How this Aussie retailer will use US success to nail Amazon Australia
And how you can too..
From humble beginnings selling stuffed toys on eBay in 2006, Wayne and Litsa Shelley’s business, Stuffed With Plush Toys, has seen massive growth. It has become the largest online plush and stuffed animals store in Australia, selling over 40 brands and around 1,850 SKUs via its website, eBay and Amazon US.
The company began selling on Amazon two years ago and business is booming, with growth on the platform up 135 per cent this month on last year. Wayne has also become something of an expert, running the biggest Australian Amazon support forum on Facebook.
With the recent launch of Amazon Australia, we spoke to Wayne Shelley about what he has learned through selling on Amazon US and how he is preparing to take advantage of the giant marketplace's arrival.
Founders, Wayne and Litsa Shelley.
Have systems in place
Shelley says the most important way to prepare to sell on Amazon, or any marketplace, is to put the right technology in place. Stuffed With Plush Toys began using Neto, Australia’s only all-in-one retail management platform, to synchronise its channels in 2013, and Shelley says his business’ rapid growth since then has been largely due to the platform.
“You cannot be a significant player in the market unless you have automations in place,” he says. “If you don’t have stock automations between all of your marketplaces working 100 per cent, you are going to run out of stock on one of your marketplace.”
Being unable to fulfil orders on any marketplace will cost you customers, so it’s vital to use a system that synchronises your stock across all channels, ensuring you’re ready to sell wherever customers find you.
Be ‘customer obsessed’
Amazon is well known for its focus on ‘customer obsession’ and puts customer satisfaction at the heart of everything it does. This approach has helped the marketplace attract over 300 million customers worldwide, as shoppers trust they will get excellent service every time.
To succeed on Amazon, and in business in general, it’s vital that Australian sellers also take a customer-centric approach. The success of Stuffed With Plush Toys is a great example of this. Since starting their business the Shelleys have been committed to keeping their customers happy and Shelley says customer service is actually the secret to their success.
“Some of our best customers, people who buy from us five to six times a year, are people who happened to have issues with us back in the early days,” he says. “Whenever we’ve made a mistake we’ve made it right and we’ve fixed it 200 per cent for them.
“We are by no means the cheapest people on the internet selling any of the brands we sell, and yet we still sell four to five times more than anybody else.”
This is because, just like Amazon, Stuffed With Plush Toys puts its customers first.
Stuffed with Plush always put their customers first and as a result have built up a loyal customer base.
Find your unique selling point
Unlike other marketplaces Amazon has one listing per product, so sellers are competing directly with each other on branded items. This means that of the 1,850 SKUs Stuffed With Plush Toys has listed on Amazon US, realistically only three or four hundred are going to sell because the prices are higher than their American competitors.
However, this doesn’t mean local sellers can’t find success, it just means you just need the right products. The items that Shelley has found sell well are Australian-made brands not widely available in the US. He says many customers who purchase on Amazon are more interested in convenience rather than getting the lowest price and that having a unique product can be a great advantage.
“If you’ve got a product that’s a little left of centre or it’s a good quality product not many people are selling, you’re going to get a good response.”
Go with what’s best for your business
Stuffed With Plush Toys sells on Amazon using Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) rather than Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). The latter involves drop shipping a load of products to a central Amazon warehouse where it is stored, picked, packed and sent by the marketplace. Although this is a convenient and cost-effective solution for many sellers, for Stuffed With Plush Toys’ soft, lightweight yet bulky items, it just doesn’t make sense.
While Shelley says that for some sellers FBA is an “awesome service”, which he is considering using on Amazon Australia, he has done the maths and says not using FBA to sell on the US platform is the right decision for his business.
When you’re starting up on Amazon Australia, it’s important to carefully consider your options and select the fulfilment methods and other services that suit your own business’ needs.
"When you’re starting up on Amazon Australia, it’s important to carefully consider your options and select the fulfilment methods and other services that suit your own business’ needs". Click to tweet.
Don’t neglect your own website
As exciting as the Amazon Australia is, it’s important to keep your own standalone website front and centre, says Shelley. The Stuffed With Plush Toys’ site accounts for around 70 per cent of its business, and Shelley says he has always been focused on this channel.
Although marketplaces help get your products in front of a larger audience, in most cases they also own the relationship with the customers you sell to. For example, with Amazon you never receive any details apart from the shipping address, so you can’t re-market to the customer. Shelley says eBay is also cutting back on allowing sellers to make external contact with buyers.
“I always say put the biggest time and effort into your own website—they’re your customers.”
Shelley has always put his website first, but acknowledges the importance of marketplaces.
But don’t miss out on marketplaces, either
Although he acknowledges the importance of having a standalone website, Shelley says any retailer not selling on marketplaces is missing out on a big chunk of business. He currently sells on eBay and Amazon US with plans to expand to New Zealand’s Trade Me, Catch.com.au and of course Amazon Australia.
“Marketplaces put you in front of people, which is a big pro. It’s like if you are a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re not in a big shopping centre, you know you want to be in the big shopping centre. You pay more for the privilege but if it’s done right you’re going to make more money.”
Shelley is eager for Stuffed With Plush Toys to embrace Amazon Australia because of the chance to reach a wider audience. “I think it’s a great thing… We will be in as many marketplaces as we can; we just want to be in front of our customers.
“It’s another opportunity to sell online and it’s going to be great for everybody who has their systems in place, has a good product range, and can deliver great customer service.”
| Related Reading: How Australian SMEs can make the most of the Amazon Marketplace
Find out more about how Neto can help you sell on Amazon Australia and other ecommerce marketplaces.