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Optimizing Your Amazon Catalog – Return on Podcast Ep. 26 with Vanessa Hung

Optimizing Your Amazon Catalog - Return on Podcast Ep. 26 with Vanessa Hung

The following is a transcript of Episode 26 of Return on Podcast, the show where we help e-commerce sellers improve their ROI in business and in life. For more episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon/Audible.

Tyler Jefcoat:
All right. Welcome back to Return on Podcast, where we talk about the experiences, the obsessions, and the habits of the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs. I’m your host, Tyler Jefcoat, and I wanna welcome you to this episode of ROP. Listen, we’re gonna dive into some content related to how to run your Amazon business better, but I wanna try something new today.

I don’t ever do this. I didn’t even prep these guys that I’m going to do this, but Seller Accountant, I try to buy my customers’ products as much as possible, and I just wanna like shout out Shower Cat. Bought this product. I actually own two of these now, and I don’t have any hair, so I do not need Shower Cat. But I have a wife and two daughters who make a mess of the drains in our showers. And so these dudes at Shower Cat are running a killer business. Their product is crushing it on Amazon. It went viral on TikTok a few months ago. Anyway, if you have a spouse or you yourself leave a lot of hair in the shower, Shower Cat, wanna give those boys a shout out. Way to go, guys.

And then let’s just, thinking about the topic for today, there are so many crucial elements to succeeding selling on Amazon, and some of those elements are sexier than others, right? Today I wanna talk about how doing a few of the less glamorous things right can give you and me major ROI and our Amazon businesses. And to do that, I wanna bring in my friend Vanessa Hung. Vanessa, welcome to Return on Podcast.

Vanessa Hung:
Thank you, Tyler. And I love what you said, less glamorous. I normally use unsexy, but less glamorous sounds so fancy.

Tyler Jefcoat:
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. This is not unimportant and not even unattractive. Just less glamorous than the other elements of the business. Vanessa, we were talking before we hit record of you and I kind of run in a lot of the same circles, and I’m embarrassed to say we’ve never met prior to today. So it’s good to finally get to meet you and learn more about your company.

Something I love about us, Vanessa, we’re loving us here for a minute. You and I have the same stream of thought in one regard. Listen, we serve sellers. We don’t necessarily sell advertising, and so our business names are very unglamorous. I’m Seller Accountant. You’re Online Seller Solutions. I just wanted to celebrate the simplicity of our branding. The average seller out there, if you’re wondering what Vanessa does, she provides online seller solutions. I provide seller accounting. So there you go.

All right. Listen, we’re gonna talk about this backend stuff. There’s so much that goes into running these Amazon businesses successfully, Vanessa. You are the absolute expert on a couple of these catalog management and other nuances. Before we dive into that though, when did you first realize that you were an entrepreneur?

Vanessa Hung:
Wow. I guess that was in third grade or something. I was just selling stuff for what I thought my friends wanted or needed. So it was so funny. I grew up back in Venezuela, and there is a season where it’s very hot. Like we don’t have the four seasons, but there is a season that is very hot and another season that is not that hot but still like a tropical weather, right? So I remember that in third grade, I start selling paper fans. So you basically take a paper sheet and fold it, and it was a paper like fan. It was just like something so silly that my friends could done because they also have access to paper, but I just made it happen and I start selling those, and I also start selling pens, and I also start selling like bracelets to my friends. So it wasn’t about making money. For me, it’s about bring, giving them a solution. Like people want this. Like why wouldn’t, why it is so difficult to get it, right?

So that’s when, that’s when it started. The moment I learn about entrepreneurship, like that word, that thing that I’ve been doing all like for all these years and now it’s something that has a name, that was after I graduate from high school. While I was in the university, I did a MBA in entrepreneurship. And I just got in. I thought it was a cool boot camp, and I didn’t know anything about it, and then I found out that basically what they teach is about how to build businesses based on an idea, so everything about business models and stuff like that. So it’s been part of my life or who I am since forever, and now we have a pretty name for it like entrepreneurship is so fancy. But I realized that when I was 17 or so.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Super cool. Love it. Yeah, that’s a pretty awesome journey. I actually resonate with that. I was the kid that always just naturally collected my friends and tried to sell things or tried to build things and I didn’t, I would’ve never known. I graduated as an undergrad and didn’t think I was an entrepreneur. And so I just, some point in life you realize, oh, I don’t really fit in a corporate box that well, and I just like helping people, and I like generating value and, I don’t like people telling me how much money I can make or when I have to work. And so as a result, that’s for me. For me, because I’m not a good sit in a seat and people tell me what to do, I guess I gotta build something, and I think that’s probably a lot of our peers’ journeys as well.

So, hey, listen I wanna talk about catalog management with you today, Vanessa, because you are really strong in this area, and I don’t really know how to start this discussion ’cause it’s boom, catalog management. Without just asking the broad question I’ll let you take it where you wanna take it, but what are some of the best practices that you are seeing really work for Amazon sellers regarding managing their catalog right now?

Vanessa Hung:
Yeah, I’ll like to divide that first in preventive work which is the things that we do proactively to not encounter problems in the future, and then the reactive work that we do to solve problems that we face at some point. And sometimes even by doing the best catalog management, you will encounter issues. This is not a hundred percent thing that it will shield you from every single thing. That’s not true because as Amazon is just a thing that if tomorrow wakes up and says oh, we are changing catalog normalization, and we are changing sizes and stuff, that’s something that we cannot control.

But if we go into the things that are proactive that go on the prevention side, I think that’s probably the most undervalued work that an entrepreneur that is on Amazon thinks about. They are not thinking ahead of, oh, this could happen, so let me fix this first. It’s always what is the things that I could do now that can drive the most amount of revenue, right? That’s always the work, but sometimes that question is get answered or I could reframe that question saying, what are the things that I can do now that will prevent me from losing the most amount of money?

Tyler Jefcoat:
Right. ‘Cause that’s, that ounce of prevention is worth, right? And because it is, like we said, unglamorous, it’s easy to ignore. We run into the same issue, by the way. No one wants to do their bookkeeping until there’s a problem. So that ounce of prevention, because this is the exactly the right question, what are the things I should be doing now that may give me an outrageous ROI that I never even see because I don’t run into the problems that might have occurred. What are some of those things that you’re seeing?

Vanessa Hung:
It’s so funny that we are having this call now because we are seeing this happening. Amazon has a bunch of different policies, right? That if you go to the like law or the seller code of conduct, you will see them, right? But some of them, basically, I’ll say, I don’t know, 50% of them, are not really very highly enforced, right? So people do things, and they ignore those regulations, but then when the time comes, it, you encounter problems. So I’m talking about a very specific example that is happening right now with a GS1 UPC codes, right?

So when a seller goes and create a listing, the law or Amazon law said you need to use authorized GS1 UPC barcodes. Okay. But some people just to cut on costs, just to cut corners or because they didn’t know better, they went ahead and purchased UPC codes that were from resellers or reuse or something like that, and they don’t have the certificate that goes like with it. Okay. So I’m seeing that now there is a bunch of sellers suffering. And I’m talking about not the little guys that are reselling or something. No, I’m talking about millions of dollars brands that are on a month that are having their best seller down just because when they created back in 2010, they didn’t have the GS1 barcodes.

So those are the things of, if at that point you were used the principles of good catalog management, you will know that even the GS1 maybe costs you, I don’t know, $75 more than the reseller, that $75 will translate into millions of dollars that you will not lose in the future just because Amazon start enforcing policies.

So the first thing is that. Familiarize yourself with the policies of catalog creation or listing creation. Okay. So there are other policies that are related to variations, and I’m starting to see a lot of variation warnings of people using variations in their own way or it’s a thing that now they’re normalizing. They’re trying to standardize the variation themes in different categories, so you don’t have the access to use certain type of variations in certain categories. So if you build your business to be, or if you build your listings to be bulletproof of that, you will know for sure that in the future, you won’t miss that thing of, oh, my listing is down for a month just because I did that wrong back in the day.

So first, that’s the first principle. Get familiarized with the policy that is related to listing creation. Okay? There are many things there. There are some stuff that you could see in some categories. For example, the listing creation policy says that you need your image in a white background. But if you go to certain categories, for example, in the bedding category, pillows and bedding and duvets and stuff like that, you will see that the image is not white background. So that’s like bending a little bit. But you could you could expect that at some point, Amazon will go there and enforce the policy and your listing will go down. So if you wanna bend the rules or if you wanna play in the gray area, just know that you are incurring into a risk that it could potentially go very bad in the future.

For example, the UPCs, right? You say oh no, but it’s worth it now because I don’t have so much money, so let me pay just 10 bucks for a UPC and I’ll deal with that later. So now that later it could cost you a lot more.

Tyler Jefcoat:
But Vanessa, you talk about a good point there. Just I think as a new seller or as a seller that’s launching a new brand or new catalog element, like a new product, there are temptations to cut a lot of corners. Whether they’re TOS related corners or other corners. And I think what I’m hearing you saying is that the GS1 approved UPC code is not the place to cut corners because the cost is less than a hundred bucks, and you can do it right on the front end and not run into what can potentially be a catastrophic problem for you down the road. Are there other of those, like, if you’re gonna cut corners, don’t cut this one. This is one that you’re gonna wanna avoid cutting.

Vanessa Hung:
Yeah. So it’s so funny. I have an example that we had recently this seller approached us because they have an issue with almost their whole catalog was, restricted. That’s detail page removed. And when we went into the account, we started seeing that they are selling something that is against the policies, completely against the policies. So I think of the fact that Amazon is not enforcing an algorithm or a policy today does not mean that in the future they won’t enforce it.

So our answer to the seller was like listen, you are violating the policy. We cannot help you. It’s like basically I committed murder. We know that you committed murder and you want us to defend you against Amazon. That’s impossible. Like we cannot update that. So making sure that you have all those regulations like very straightforward. That also something that happens, and I believe that it’s a syndrome that is very related to e-commerce that people think of wake up one day and say you know what? I’m gonna sell, I don’t know, a cream against mosquitoes because when I was in a tree backpacking or camping, I got beaten. And now I have the formula. Perfect.

And the e-commerce allows you a platform to sell your brand and sell your idea and reach millions of customers that you wouldn’t have that before, like four years ago. But there are regulations and because sellers think that everything is just Amazon and launching on Amazon or launching on Shopify and stuff, they don’t understand that their products are actually regulated by an FDA or by an EPA or by any organization that is like making sure that the consumers are protected. So that’s another thing. Some sellers came to us like two years down the line after they started selling and said oh, our product is actually a pesticide device, and we don’t have their certification for it. It’s actually very tedious and expensive because you need to certify from your manufacturer level.

So manufacturer gets to get certificate, the broker that ships the products needs to get the certificate, and you need to get the certificate. So it is a process and sometimes we don’t see that. So the first thing, or the first principle is educating ourself very well in the policies that the marketplace give you and also in the policies that the other organizations or the federal government regulates on your niche specifically.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Right. And just a quick comment there, cause I think you’re, this is a really important point. Amazon is always going to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. They’ve done this in every international marketplace. They’re going to ready, fire, aim, right? That’s the way Amazon works. And so understanding one, Amazon’s terms of service is really important because if Amazon chooses to enforce a particular term, they can shut you down. But actually for your product category, like the Shower Cat guys here, I don’t know what category, you know your home goods, it’s important for these guys to understand the regulatory bodies who Amazon might be ignoring completely right now.

But as soon as they start calling, they send one email to Amazon, and Amazon’s gonna say, Oh, we. , if we didn’t realize we were doing that wrong, we’re gonna shut down 10,000 listings tomorrow that were in violation of that FDA or that EPA code. And so it behooves us as the brand owners to take the time to understand fully what Amazon’s terms are and also what the regulatory bodies are.

And then, like you said at the beginning, we may choose to make a calculated risk to color outside of the lines to go into the gray area. But we need to do that with eyes wide open. We need to know what that risk is to our business and what the potential revenue loss could be if we get it wrong.

Vanessa Hung:
And also something that it really bothers me sometimes is when sellers blame it all on Amazon. Oh, Amazon is doing this, or Amazon is doing that. It’s like, listen, you are breaking the law. Like you, if you were to launch your product on Walmart, like on the physical store or in Target in the physical store, you need to go through a very lengthy process of give me this document, give me that document, give me this. E-commerce allows you to have less of that, but also we need to understand that we are getting into an era of more professionalization of the industry. It’s not oh, I just thought about it. Let me launch it, and we are not taking care.

That’s the other thing that happened, Tyler, with the insurance. Like one day Amazon said okay, we actually need to protect customers. Every seller needs to have this insurance with this specifications. And sellers were like, oh my God, my business is now gone because Amazon enforced that. Those are the things that don’t need to happen because you should know that your customers need to be protected, that you need to comply for regulation, and it’s part of that easiness of, okay, launching on Amazon is pretty easy.

But we don’t take in consideration all the other stuff of should I just call a lawyer for a time for a consultation? Ask them like what my product needs to be, sell in any anywhere. But going back to catalog specific things, once you understand those rules and you are playing by the rules, then you can start using or start implementing best practices to not encounter problems in the future that could be related directly to your business.

So one of the things is once you create a UPC, once you create an ASIN, the first ASIN that you create, it’s under one SKU. That SKU, the first, the original SKU is the SKU that will control the contributions for that listing. And what it means is if you ever wanna make a change to that listing, you should use the original one, the original SKU.
And some people just create the original just to get it out of the way. Maybe take out the SKU to send it to a manufacturer and print on the box or just to try to see what are the requirements that they encounter for that specific niche, but they don’t end up using that SKU, and they recreate that ASIN again with a different SKU, and they start changing that. When it comes to time where, oh, they cannot update the title or they cannot change the picture, or they need to, I don’t know, connect the ASIN with brand registry, they realize that ASIN or the secondary ASIN is not working. So you go through a lot of cases and a lot of time wasted with seller support to, to understand that the new contribution that you need to, or that you wanna make should be done in the SKU that was created originally for that ASIN.

So one practice there that I recommend for people that are listening, that want to start creating or want to start launching a product, create a SKU, and at the end of the, in the SKU convention or taxonomy, you will put something like, do not delete. So you put a DND, do not delete. That’s something that I use with some clients where if we create something new, we use that. And once we have that, we know that that SKU cannot be deleted because it hosts all the contributions for our ASIN. We protect ourself by optimizing that SKU the most we can with flat files, the backend, and all the good stuff, and using that always as the main thing.

Also, this also works when we are selling in different marketplaces. Sometimes we share them the same ASIN in Germany, for example, and we wanna update something. We should update it in the original SKU in the original marketplace. Okay. For example, images, that’s very frequent because they share images across marketplaces, so you always need to go to the root. Okay. So that’s one first thing. Very important, very basic, super simple. Don’t cost you any money. And once you know that, or if somebody here is listening to us and say oh yeah, I have an issue right now that I have an ASIN that I cannot change title, I will recommend you or the listener to go ahead and look for the original SKU, right? What was the first queue that was created? And if you don’t have it, try to find it. So maybe in some old report that you can download, maybe a sales report, an order report, or a fulfillment report, you can get back the SKU name and recreate it again, because the contributions are coming from SKUs, not from ASINs. Super important.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Wow. So that, by the way, that’s really so interesting, this idea that maybe you created the old parent or the original SKU five years ago, and you, ah, you didn’t, you stocked out and you changed the design. You just, you decided to do version 2.0 and you deleted that original SKU. You may have a quite a process to walk through to try to reclaim that SKU. But, so you’ve mentioned three things by the way, we’re talking about professionalizing. Vanessa Hung and I are talking about how to professionalize your seller experience, right? How to get into the 21st century, if you will, in terms of selling. You mentioned getting UPC right. You mentioned the importance of understanding TOS and outside compliance factors on the front end, and then this one doesn’t cost you any money. Understand the taxonomy, the way your SKUs are organized in a way that your do not delete SKU, this original, the native SKU, right? The Adam and Eve of this SKU, the product, the first one, doesn’t get deleted because you may have challenges in the future pushing additional content to your subsequent child ASINs if you, if they’re not oriented correctly, right? This is beyond my expertise but am I saying that correctly?

Vanessa Hung:
Correct. Yes. And one other thing that I’ll recommend is that this SKU, the original one, try to not use it to send inventory in any way. Not FBM, not FBA. Just have that SKU seated in your inventory to be the source of content for your other, like you create another SKU for FBA and you create a third SKU for FBM and you have it all, but the original, try to not use it for anything. Because if at some point, and this is something that can happen, Tyler, if you start selling in that SKU and you at some point get a customer complaint that can suppress your listing and you go through voice of the customer dashboard and customers are saying, oh this is wrong, they suppress and that’s where you understand really well that the contributions come from SKUs. Voice of the customer, if you have anything triggered there, they will suppress SKUs, not ASINs, right?

So if you have two SKUs, they will suppress the SKU that everybody’s saying that is coming wrong. So it could be the FBM one, or it could be the FBA one, but not the original one, because you will never want to have the original one taken down because that’s the ones that host the contributions. And when you make changes, you always change that one. That’s very important.

Tyler Jefcoat:
That’s such a good hack there. So this idea, you create the parent – is it, by the way, I don’t know the language here. Is this original SKU the same thing as a parent child relationship or is that different? I’m, I’m an accountant. I’m ignorant here. Forgive me.

Vanessa Hung:
Variations are a type of listings. You can have a listing that is a variation or you can have a standalone listing. What happened with variations, and this is an amazing topic that I have, I get a lot of questions about it. And for some clarification, the parent ASIN is just like a virtual entity to glue – imagine that it’s the glue that puts together all the child ASINs, but the parent ASIN by itself, it’s not nothing. It’s just a number that glues the child.

The important thing in a variations are the child ASINs, and sometimes, and this is another for the reactive side of the catalog management, sometimes you encounter issues with your variations, right? And you’re like, oh, I wanna add this child ASIN to this family, but I encounter issues, I cannot. Or I wanna split the variation because this doesn’t make any sense anymore, and stuff like that. It’s as easy as you deleting the parent ASIN. And the thing is, because the parent ASIN is a virtual entity, you don’t need to save the parent ASIN. The parent ASIN is not relevant at all. You could delete it. You don’t need to attach yourself to that specific ASIN. That’s just there to put together the family. And if you recreate the family, you will get, potentially, you will get a new parent ASIN, and that’s completely okay. You don’t need to, you don’t need to attach yourself to the to parent ASINs because they don’t need anything. There are no contributions there. The contributions come from the child ASINs.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I see. That makes sense. Yeah. So in other words the, this is the original, I guess the original listing of, the child’s set is the one. So the one that’s this, like you’re describing is the mothership. You don’t actually use this SKU ’cause you’re just, do not delete, and then you associate it with the other one so that if you had listing FBA shut down because of a client complaint, your FBM listing might still be live. That makes sense. And I know people that listen to this know a lot more about listing and catalog management than I do, so I don’t wanna be so ignorant here that I’m asking dumb questions. What else would you say? Is there anything else before we pivot topics here about catalog management that you’re like, oh, that’s a best practice that is either the proactive side of it or the, if it’s broken, here’s what you do.

Vanessa Hung:
Yeah. The biggest thing for catalog management is having the information of your catalog. And that is, I say this and you’re like, oh, Vanessa, of course. Everybody should have their information. But in reality, not many sellers understand that the only thing that you own on Amazon is the information of your listing. Everything else is basically owned by the marketplace, by Amazon itself, but the information, the things that you can change are basically part of your brand. So the best catalog management practice is having a database and updating that database and cleaning that database very often and making changes on that.

So for that database, you can use the category listing. That’s a report that Amazon give you with the information of everything that you have input in your catalog, all the listings, all the categories, all the attributes. So sellers know that, some sellers know, that that exists, but they don’t really know how to use it. They’re like, oh, that’s a flat file. Very unsexy, very difficult to see. Like it’s on a spreadsheet, an Excel spreadsheet that is very intimidating for some, but the reality is that it works amazingly as a database. So if at some point you encounter an issue and your ASIN is shut down, and you have saved that database in the past, you know that you have there all the updated information.

So coming back from a suspension or coming back from a suppression, it will be faster than you trying to see oh my God, what was my title? Or which ones were my bullet points? Or, I don’t remember what keywords were in the backend. So downloading that, it’s the best thing you can do. Just to save it if you don’t really want to work on it or if you don’t really want to optimize anything, just saving it makes a lot for you in the future when you encounter issues. If you wanna be proactive and try to look for issues, one thing that I always tell sellers to do is download the category listing report, and upload it again without making any changes. So what you’re basically doing is feeding the system with the information that you have in the catalog, and if there is any discrepancies or any errors or any issues going on your listings, that file will give you a report saying hey, by the way, your ASIN 123 has a discrepancy in the title, and now you know.

These today could not be an issue, and your listing could be a hundred percent full running, but in the future, that discrepancy could become something bigger. So what you do in the proactive side is okay, now that I know that there is some discrepancies, let me fix that before it gets shut down or before it gets like into a bigger issue.
And the third level of things that you could do proactively with a category listing report is optimizing everything in the back end to have the most amount of keywords and the most amount of information to protect you from hijackers. So that’s huge, Tyler, because if we start using that as a, or if we start seeing the category listing report as a defensive mechanism that we can use to protect our listings from hijackers, now it gave us a whole wide range of things to do on, like, okay, now I need to put keywords in this specific attribute, or I didn’t know that I could mention something different in my listing. So that’s something that I really talk a lot about, like flat funds and it’s like how to build a bulletproof listing.

And the, on the last team of all the other, those are things that you can do with Seller Central and that’s fantastic. Using the category listing reports, saving it as a database, and always having one that is your primary database in case something goes wrong or always refer to that one. So you prevent changes or you reduce the amount of time from coming back from a suppression. And that’s something in Seller Central.

And the last thing that I’ll mention that I really like, and this is for us, the sellers that have a very wide catalog, a lot of SKUs or a lot of issues very constant is using a software like AMZ Alerts, connecting that software and connecting your ASINs to AMZ Alerts that give you an amazing like of catalog management warning or issues. Because every time something change on your listing, it will get triggered and you will get a notification. So for example, you have a listing and somebody comes in and change the title. And probably in reality, if you have, I don’t know, 200 ASINs, you won’t notice that change. You won’t notice because there’s too many. Unless it’s something very bad that gets you suppressed, you won’t notice.

But with that software, you get notifications every time a change happens. So it keeps track of all of it and it detects issues very soon. So sometimes, from the moment that our listing is shut down to a moment, like a seller, for example, reach out to us, that’s probably four, four days to seven days of oh, this is actual problem. Let me see what I can do. Let me do it. No, this is a bigger problem. I cannot fix it. Now it becomes something bigger. Seven days of not selling is a lot. So this kind of software just like trigger super, super quick. It will tell you exactly what it is that change, and you can take actions on like how to solve it. So that’s an extra layer. You don’t really, it’s not that you really need it, but if you have it, it makes your work extremely easy.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I love that. By the way, what was the tool you mentioned again? AMZ – what was it?

Vanessa Hung:
AMZ Alert.

Tyler Jefcoat:
So AMZ Alert might be a tool to explore, guys, if you’re listening to us and just encourage you guys to rewind and listen to Vanessa. That was a clinic, Vanessa. Well said there. So I wanna quick summary again, UPC codes. Don’t screw this up. Make sure you understand TOS. Make sure you’re naming your SKUs and organizing them in a way. And then Vanessa took this a layer further. In the event that something goes wrong, having your database, having your flat file, having your house organized so that you could get back up and running quickly is, it’s really cheap and easy to do that on the front end, and it’s easy to ignore, and it’s really hard and probably more expensive, most importantly, the seven days of lost sales, that’s gigantic for many of our clients.

Obviously, Vanessa, if they get in trouble, they can call you and you can help them. So it’s good for Vanessa. She wants to help you. She’s trying to plead with you to spend a few minutes getting it right on the front end so that you don’t have unnecessary emergencies. But there’s no, there’s no glamorous way, to use our same term, to pivot these topics here, Vanessa. But I wanted to ask you one more question with our remaining time here. I saw you at Prosper a few months ago, and you were articulating this growing monsoon of Hispanic buyers, in particular in the Amazon marketplace and how to tap into that market. I just, I didn’t wanna leave this show without asking you about that. Do you have any nuggets about that, or any advice related to how brands can get better at addressing this growing pile of buying power that’s happening right now in America?

Vanessa Hung:
Yes. I love, that’s one of my favorite topics. Obviously I take it very personal because I’m part of that demographic, right? But one thing that happens on Amazon is that on amazon.com, they release in the front end for customers. They have the ability to use the platform completely in Spanish, meaning that every bottom, everything, every click, everything is in Spanish. Therefore, all the listings are in Spanish. Amazon has an algorithm. They have a system, it’s called the Neuro Translation Machine. They have a machine that is constantly translating listings for sellers. So people that are listening to us probably don’t know that on top of their ASIN and on, on top of the information that you put on Amazon that is in English, for amazon.com, Amazon automatically translate that into Spanish.

So when I discover this was like huge for me as a big eye-opener of, okay, many sellers are neglecting this market. And by neglecting I mean that they are not targeting, or they’re not speaking necessarily to their needs. Okay. Which could be different from a regular American consumer. Therefore, it’s very difficult to convert on keywords that are in Spanish or the, yeah, the clickthrough rate is lower. So those are the things that I was just like, okay, I’m seeing a disconnection here. And what happened is that most translations are not great. And since Amazon is doing it for us, every single listing that was created back like from 2020 and back, they normally have a very basic, or very, or a terrible translation. They don’t have the best one. They implemented in 2020 a new system that just translations a lot better, obviously will never be like somebody, a native speaker that translate the listing, but it is very close to it.

So first thing is if you are selling on amazon.com, I recommend you to click on your listing, go to a front end as if you were a customer, and you will see on the on top, on the bar next to a search bar, you will see a flag, the American flag. Once you click in that flag, you will see English and Spanish. Once you click in Spanish, your whole dashboard and your whole listing will get translated into Spanish. So this is where you can start finding discrepancies. And it’s, for people that don’t speak Spanish, this is easier than it sounds. You don’t really need to speak Spanish, but I seen sometimes when I change the language, I’m missing bullet points, for example. Instead of seeing five bullet points, I’m seeing only three. Or my bullet points in English are like three lines of text, and in Spanish is only one.

So that’s a very evident discrepancy. Sometimes even if you, in your title, you use any kind of number, if you’re saying like two pack or three pack AA batteries, or something like that, and you translate it in Spanish and you don’t see those specifics, that there is an issue. If you think about it then from a Hispanic consumer that goes there into a listing is trying to understand what’s your product about, and they don’t see that you are actually selling a two pack. They’ll probably be like, oh, but this is too expensive. But what they don’t know because it’s not there is that this is a two pack.

So our way around that, and this is the first part, very basic. Sometimes sellers will go there and they’ll see oh, their Spanish translation is amazing. And that’s perfect. And I’ll talk more about what you can do when it’s perfect. But it’s if you wanna change it, you need to contact seller support and the translation team to go there and update your translation. So update your listing, update your information. Not every seller support associate that you picked the phone or that you email will know about this team, but trust me, it exists. They will do the work for you. You just need to show them proof. So you will send a screenshot of your English one, a screenshot of your Spanish one, and you’ll say hey guys, there is a discrepancy here. We need to update that. So it’s just a matter of updating. Okay.

If you already have it, and let’s say all your catalog is perfectly translated into Spanish, now you have the opportunity, and it – this is so funny because I went to Amazon Accelerate in Seattle, the conference that Amazon puts together every year, and I met with some friends and they were showing me like Amazon data, this is information from Amazon Associates, Amazon data saying, 30 million, 30 million people in the US use the dashboard in Spanish. So those 30 millions are from almost 70 millions that live in the US. Half of them, 50% of them use the whole dashboard in Spanish. And one thing that is extremely interesting is that the search results for Spanish are completely different than the ones from English.

So let’s say, Tyler, that you. Imagine that you could sell a guitar. Now I see your guitar in the background. You will go and say guitar in English, and you’ll see some results, okay? But then you change the dashboard and you put it in Spanish and you will type guitarra, like the word for guitar in Spanish, the results that the system will show you are completely different even though we are looking for the same thing. So sellers that think that they’re winning their game on Amazon, they’re probably not winning even, I don’t know, 10% of all the sales that they could win if they translate and they put efforts on targeting the Hispanic market.

And then you ask me, so how do you do that? You’ll basically start compromising a few spaces in your back end to put Spanish keyword. Okay, that’s important. So we have, we know that our backend is a limited space. We can only have certain amount of keywords, certain amount of characters. That’s fine. So you evaluate from which of those keywords that you have in the backend you are already ranking perfectly and you’re already indexing, and you are killing it on those keywords.

This is time to probably change those keywords into a Spanish one and see how that goes. Because you start targeting and indexing for better and more, or a bigger audience in Spanish, right? So appear in a higher rank, indexing in those keywords, that’s important. Once we do that, now that you have – those are, it sounds somewhat complicated, especially if the seller doesn’t know Spanish, and obviously you will need to hire somebody to know all the keywords and work all through that. But then it comes the part of creating campaigns for that audience. So you can create PPC campaigns only for keywords in Spanish. You can even create sponsored banners, sponsored ads, sponsored videos that are just targeting the Hispanic market and Spanish keywords. And once you do that, you can tailor the images.
So for example, and this is an example that I always use in my presentations, let’s say that you sell a griddle, right? A griddle could be in a lifestyle image, for the American market, could have some pancakes, maybe bacon or eggs. You use the griddle for breakfast, right? But for the Hispanic community, they use it actually for quesadillas or tortillas or tacos for the Mexican market, right? So when you create a sponsored banner or a sponsored video or an image that you’re promoting, instead of using a pancake, because that’s not, that doesn’t resonate at all with the Hispanic consumer, you use an image with a tortilla. So now you are going to a next level of laser targeting that audience with your PPC efforts.

So that’s basically, in a nutshell, all of the things that you could do it obviously. Oh, one last thing that you could do that I love, I love this hack because it’s completely free, honestly, is that the Hispanic market has different holidays from the American consumer. So Mother’s Day in Colombia is actually in September, and Father’s Day in Bolivia is actually in January. So imagine that you sell a product that is very giftable, a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. Imagine that you could have three Father’s Days a year. How much more or how much business you could drive just through that. So paying attention to the holidays. I actually have a website for it. If I’m not mistaken, I could probably, I’m probably saying it wrong, but I’ll try. It’s like onlinesellersolutions.com/Hispanic-holidays.

Tyler Jefcoat:
So Vanessa, on that one, here’s what we’ll do. You can email me, and we’ll make sure that not just your website, but also that specific URL is in the show notes, so that if anyone listens to this, they can go there and grab that. Hey, by the way, you mentioned these are, guys, anyone listening to this, we’re talking about 30 million consumers on the US marketplace and we’re, oh, we’re so hungry. We’re talking about hacks, right? We’re so hungry for something that might give us an unfair competitive advantage with our competitors.

And Vanessa, you just gave us four nuggets that I think are absolute gold. So I just wanna make sure that I caught them. I’m gonna say them really quickly. One is do the common sense check of the translation of your listings into Spanish. And I’ve felt this, by the way. I’m getting into poker and so I’m buying like poker chips and cards, and you can immediately, I’m just thinking as a non-Hispanic white guy that’s an American here in Georgia, you can tell immediately when you look at a listing on Amazon, and it was translated from probably a Chinese seller or Eastern European seller. Like that experience as a buyer immediately lowers my trust of that product. It may be a fine product, it might be the cheapest product, it might be the best product, but because the language is imprecise for me, I’m gonna tend to convert much lower.

And so I get that as a consumer. And yet we forget about it with 30 million purchasers here in America. And doing the common sense check. Petitioning the, the team that Vanessa referred to that can help you correct those translations if they’re bad, really do that.

Number two is if you have the ability on the back end to load some of the Spanish keywords, that’s a nugget that I really took away. Then build some campaigns. And so that third nugget there, where building campaigns specifically for the Hispanic purchaser is really huge, but even more so do it during these holiday bursts that are not aligned with normal American holidays. And so I think friends, if you are wanting a guarantee to get a return on this podcast, do those four things, right? That’s gonna give you a guaranteed ROI. That will be easy. That’s low hanging fruit. Vanessa, we’ll make sure that the link to that URL you described will be in the show notes, so that if anyone wanted to see those holidays, they can grab those.

Vanessa Hung:
Yeah, that’s just a calendar of all the holidays, not only per holiday but also per country. So if you have anything particular that is specific to any country, you could also advertise for that.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Beautiful. I love it. Okay. Man, this has been such a rich discussion. I wanna go – by the way, I’m just curious. Are you good at pool? You say you like shooting pool. Are you a pretty good pool player?

Vanessa Hung:
I’m okay, but I, it’s so funny because I carry a pool glove in my purse all the time. So if I go to a place and there is a pool table, I will always play, and I’ll pull up my glove and everybody will get intimidated. So I grew up with a pool table in my house, so I used to play a lot, and I’m okay. I think, yeah, I’m good. I see a lot of good people in this space that also play pool, so it’s so fun when I go to events, people get like, oh my God, you really actually have a pool glove? And it’s, yeah, it’s fun. That’s so fun.

Tyler Jefcoat:
It’s amazing. Like, I am, I have a pretty decent chess set and chess timer, and it’s the same kind of thing where people think you’re a lot more serious, but by the way, that means you’re probably pretty serious. So if you see Vanessa at a show, you’re at a pool table, she’s gonna reach into the bag, and she’s gonna pull out like a legitimate glove. And she’s gonna be telling you, you know what, I’ve, what is this game? This game, pool? What are we doing here? Don’t give her your money. She’s gonna take it.

Okay. Final segment of the show here. Then we’ll close for the day, Vanessa. We always ask our guest, it’s called the return on podcast section, and I’m just, you’re a successful person. I really admire you. I respect what you’ve done in your company. And our listeners are gonna wanna know: what is a habit, a hack, something that you practice on a regular basis that you feel like gives you an unfair advantage or great ROI in your life?

Vanessa Hung:
Okay. So I’ll say two. One is very simple and the other one, it’s something that I’ve seen across my whole life. The first one is like working out. So working out consistently every day, like at least five days a week. It is extremely important to drain energy, keep you sharp. Like when you build like physical strength, also you build mental strength. And that was a game changer for me when I start working out every single day. Okay. That’s an amazing habit. Sometimes when I travel, I cannot do, I cannot work out and that’s terrible. So when I travel, it’s very difficult for me. But I see when I do it, I am, I’m at very, very best. Okay.

But the habit that it’s been with me since the, since forever, and it’s part, it’s more part of my personality than anything else. Like I, I’m probably not a gym person or a, an athlete. I don’t consider myself an athlete. But I like to work out and I think that’s an amazing ROI that you get. One hour a day, it gets you way further than just not doing any physical work. But what I will say that I am a student. So I always have a student mindset for everything that I do, even with Amazon. Some people say that I’m an expert, and that’s probably why I’m here on the podcast talking to you because I’m an expert in Amazon, but not really.

The thing is that the experts are the ones that think that they are students every day. So every day, I’m a student of this industry. I’m a student of Amazon, and I am a student of business. So I really read a lot, and I listen, and I try to be as in many places that I can be or listen as many wide topics, weird topics that I can do or be, because at the end of the day, the real vision is when you can connect the dots.

So for some people in business you could encounter a problem, Oh, I have this situation of, I don’t know, funding or stuff, blah, blah, blah. But then you realize that when you were playing pool and once you read, I don’t know, I don’t know, whatever theory of pool, then you – or I don’t know, you were playing poker. You mentioned poker. Theory of negotiation, or how people going to persuasion or whatever. Now you connect that and you use it for other areas of your business. So I do that all the time. And I always say that probably 40% of my work as a CEO is always being studying. And I’m always, every day, I at least read three articles. I listen to podcasts for many different industry and many different stuff, but I am always studying. So I don’t really get comfortable by, oh, I’m an expert in this, and that’s it. That’s probably why I love Amazon, and I love e-commerce. Because every single day is something new. You cannot stay still for long. If you stay still in e-commerce, you are obsolete in two months.

Tyler Jefcoat:
You’re dead. Yep. So my favorite quote by the way, that you just talked about being genuinely curious, being a learner, Mark Twain is credited with a quote that says, “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure. It just ain’t so.” So this idea that Amazon is always evolving, it’s changing. And so cultivating a mindset, I think you’re describing, Vanessa, it’s a lifestyle because it’s a mindset for you of learning and being genuinely curious. And it’s, clearly, that’s made you very successful. Thank you for sharing that.
Okay, so Vanessa, a lot of this backend stuff, I just wanna close with this. You have a great reputation in the market for providing some of these services. What is a seller going through right now who needs to reach out to you, and we’ll make sure that your contact and your email or your website are actually in the show notes, but somebody going through blank needs to reach out to Vanessa this week.

Vanessa Hung:
So if a seller is encountering with an issue that they cannot solve by themselves, they don’t have the knowledge, the patience, or the time to solve, that’s probably something that we can do for you. So there are some sellers that they don’t want or know how to create a variation properly. They will reach out to us and we will help them. Or there are sellers that are facing GS1 suppressions and they need to do a bunch of different stuff. We can also help you with that. It really depends on the level of what you are comfortable doing. So some people encounter easy issues that for us are easy but for them are extremely difficult.

But still, there are some that they, as a team or they are very savvy with flat files or stuff, that they will do in theirself, but that will just get them to a point. So that’s where we take over and say like, okay, we can fix it. We can do it. So we know all the best practices to contact seller support in case it’s needed, the right departments that tickets need to be sent to, and overall all the processes. Like we are focusing helping sellers with the issues that happen in Seller Central. It can be a catalog situation, an inventory situation, brand registry, or account health. And overall, our approach to those things are in a very holistic way. We don’t separate things.

It’s just if you have an issue in your account, it’s an issue that probably will touch inventory and probably comes from account health and probably is like messing up your catalog and brand registry has a situation. We see everything as a whole thing, and we try to solve it. So sellers that have problems are always welcome. And sometimes it’s something simple, so if you reach out to me on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn with a question, I will be super happy to answer if that’s something that I can do through a message, or if you need something bigger, a project, or we need to work with you to solve it, then we’ll also let you know.

But my biggest role in this industry is being an educator, and that’s why I do podcasts like this. That’s why I create content all the time, and I try to keep myself sharp in those topics because more than solving their issues for you, I wanna teach them how to prevent them most of the time.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Obviously it’s very evident, Vanessa, you’ve been very gracious with your time. It’s a shockingly tiny universe when it comes to Amazon, and you’re definitely one of the good guys. Grateful to have you on my network. Thank you so much for joining Return On Podcast today. I will make sure that the links that you described to your social profiles and to your website are in the show notes so that if anyone encounters this, whether it’s on YouTube or on Apple or Spotify or some other podcasting platform, they can find you. And I will look forward to catching up with you at one of these conferences that we tend to run in the same circles with soon. And so with that, guys, I just wanna say thank you for joining Return on Podcast. This is, as genuinely curious people, Vanessa and I love this. Like we love nerding out on important things with your Amazon business, but the fact that you would listen to this show is humbling to us, honestly.

Thank you that you would pay attention. I hope you’ll share the show with your friends. And with that, I’m gonna close for today. Vanessa, have a wonderful day. Thanks for joining me.

Vanessa Hung:
Thank you so much.

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