EPISODE 21

Cultivating a Culture of Connectivity

Staying connected with friends and coworkers can be challenging while working remotely, yet remaining connected is important for both our emotional well-being and our company’s success. In this episode, HR Generalist Holly Johnson joins Kunal to discuss the upsides and downsides that organizations face when adapting to a remote workforce. As Johnson puts it, this isn’t just working from home; we are at home, living through a crisis, while working from home. This important shift in framing the topic opens the door to further conversations about what employees and managers can do to protect their well-being and help each other to ultimately create a culture of coaching.

 

 

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EPISODE 20

Keywords, Branding, and Becoming Number 1 on Google

Kunal is joined by Autumn Ledesma, Search Engine Optimization Specialist at Kaspien, for an in-depth and technical discussion about the myriad nuances and processes that go into reaching page 1 of Google. Their conversation is packed with advice, best practices, and exploration of the building blocks for a competitive SEO strategy. Drawing on over 5 years of Google SEO experience, Ledesma breaks down the advantages of combining paid and organic advertising, how to convince Google that you have the acronym EAT, and so much more.

 

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EPISODE 19

Resolving Compliance Issues on Amazon, Featuring ‘Amazon Sellers Lawyer’

CJ Rosenbaum of Amazon Sellers Lawyer and Kaspien’s Director of Compliance, Jed Nelsen, come on the show to talk about how manufacturers and sellers can address IPR violations and counterfeit goods on Amazon. Their conversation is packed with actionable advice, including how to handle cease & desist letters, how to handle accusations of price gouging when external factors increase your costs, how to prevent your products from falling under the First Sale Doctrine, the importance of general liability insurance for ecommerce sellers, and so much more.

 

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EPISODE 18

A Crash Course for Selling on Amazon, Featuring ‘My Amazon Guy’

Steven Pope, founder and CEO of My Amazon Guy, joins Kunal to share proven tricks and tips for selling on Amazon, as well as predictions for what Q4 will bring this year. They start at the beginning: How do you launch a new product on Amazon successfully as the marketplace enters the mature phase of its life cycle? Pope shares strategies for SEO, off-Amazon marketing, and on-Amazon advertising, and how each needs to support the “honeymoon phase” of a new product launch. Next, they turn to another common question: How do you restore a suspended seller account? As Amazon tightens their restrictions and enforcement, it’s all too easy to find your account inexplicably blocked. Their discussion concludes with a prediction that Q4 sales will grow 100% year-over-year on Amazon, and if it’s true, how brands need to prepare for it.

 

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EPISODE 17

etailz Rebrands to Kaspien

On September 3rd, 2020, etailz officially rebranded to Kaspien. In this exciting episode of Master the Marketplace, our CEO, VP of Human Resources, and Creative Director sit down to discuss the rebrand, including why we decided to rebrand, how we’re honoring our heritage as etailz, and the meaning behind the new name, logo, and colors. The trio also discusses our parent company rebranding to Kaspien Holdings, thereby merging Trans World Entertainment and etailz into one brand, and what the future holds for us as Kaspien. Read the rebrand announcement on our blog.

 

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Originally published in the Forbes Technology Council. Read the article here.

Despite its incredible growth and undeniable popularity with consumers, I’ve noticed that some brands are hesitant or even outright opposed to the idea of selling their products on Amazon. With major brands like Birkenstocks and Nike having pulled their products off Amazon, these brand owners have reason to feel even more justified in their feelings.

Truth be told, there are likely good reasons for Nike and Birkenstocks to have withdrawn from Amazon, but these brands are the exception to the norm (not to mention the fact that they already had established large and loyal followings before joining Amazon). However, in my experience as a general manager at Amazon and now CEO of a company that helps brands sell online, the overwhelming majority of brands I’ve worked with have seen tremendous benefits from expanding their brand onto Amazon.

So, today, I’m sharing a list of reasons your brand probably should begin selling on Amazon, even if you’re not over the moon about it.

1. If You Don’t, Someone Else Will

Let’s start with the risks of not taking your brand to Amazon. Amazon is an ungated marketplace, which means nearly anyone can create a seller account and begin selling products on the platform. Between retail arbitrage, counterfeits and unauthorized sellers acquiring inventory, your products are likely to end up on Amazon, even if you don’t take them there.

By taking your brand to Amazon yourself, you retain control of your brand’s representation on the largest online marketplace in the world. That’s power you don’t want to relinquish.

2. Shoppers Are Already On Amazon

After that first point, it may feel like you’re being held hostage by Amazon’s ubiquity. To a degree, you are. But Amazon is so much more than that, and it would be a disservice to your brand to not recognize the enormous opportunity Amazon represents.

Now more than ever, consumers are using online marketplaces to purchase essential and discretionary goods. By the end of 2019, Amazon had over 112 million Prime members in the U.S.and over 150 million Prime members globally. By selling on Amazon, you tap into a massive and growing audience, increasing revenue and expanding your customer base.

3. Amazon Is Expected To Remain The E-Commerce Market Share Leader

That growth is expected to continue in 2020, even with the current pandemic. Although Walmart is making strong efforts to capture ecommerce market share, Amazon is indisputably the dominant market share leader. Even during this pandemic, Amazon is expected to not only retain its market share, but actually grow it by another 1%. If you want to expand your brand online, Amazon is the place to do it, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

4. Amazon Is Improving Brand Protection Services

Perhaps you’ve resisted selling on Amazon because you’re concerned about retaining brand control after joining the platform. Amazon has earned a reputation for not penalizing unauthorized sellers in the past, but that’s been gradually changing. In recent years, Amazon has introduced several programs designed to help brand owners and their registered agents maintain control, including Brand Registry, Brand Gating, the Transparency Program and Project Zero.

Amazon is also facing increased external pressure to address the issue of counterfeiters on its platform. The department of Homeland Security released a counterfeit report that advised the government to take action against counterfeits appearing on e-commerce platforms that threaten the health and safety of consumers and harm the economy. This report contributed to the progress of the SHOP SAFE Act, which, if passed, could hold online marketplaces responsible for counterfeits sold on its platform.

In short, Amazon is and will continue to improve services for brand control as external pressure mounts.

5. Diversification Makes You Resilient

If all of the above failed to convince you, then consider this final point: eMarketer recently revised its forecast for retail and e-commerce growth in 2020, with consumer spend in e-commerce expected to grow 18%, while spend in brick-and-mortar stores is expected to decrease 14%. The revised forecast indicates that Covid-19 has accelerated the long-anticipated uptick in e-commerce spending as more consumers turn to online shopping.

The change in consumer spend patterns also means that brands that sell in both brick-and-mortar stores and online have been better positioned to weather the economic hardship. Diversification of assets is a tried-and-true means to protect investments, and retail is no different. Expanding to other sales channels can help brands endure unexpected headwinds. Even if you don’t want to list your entire catalog on Amazon at the start, establishing at least some small foothold on the marketplace will keep the door open, should you ever need it in an emergency.

The Benefits Of Starting Late

While in many ways starting earlier is more advantageous, joining Amazon for the first time at this stage does have some benefits. Amazon offers more and better marketing and brand protection tools than ever before, and you have more ways to launch on the channel (1P, 3P, direct to consumer or with an agency). Even now, Amazon is still growing. There’s a lot of competition, but the opportunity for growth remains as high as ever.

EPISODE 16

Building An Online Brand And Finding Your Partner, Featuring ‘goTRG’

Kunal is joined by Fara Alexander and David Malka from goTRG, a returns management solution provider for some of the largest retailers and manufacturers in the world. In this episode, they discuss how consumer goods brands can grow rapidly by deploying products across online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, and why it’s so important to have an effective returns management system. They also discuss key factors to consider when selecting a brand partner, such as brand protection, pricing strategy, fulfillment strategy, and more.

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Common Mistakes Brands Make on Amazon

This article was originally published on Forbes on June 22, 2020.

Selling on Amazon is full of challenges, but some of those challenges are unnecessary. I lead a company that’s helped over 4,000 brands sell on Amazon over the last 12 years, and during that time, we’ve seen a lot of mistakes, some of which are shockingly common. To help remedy this problem, I’ve put together the seven most common mistakes we see brands make on Amazon and how to fix them. 

7 Common Mistakes When Selling on Amazon

1. More Sellers Does Not Equal More Revenue 

When brands first embark on Amazon, many have the belief that having more sellers equates to more sales, which in turn equates to more purchase orders. While brands may receive more purchase orders, we’ve seen this approach lead to unforeseen problems hundreds of times.  

Having too many sellers, especially if you’re not collaborating closely with each, creates the “too many cooks” problem. Since any seller in the listing can edit listing content and set their own price, inconsistencies and inaccuracies can quickly appear. Low-quality images and poor wording misrepresent your brand, and fluctuating prices can make shoppers question product authenticity. Sellers are likely to compete on pricing, risking a race to zero, which hinders their ability to place future purchase orders.

There are also problems for marketing: When multiple sellers run marketing for the same listing, their ads compete, driving up costs without generating more sales.  

To fix this issue, we advise two steps: 1) Work with one or only a few sellers so you maintain control over your brand’s online representation, and 2) ensure that your contracts limit to whom buyers can sell your product, helping mitigate the risk of unauthorized sellers. 

2. Running Marketing Only On Amazon

Running marketing only on Amazon is a tactical error because it leaves opportunities on the table. Running off-Amazon marketing — such as paid search, paid social, and influencer marketing — increases the number of shoppers you can reach and the number of touchpoints guiding them to purchase. By leveraging both on- and off-platform marketing, brands create a feedback loop of more visibility, which leads to more traffic, which leads to more sales, which improves organic product placement, which leads to more visibility…and the cycle continues. 

3. Running Marketing Only During Peak Seasons

This is a much more grievous sin. Halting marketing during the off-season is a serious mistake because Amazon marketing takes months to gain good traction. By turning off marketing during slow sales seasons, brands are essentially surrendering ground to competitors. When their sales season comes back around, they have to claw their way back to where they left off instead of being positioned to capture new market share.

To fix this issue, don’t ever turn off marketing completely. It makes sense to reduce marketing spend during slow seasons when competition isn’t as fierce, but you should never completely fall off the radar. 

4. Not Aligning Amazon Strategy With Brand Strategy

Another common error is failing to align your Amazon strategy with your overall brand strategy. For example, a brand may run promotions off Amazon that are not carried through to Amazon or produce new stunning images and brilliant copy for their website but don’t update their Amazon listings with them. Amazon is a growing marketplace and needs to align and complement your overall strategy if you want to maximize your online sales. 

5. Noncompliant Claims In Listings

It’s never been a good idea to make misleading or inaccurate claims in product listings. Such claims result in suppressed listings and account shutdowns, which can cost a brand thousands in sales. 

This mistake is likely to become an even bigger issue, as Amazon faces increased scrutiny. Before the coronavirus captured our attention, congress was considering the Shop Safe Act, which would hold Amazon responsible for counterfeit or noncompliant products sold on its platform. Based on our own data, we saw the early indications of how Amazon would respond in February when it tripled their requests for proof of product testing.  

If your listings contain unsubstantiated claims or have not passed U.S. safety testing, then you need to fix that.  

6. Not Understanding Amazon Profit Margins 

Selling on Amazon is not like traditional retail, and neither are the profit margins. These three factors are commonly overlooked or misunderstood:  

1. Amazon fees: Amazon collects a sales commission as well as shipping, storage and fulfillment fees. These fees take a large chunk out of profit margins. 

2. Inventory errors: Sometimes, Amazon’s fulfillment centers lose or damage inventory, overcharge fees or underreimburse. While its automatic systems catch most of these errors, it misses some. Those errors add up, eating into profit margin. 

3. Marketing: Marketing costs money. Some brands see that and stop there. But if your marketing is effective, the profits exceed the costs, sometimes dramatically so. If your profit margins are narrow, you should consider investing in marketing to widen them.  

Addressing these issues starts with gathering data. You don’t know what you don’t know, so start by pulling reports and analyzing data. If you discover a red flag, you can seek help. There are many agencies, consultants, and software applications available that help optimize shipments to Amazon, identify reimbursement cases and improve marketing efficiency.

7. Poor Inventory Management

All too often, we see brands sending way too much inventory into Amazon warehouses without realizing that Amazon will charge long-term storage (LTS) fees, especially around peak seasons. On the other side, we also see brands sending in too few units, resulting in out-of-stocks. Running out of stock harms marketing performance and organic product placement, creating a domino effect that can be tough to bounce back from even when stock is replenished. 

To fix these errors, you or your seller needs accurate sales forecasting, which is typically obtained through software. 

Amazon truly is like navigating a jungle, but there are many experts who can help. Alternatively, you can push up your sleeves yourself and dig into the many resources about selling on Amazon. The Amazon opportunity is too great to ignore.

EPISODE 15

Contextual Commerce & the Rise of Online Grocery, Featuring ‘Chicory’

Kunal is joined by Yuni Sameshima, Co-Founder and CEO of Chicory, a digital shopper marketing platform that specializes in the grocery industry. Through Chicory, CPG brands and grocery retailers can serve highly targeted ads to shoppers preparing their groceries list. In this episode, Kunal and Yuni talk about contextual commerce in the age of COVID-19. Their conversation dives deep into the $8 billion shift in the grocery world, as well as shifting consumer demands around how shoppers interact with brands across online platforms.

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etailz diversity and teamwork

Like many successful companies, Kaspien has a set of guiding principles that we use to inform our strategy across the organizationestablished six “leadership principles for us when I joined the company: 

  • We are Partner-Obsessed  
  • We are Insights Driven  
  • We Deliver Results for our Partners 
  • We Innovate on Behalf of our Partners  
  • We are Simple in our Approach  
  • We are Owners 

I review them in every company-wide meeting. They are displayed on posters in our corporate office. Wreference them when serving our partners. We reference them when determining internal strategy and resource allocation. We reference them when interviewing job candidates. We use them to assess our company, team, and individual performance. They permeate our company through and through.  

But the heightened national awareness of the violence and racism that still haunts our country made me realize that we’ve been lacking an important factor in this set of guiding principles: Diversity. While we have welcomed diversity in the past, it was done too passively. It’s time to change that. I worked with my leadership team, and, in late June, we announced the addition of a seventh leadership principle: 

  • We Believe in the Power of Diversity and Teamwork 
    We value diversity in every way, and we collaborate as a team to drive the best results for our business and our partners. 

With the addition of this leadership principle, we make attention to diversity part of our company DNA. It will shift from a passive welcome to a conscious consideration that permeates our culture and work.  

Combining diversity and teamwork in a single leadership principle may strike some as odd, but I believe they go hand in hand. Cultivating diversity is step one, but it’s only when we act upon on it and build something together as a team that we can fully realize its power.  

We value diversity in every way: Race, gender, origin, religion, creed, orientation – all these factors and more shape our experiences and perspectivesBy bringing different perspectives together and empowering collaboration, we inspire and ignite innovation, creating a stronger and more agile team that can better serve our business and our partners.  

I’m excited by this addition to our company’s core guiding principles. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, thoughts, or just want to chat. I’m always available. 

  

Kunal Chopra, CEO,Kaspien & TWE 

| 425-281-3566 

EPISODE 14

Should Companies Get Political?

Lisa Wideman, Kaspien’s VP of Human Resources, joins Kunal to discuss whether businesses should take a stand when it comes to the two major crises currently happening in our country: the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. In this episode, the pair talk about Kaspien’s response to both crises, the importance of empathy and compassion in and out of the workplace, and Kaspien’s enduring commitment to diversity.

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EPISODE 13

Spokane, WA: The Next Great Tech Hub?

Tom Simpson, a co-founder of Kaspien, Inc., board member, and active angel investor, joins Kunal to ask the big questions: is Spokane, WA going to become the next big tech hub, how it will happen, and why it’s likely to happen. In this episode, they discuss the great quality of life, affordability, entrepreneurial community, and amazing educational institutions of Spokane, WA.

 

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