10 Mistakes I Made on Amazon when I First Started Selling

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I started selling on Amazon for the same reasons that most people do.

I wanted to start my own business, work from home, have more freedom and autonomy, and make money while I sleep.

My Amazon venture started as a part-time side-hustle while I was still working a full-time job.

This was back in 2008, a couple of years after Amazon introduced its Fulfillment by Amazon service, making it easier for busy people like me to start selling online.

A majority of my spare time was spent reading “how to sell on Amazon” guides and dreaming of the perfect products to sell.

It only took me a few weeks before I had my first product in an Amazon warehouse and my first listings online.

I was live. This was supposed to be a major milestone on my journey to online selling success.

However, I quickly realized that I still had a lot to learn.

The mistakes I made on Amazon when I first started selling ended up costing me a lot of valuable time and money.

To give you an idea, my mistakes cost me about $10,000 in sales and missed opportunities.

All of this happened in my first year of business and almost wore me down to the point that I considered quitting.

Beginner mistakes on Amazon

Everyone who starts selling on Amazon is going to make some mistakes along the way. It’s just a part of the learning process.

But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

That’s why I’m sharing the mistakes I made when I first started selling on Amazon.

I want your Amazon experience to be as smooth, exciting, and profitable as possible.

I don’t want you to reach that point where you feel like giving up on your dream.

If you can avoid these common mistakes you will be well on your way to building a successful Amazon business.

10 mistakes to avoid on Amazon

This list is based on my own experience of selling via Fulfillment by Amazon during my first year of business.

Mistake #1: I didn’t do enough market research

Lying awake at night dreaming of the perfect product is nice. Investing time in product research is essential.

I did too much of the former and too little of the latter. This is a common mistake.

I had great ideas for what might be cool to sell — products related to my interests, or products that were popular.

The first product I started selling on Amazon was a “trending” product, meaning it was in high demand.

I thought I was onto a winner and the product would be easy to sell.

However, I failed to research the product and my competitors adequately.

I saw that the product was popular but neglected to check how many other people were selling it.

If I had spent the time trawling through Amazon and using tools like Google Trends and SaleHoo’s Research Lab I would have learned that the product had already peaked and was trending downward.

If you want to avoid making this mistake, make sure you do plenty of market research up front.

Understand your niche inside out. Then, if you’re still sure your product’s a winner, proceed with confidence.

Mistake #2: I didn’t focus on items with high profit margins

I was new to self-employment and didn’t know a lot about sales and economics.

I assumed that if I sold a product for a profit, then I’d be making money and my bank balance would be going up.

However, I made the mistake of not taking all of my expenses into account.

I knew about the obvious expenses such as shipping costs and basic Amazon fees, but I didn’t take a close look at the cost of Fulfillment by Amazon for picking, packing, shipping and customer service.

After all expenses were accounted for, I was only making a couple of dollars per sale.

This might be manageable if you’re selling dozens of items every day, but that’s a tough ask when you’re starting out.

If I had access to a tool like SaleHoo Labs, at the beginning, I could have easily found products to sell at a higher profit margin.

This would have put me in a much better position from the outset, knowing that each sale was paying for itself and providing me with a sustainable income.

By choosing a product with a low profit margin (less than 20%), I potentially missed out on thousands of dollars in sales.

TIP: Top sellers recommend choosing items that have profit margins of at least 20-40%. However, it’s not uncommon to find products with profit margins of more than 100%.

Mistake #3: I didn’t engage in any price competition

This mistake was partly a symptom of mistake #2, however it was a mistake nonetheless.

Price competition is offering the same or similar item at a slightly cheaper price in order to capture a greater share of the market.

It is sometimes seen as a race to the bottom.

However, it would have been helpful for me to have this competitive edge when I first started selling on Amazon.

I had to list my product at the same price as most of my competitors in order to make a small profit.

In fact, my price wasn’t the cheapest on Amazon. People could have bought the exact some product from other sellers for slightly less.

This isn’t a great strategy when you’re starting out.

If my product had a higher profit margin, I could have shaved a couple of dollars off the sale price and potentially made a lot more sales.

In the early days of selling on Amazon, this could have helped me to shift stock more quickly and improved my cash flow.

This is another mistake that likely cost me money early on.

Mistake #4: I didn’t read Amazon’s policies

I was so excited about getting my first listings up on Amazon that I forgot to pay close attention to the selling policies.

This was a rookie mistake that could have led to my Amazon business being suspended before it even got started.

Amazon’s policies are quite strict and they have been known to terminate sellers’ accounts for infractions.

I made two relatively minor mistakes that were in breach of Amazon’s policies when I first started selling.

The first was including an email address in my listing, which is prohibited. The second was including promotional text in my product image — a big no-no.

Thankfully, Amazon just sent me a policy warning and I was able to amend my listings without facing any major consequences.

Needless to say I spent the next day reading all of Amazon’s policies to make sure I didn’t put my business at risk again.

Amazon’s quick-start style guide is a good place to start for new sellers.

Mistake #5: I didn’t create a brand

Jumping into a crowded market with a generic product was a mistake that I’d avoid if I could do it all again.

Putting time in up-front to create a brand and a private-label product would have added value to my product and helped to set it apart.

Instead, my product floundered on Amazon. There was nothing that made it special and, therefore, no reason for a buyer to choose my product over any other.

This is a mistake I have since corrected and I’ve great success selling private-labelled goods on Amazon.

Having a brand also gives you something unique to market. You can create a story and ethos around a brand in a way that you can’t around a generic product.

Learn from my mistakes and consider private-labelling from the beginning.

Mistake #6: I thought I couldn’t compete with experienced sellers

Amazon can be an intimidating place when you’re starting out.

Some sellers have been there for years, have sold thousands of items, and earned positive feedback from thousands of happy customers.

One of the mistakes I made when I first started selling on Amazon was thinking that I couldn’t compete with experienced sellers.

This belief provided me with an excuse for my poor performance in the early days.

I told myself that I couldn’t do anything about it because other sellers had so many advantages over me.

I used this to let myself off the hook.

However, all sellers on Amazon started from zero.

Since my first year of selling on Amazon, I’ve realized there are things that I could have done to establish credibility.

You don’t need hundreds of sales and five-star reviews to start having success on Amazon.

💡 Tip: A simple way to establish credibility is to have a professionally-designed logo and website for your business. Anything that makes your business seem legitimate will give buyers more confidence to buy from you, especially when you haven’t got a lot of reviews.

Mistake #7: I didn’t ask my customers to leave reviews

Following on from the last mistake, even when I made sales I failed to ask my customers to leave reviews.

This is a common mistake that beginners make on Amazon.

I was so caught up in making sure the sale process went smoothly and the dozens of other tasks that overwhelmed me in the early days that I forgot to ask my customers for feedback.

I was also worried about what feedback they might leave. I couldn’t afford to get negative reviews when I was just starting out.

The thing is, Amazon sends out reminders to customers about leaving reviews. I assumed that was enough.

However, it’s advantageous to follow-up with customers personally and ask them to leave reviews.

Amazon’s policies prohibit you from offering incentives for reviews, or specifically asking for a positive rating.

The best way to get more reviews is by sending a personal follow-up email to each customer thanking them for their business and gently asking them to leave a review.

Make it as easy as possible for them by including a link to the review page.

Having positive reviews is a major advantage on Amazon and it’s a mistake not to ask your customers for them when you first start selling.

Mistake #8: I didn’t invest in quality photography and copy

When I first started selling on Amazon I completely underestimated the importance of good quality photography and sales copy.

To start with, photography and writing were not my strong points. But I should have put more effort in up front.

This mistake meant that my listings on Amazon looked just like all the others. What reason did a buyer have to click on mine?

Having a great listing on Amazon is essential because it’s the only opportunity you have to convince a buyer to choose you.

Unlike a traditional retail store, you don’t have the opportunity to build rapport in person.

Your listing is all that you’ve got and a buyer will often make a decision within seconds of seeing your listing.

That’s why great photography and sales copy are so important.

By failing to invest in this from the beginning, I potentially missed out on sales.

Mistake #9: I didn’t know who my ideal customer was

When I first started selling on Amazon, I didn’t know about many of the complexities of ecommerce.

Something I’ve since learned is the importance of knowing who your ideal customer is.

When you know who you’re selling to, you can customize your listings to speak directly to them.

In marketing, this concept is called “buyer personas”.

Buyer personas are “fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers”.

Businesses often have several buyer personas to help them better understand their market.

They are often developed and refined over the years, but you can create buyer personas before you put your first listing on Amazon.

The way to do this is by thinking of who is most likely to purchase your product and why.

Then write down a generic description of this person. Include as much detail as possible so you understand their motivations and pain points.

Having buyer personas can make your sales copy so much better as you can write as though you’re talking directly to this ideal customer, rather than to everyone.

Mistake #10: I didn’t have a solid marketing strategy

I thought marketing strategies were for big corporations with lots of staff and massive budgets.

When I first started selling on Amazon I didn’t have a marketing strategy at all.

I assumed that if people wanted my product, they would buy it.

I didn’t realise that I could help people find my product, and convince them that they want it.

This was a major mistake and I quickly realised that the top sellers on Amazon were investing heavily in marketing.

I’ve since used social media marketing on Facebook and Pinterest, as well as content marketing and SEO on my own website to drive sales on Amazon.

It doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

What’s important is that you have a marketing plan from the outset and adapt it as your business grows.


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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