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Ep. 007 Keyword Podcast: What is Amazon Exclusives? Part 1 with Amazon

November 21, 2016

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What is Amazon Exclusives?

The Category Leader for the program at Amazon tells us how it can be an effective tool for sellers to help boost sales. Plus, the head of Mark Cuban’s Shark Tank companies will join us to explain why it’s a go-to strategy for all their companies. This episode is part of a series.

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  • Ep. 007 Show Transcript
  • Kyle Walker Interview Transcript

Ep. 007 Show Transcript:

Paul and David were young entrepreneurs and they had an idea. They wanted to create a cooking pot that you could heat and boil water and generate thermal-electric power to charge things like your phone. They were able to bring this idea to life and they called it the PowerPot.

The PowerPot caught the attention of a lot of people including Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Shark Tank personality. In 2012, Paul and David got on Shark Tank and their company Power Practical came away with a $250,000 investment from Mark Cuban.

The publicity from Shark Tank got the company distribution deals with some of the largest retailers in the Country, including Target and Staples. Everything was going right. It looked like Paul and David had it made. Except for one really big problem. When the product hit the shelf, no one was buying it.

“They encountered a lot of challenges in the brick and mortar space. It doesn’t sell itself on the shelf and it was little bit higher priced,” says Abe Minkara, Business Development Director for Mark Cuban’s Shark Tank Companies.

Abe says the PowerPot needed more than just shelf space to sell. It’s the type of product that customers didn’t understand unless they were given an explanation or had seen a video about it.

Power Practical launched another product, a portable USB charger with a built-in latern. They even started bundling the charger with the PowerPot, hoping that would increase sales, but it didn’t work. Abe tells us business was looking really bad for Power Practical.

“They’ve struggled a lot to the point where the company’s future was in question,” Abe says.

Abe suggested they forget about using their typical brick and mortar approach. Instead, they threw out their entire business plan to try something completely different to launch a new product. They launched on Amazon included trying a new program called Amazon Exclusives and sales picked up.

“The first month they did $5,000, the next following month they were up in the 20s,” says Abe, “They start hitting a hundred a month with one SKU with I think two variations and Prime day they did like $140-150k just on prime day. They did close to 300k just that month and the Company’s back to life.”

Power Practical has had so much success on Amazon Exclusives, Abe says it’s not the go-to strategy for all Mark Cuban Shark Tank Companies.

“Their whole model now is to innovate, Kickstart, Amazon Exclusives and then do that three, four times a year,” Abe says.

In this episode we’re giving you an introduction to Amazon Exclusives. We’re talking about how it benefits the seller, the cost and the relationship it gives sellers with Amazon. This is part one of a two part series. It’s also the first time we’ve had someone from Amazon on the podcast. We’re talking with Kyle Walker, he’s the Category Leader for Amazon Exclusives.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that I feel like these people put their heart and their soul into their businesses,” Kyle says, “What we want to do and what we strive for as a team every day is to make their job a little bit easier.”

Kyle helped create Amazon Exclusives and now he runs it. The Exclusives program launched in March 2015 with 15 sellers. Kyle says it was created because Amazon wanted to improve the Marketplace for sellers.”

“I think the one thing that doesn’t come through all the time is that you know Amazon, as a company, we spend a ton time thinking about ways to make the Marketplace better and help people with their opportunities to succeed and I think we saw an opportunity to help people,” says Kyle, “It’s something that our team talks about every day that we want to be a vehicle that allows somebody to be successful.”

Kyle says they want to help brands grow bigger, faster and avoid making the typical mistakes most companies do. Kyle says his team provides sellers help with merchandising and discoverability, brand presentation and brand protection. We talk about each one of those starting with merchandising and discoverability.

“We help brands overcome that cold start which is really challenging for a new brand you come to market you have no name recognition and so what we’re really trying to do is use the tools that we have at our disposal to make sure that if you come to Amazon you have the support that you need to connect to Amazon customers originally,” says Kyle.

Product discoverability is key to success on Amazon. If shoppers can’t find your products, they can’t buy them and you don’t buy money. When it comes to discoverability, the Exclusives program gives sellers their own storefront on Amazon.com.

The next thing sellers are helped with is brand presentation. Sellers on Amazon Exclusives have account managers at Amazon that help build up the brands. Kyle says with brand presentation they focus on telling the product’s story. Photos, descriptions and other information used in listings is all up to the sellers, but the account managers are there to bounce ideas off of.

“I think ultimately it’s their story to tell so we just want to provide them the vehicle to tell their story it’s not up to us to in all cases to interpret what their story is but I think if somebody, we get a lot of questions back of, ‘Hey do you think this is the right way to tell our story?’ In that case, if they ask our opinion we’ll give it to them,” says Kyle.

Exclusives sellers are also given what’s called A+ content on all their listings. A+ content or enhanced content is generally only available to vendor accounts. It allows for HTML listing components for things like charts, high quality images and video.

Amazon Exclusives also helps with brand protection. This includes help protecting your listing against counterfeit sellers. Sellers in the Amazon Exclusives program have someone inside Amazon working with them to quickly resolve any issues that come up.

“Within exclusives we make sure that we know the brands really well and that we can probably, you know, really ensure that only authenticate products are within the program that we’re supporting,” Kyle says.

As a quick review, the exclusives team focuses on merchandising and discoverability, brand presentation and brand protection. Included in all that is a contact directly inside Amazon to help your business grow.

All the Amazon Exclusives features does come at a cost. Sellers in the program have to agree to several things. Exclusives sellers give an additional 5% revenue to Amazon, they have to be part of FBA and they can only sell their products on Amazon, their own website and their own storefront. So there is some risk to becoming an Exclusive seller, especially since Amazon doesn’t and can’t guarantee any sort of success through the program.

“What we can always guarantee is that they’re gonna have a team behind them that believes in them and we’re gonna support them to the best of our ability to ensure that our merchandising puts it in front of Amazon customers who would be interested in those products and helps them as much as possible to expand their opportunity to be successful,” Kyle says.

Kyle says they don’t have many sellers leaving the program. Instead it’s growing, adding new sellers like Ben Arneberg.

“We both like hosting, we like cooking, we like having people over, wining and dining them so we decided to make a brand that would accomplish just that,” Ben says.

Ben and his wife own a kitchen-wares company called Willow and Everett. Their first product was a pair of Moscow Mule Copper Mugs. Ben says boutique stores were reaching out to them and they wanted to sell the mugs in stores. At the same time though, they learned about the Exclusives program.

“Initially we were kind of nervous but we decided you know what let’s give this a shot,” Ben says.

Willow and Everett decided to join Exclusives in March 2016 instead of going to brick and mortar stores. There’s no long term commitment so Ben figured if it wasn’t working out they could go back to the brick and mortar stores. In just a few months, they doubled their sales.

“We have not looked back, it has been a fantastic program and we plan on being with them for a while,” says Ben, “So it’s just been great getting to know Amazon a little bit better, some of their reps, we’ve been adding products but even with that it’s grown faster than it would have otherwise because of Exclusives.”

Ben credits their success to the features that come from being Exclusive. Remember, the Exclusives program focuses on product merchandising and discoverability plus brand presentation and protection. Ben says also, having an Amazon account manager has been a huge part of their success.

“That has given us a lot of confidence to to go all in on Amazon,” Ben says.

“All of us are super passionate about what we do every day and i think we do that on behalf of the brands that we work with and hopefully the passion comes through and the relationships that we build with those that are in the program and we look forward to being part of more brands journeys on amazon and their growth and their opportunity to succeed and we work tirelessly every day to do that,” Kyle says, “We take this home at night with us when we have an opportunity to do something better and we really identify with the brands that we’re working with.”

Kyle says their main focus every day is that every product has a story and it’s their job at Amazon Exclusives to help sell it.

Amazon Exclusives is constantly looking for new products to add to the section. There’s an application available for every seller and you can find it inside of Seller Central.

Next week: Kyle Walker at Amazon will be back on Keyword. He’s going to give us an inside look at the application process and tell us what types of products they’re looking for.

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