amazon’s opinion of you and then they limit your storage unit based on whether you are below 400 or not. And so if you’re below 400, they will limit the amount of units. And cubic feet you can have in their warehouse and if you’re above 400, they release that limit and so for me with an oversized product and my account, my account is older in history. So I have a larger amount and my oversized item limit is substantially bigger than

Steve: Sure.

Liz: It’s got open a kit an account today, but I’m still you know, I still really need to pay attention because if I were a limited I would be you know, that would affect how we can order and how many we can sell

Steve: right. So yeah, given that when you do go out of stock, you lose your rankings if it’s beyond two weeks. I see. Yeah, I know that’s really tough because I would imagine if you were to sell out Amazon would increase that limit right away, right?

Liz: Yeah. Yeah.

Steve: So yeah.

Liz: What else? I’m all

Steve: Alright Liz. Well, hey, we’ve been chatting for about 40 minutes and Liz is going to be speaking at the seller Summit on supply chain. We didn’t go into that much detail and supply chain because I wanted to save that content for the event, but where can people find you Liz and learn more about your furniture and check you out.

Liz: Yeah, so you can find me at Sleekform.com and then on Instagram @Sleekform or @LizMercer.

Steve: Alright, Well Liz thanks a lot for coming on really appreciate it.

Liz: Thanks for having me, Steve.

Hope you enjoyed that episode now Liz will be speaking at my annual e-commerce conference on May 6th over at sellersummit.com. So come and see your speak live. For more information about this episode. Go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode303.

And once again, I want to thank Privy for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers. They offer email capture exit intent and site targeting tools to make it super simple as well. And I like Privy because it is so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter that is closely tied your eCommerce store. Now, if you want to give it a try it is free so head on over to privy.com/steve. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/steve.

I also want to thank Klaviyo which is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence a post purchase flow or win back campaign. Basically, all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo. Once again, That’s mywifequitherjob.com/klaviyo.

Now I talked about how I use these tools in my blog and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store heading over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six day mini-course just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away. Thanks for listening.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com

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