Arlen: Welcome to the eCommerce marketing podcast. Everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest Justin Rappaport, After founding AmmoniaSport™, an internationally recognized, e-commerce company catering to professional athletes, I began implementing similar tactical execution, conversion strategies and driving digital awareness for a select group of private clients. In time, this led to the formalization of AO2 Marketing. 

I partnered strategically with Amazon guru Nathan Neeley and financial whiz Jon Fuller to form AO2–a full-service, performance-based Amazon management firm with clients across the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

We do this through a complete overhaul of your Amazon presence–Optimization of listings and Amazon PPC advertising campaigns, review generation, advanced content, logistics, compliance and international expansion.

Arlen: Welcome to the podcast, Justin. 

Justin: How are you doing, sir? 

Arlen: I’m awesome. Thank you for joining me today. Right now. We’re at a really good time and I know you’re probably, you’ve probably been busier than ever because Amazon is really just kind of where it’s at.

Justin: Especially during this whole situation. Obviously, people haven’t been going to grocery stores, so they’ve been getting all their food online. Toilet paper has become a commodity.

All these videos of people getting into fist fights over toilet paper. So yeah, Amazon has been crazy. I think, I think like the biggest takeaway over this Corona situation is that the elderly demographic, you know, people age 60 and up who never, they’re not in the eCommerce world, they’re not online as much.

Like they’ve been forced. To do their shopping online. So I think that mainly has changed the Amazon world forever. Because now we have those people shopping online. 

Arlen: That is so true. It just really happened overnight, they really gained a whole new customer base and it’s just kind of, kind of tripped out how it really happened.

It’s good and bad, you know, good for Amazon and good for out of the sellers that are on there. But yeah, unfortunately it’s really, this has been a blow to the heart for a lot of small business owners that are local businesses that aren’t online. So, um, You don’t feel bad for them, 

Justin: but it’s, if you look at it on both sides, I think in the past, people would always try go retail first and then focus online.

Now the shift people are going online first and going to retail sector. Yeah, I think it gives those small business owners an opportunity to leverage their products and services on the Amazon platform. 

Arlen: Yeah, that is true. You’re right now you’re correct. The first thought is getting their online presence and then as we kind of get through these restrictions and social distancing, then businesses that, you know, maybe selling online are like, okay, let me think about the brick and mortar at that point.

So yeah, you’re totally right about that. It’s just kind of, it switched things. It just kind of reversed. The general set up and structured a lot of businesses have. So yeah, I’m super excited to talk to you today because our main, the main topic we were going to be talking about is how to take your Amazon sales to the next level.

And I know you’re gonna provide some great actionable strategies for that, but before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background specifically, you know, how you got into what you’re doing today? 

Justin: Cool. So I went to Indiana university as a finance major. I. Quickly learned that investment banking was not the correct career choice for me.

So leaving high school, I grew up in San Diego, California. I wanted to do something completely different. I wanted to go to a school and see a new opportunity that I think I’ll never get again. So I decided to go to the middle of the country, explore what Indiana had to offer. And it was also the best business school I got into.

Not for the first semester. I realized I really wasn’t cut out for that kind of work life. So I actually, I dropped out of school and pursued music. I pursued screenwriting. And then after what I would consider two failed startup attempts. I landed on ammonia sport. So for those who don’t know what ammonia sport is or what a smelling salt is, well, first are Arland.

Do you notice? And I only saw this, 

Arlen: I’ve know a little bit about it just from the movies where they use it to, I know kind of revive people

Justin: don’t feel bad. I didn’t know. No one really knows what they are. I get a lot of funny comments when, when people ask me about that, but. No, it smelling salts prevent and treat fainting. It’s not a new concept. It they’ve been around since the Roman times, but I actually, so I have a younger brother who is 10 times the athlete that I am.

And when we go to the gym, it’s a very different situation. I like to go to the gym and talk to people and complain about my day. And my brother goes into the gym and he’s locked in. He’s focused. He’s a gymnast. So he takes his workouts very, very seriously. So one day he was in the gym and he was smelling a smelling salt.

And I didn’t know what it was. I thought he was potentially doing drugs in the gym talking to whisper in my ear, like, yo, like, what is your brother doing? Like, it’s a very strange thing. And I know if my brother’s doing it, there’s gotta be some merit behind it. Cause he does so much research and he’s so knowledgeable about lifting.

So after I spoke to him and then he kind of explained what a smelling salt does and how actually a lot of people in the powerlifting community. Use it to promote strength, energy, and focus. So I was looking at the container. I saw it was medically packaged and we had this light bulb to market manufacturer and really sell it to the athletic community.

So without much of a business experience or really startup background, I kind of just dove into it. Fast track. The first six months were pretty painful. I, you know, I went on legal zoom. I did the LLC myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but what I did know is that I wanted to establish an Amazon presence and day and night, I would spend all my time learning the ins and outs of Amazon and walls.

I was doing that the very minimal. Sales traffic. I would get, I would put that money towards, you know, digital marketing, Google ads, all that kind of stuff. But I see, I spent my time, I wanted to learn Amazon. I kind of had a feeling that this was going to continue being the future of e-commerce. So around year two things started to pick up for me.

I’m now on all over the world and Amazon. So Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia. So that’s all been great. And I have a very, like, I think to an extent I got really, really fortunate because my best source of marketing is. Is ZTL Elliott Monday night football. Yes. Fans filming him, ripping a smelling salt.

So that’s the best kind of marketing anyone in my built can. 

Arlen: Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah. That’s influencer marketing to its highest level. 

Justin: Yeah. And you know, fortunately like these serious athletes, mainly professional athletes, love smelling salts and love my products, my brand. So that’s been fantastic. And that’s really one of the main things that took me to the next level.

During your two, I got a lot of outreach just from local businesses, asking for Amazon advice and consulting. Before I knew it. I was managing three or four clients just as a side gig because, you know, it’s something that I really enjoy doing. Two out of the four clients were to be honest with you, probably too big for my experience, but I learned really quickly.

And I ended up doing a really, really good job for them. They started referring me out to their business associates and, you know, before I knew it, I had a whole book of clients kind of without even realizing it. So while that was happening, one of my best friends, Jonathan Fuller, who is now my partner with , he saw what I was, what I was building.

And fortunately he’s a lot smarter than I am. So he was a valedictorian of his college. He was big financial, real estate, hot shot. He had a lot more going for him than I did, but he came in and came with this vision to grow what I was building. And he quit his work and partnered up with me to really grow this thing.

And. Literally like two months after that, Jonathan who went to high school with Nathan, who’s our third partner. We all sat down and had a meeting to discuss Amazon. And to be honest, I wasn’t very receptive to even go into the meeting. Like we’re so busy trying to scale this, but Nathan came from a corporate Amazon background, something that I’m a guerrilla warfare tactics, like whatever needs to be done, just fix it yourself.

And Nathan came from a. A more corporate, traditional Amazon structure. And he had all these ideas to really bring the tech side to Amazon, automating scripts, creating new softwares. And I loved his ideas and it really was a no brainer to merge with him. So that’s really how aeioTU started. 

Arlen: Well, that’s awesome.

We thank you for that, that overview of how you got to where you are today and a yeah. Interesting story. How it all started from this, the smelling salts and got you to where you are. I’ve of course heard of them. And then my knowledge of smelling salts is just in the movies when they would revive people and his older movies, I think where they, you may have seen that.

I don’t think you see too much of that today, where they would use it to revive people, but yeah, I never really knew that it was something were athletes used at all. So, yeah, I’ve definitely learned something. So yeah. Interesting stuff. 

Justin: To be honest, even when I started, I didn’t understand to the, I never thought it would grow to what it is today.

I thought it would fit a certain kind of demographic and hopefully it’ll be popular, but. People love it. Football, powerlifting, the army. Everyone likes it for so many different reasons, 

Arlen: so. Okay. That’s good. Some good stuff. I’m going to have to check that out. 

Justin: I’ll send you a bottle. 

Arlen: I appreciate it. Yeah. I do a lot of boxing training on the side.

I’m always in the gym, just trying to mix it up and do different things. I’ve done fencing. I do fencing actually as well. So I’m all over the place, but 

Justin: you’re going to come out swinging after the one of these. 

Arlen: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. I can’t wait to try it well. Great. Well, um, of course, we’re the hot topic for today where we’re gonna be talking about is Amazon businesses that are on Amazon that are kind of chomping at the bit to figure out how can they increase sales because.

The marketplace is huge and just like anything, there’s a lot to it. There’s a lot you have to do to drive those sales. So taking a look at the thousand foot view, looking down on it, on this situation where it actually does, the company began to even address getting an increase of sales on Amazon. 

Justin: Cool.

So that’s kind of like a two part question. So we have a lot of AOT has a lot of clients who have never been on Amazon before. And we have a lot of clients who have been on Amazon for years and kind of hit a plateau with their sales for specific skews. So for startups or for people who’ve never been on Amazon before.

My advice to friends and family is always this and this applies to people who are thinking about getting into Amazon. I strongly believe that creating a brand will always supersede white labeling random products. When you create an actual brand and an actual image, you’re portraying a specific message to a specific.

Client base. And I think that resonates with them much further than all right. I kind of feel like spelling a random smelling salt today. I’m just going to bottle it up and put a random label on it. I think one of the reasons why I was so successful with ammonia sport is because I really made a full brand out of it.

I had a clear market. I was targeting, I wasn’t only doing Amazon. Like I was doing digital marketing. I was explaining to people what the message is. And I think people who have. Random products that are third party sellers distributors. They can’t define a message as clearly as the brand owner. That’s my advice, but don’t get me wrong.

Like we have some of our biggest clients have 5,000 plus SKU’s. And none of their products relate to each other and they crush it. So it works both ways, but just for the average business, I think going the brand route is so much more valuable, not just on Amazon, but on all platforms, especially if you’re ever trying to consider going into retail.

Arlen: That makes a lot of sense. The main thing you mentioned that really rings true is when you have your own brain, you’re. You’re really in full control over really everything, the messaging, the product description, the features, the offering, whereas just being a third party reseller, you’re, you’re really limited, you know, of course you can put a different spin on what’s offered with this other third party company is offering, but you’re really limited to what you can do.

Justin: Totally. And I know I haven’t answered this in companies, but just real quick. So when you actually have a brand. And you have a trademark, you can protect your listing on Amazon. A lot of companies reach out and you’d be surprised. I mean, we have huge companies who can’t figure this out, how trademarks can protect your listing and how to use the trademark to keep out all their distributors and third party sellers on other platforms at AOT, we call it whack-a-mole.

We knock all of these guys off, but when you’re a third party seller and you don’t have a real brand in a trademark behind it, You’re very limited. So it’s tough for all the jackals out there, trying to hop on random listings, which is very doable. It’s very easy to not come off with branded products.

It’s very difficult to, without that. Yeah, but I just wanted to go back to, cause it was a two part question for clients who have been on Amazon and have hit a plateau. And there’s so many variables why they’ve plateaued. But the main one is that they’re not ranking organically on the first page for enough search phrases.

So an example of a search phrase is if you’re selling toilet paper, actual term toilet paper that you type in on amazon.com, that’s a search phrase, but there’s all these other kinds of search phrases that. Relate to toilet paper that you have to index for in order to be successful selling toilet paper on Amazon.

So I’m just going to make it up raw vegan toilet paper. Let’s say that that could be searched 3 million times a month. And sellers who, who are selling toilet paper, aren’t trying to index or rank for that search phrase. When there might not be very many sellers actually targeting that search phrase, but everyone’s targeting toilet paper.

So that might not even be the right search phrase to target. So a lot of these bigger companies already established on Amazon and have plateaued. They’re not taking advantage of the low hanging fruit. They’re not indexing for enough search phrases. And that’s the first thing aeioTU does we make sure that your SEO, we need to overhaul?

The SEO, so we can start indexing day one for more search phrases. 

Arlen: Yeah. So it was just kind of sounds like the optimization is similar to what, what you would do with Google. You’re optimizing these listings for the search results for keywords, keyword phrases. So it’s not like really the same concept, but it’s just within the Amazon kind of ecosystem or Amazon search system.

Yeah. Great. And so how actually does. A business go about doing this. As far as optimizing their listings, are there kind of some general rules of thumb to optimize their listings and to even optimize the paid listings that are available on Amazon? 

Justin: I don’t want to give away all our secret sauce, but there are a lot of, a lot of things you can do.

So for example, like, you know, one of our, our software is it’s finding, for example, like if you were a toilet paper salesman or how to toilet paper brand. We would do a full market scrape on every toilet paper brand on Amazon. And we can actually see what search phrases they’re indexing for. So we pair that information you can, with another software we have, so we can see exactly what the search volume is for customers.

For specific search phrases. So just going back to my example, let’s just say I’m making all this information up, but let’s say for example, the search phrase toilet paper was searched for, let’s say 50 million times this last month on Amazon and in the term raw vegan toilet paper was searched 3 million times.

So off the bat, we can see, wow. The search phrase, 12 paper is so saturated. The actual cost per click for advertising is based on how saturated a search phrase is. So your cost per click for toilet paper, it’s going to be very expensive. Whereas the search phrase, raw vegan toilet paper was searched, let’s say 3 million times.

And because there’s so few sellers actually targeting that search phrase, your cost per click is going to be a quarter. What the toilet paper one’s going to be because it’s not a saturated. So we really find that low hanging fruit, and it’s really important for businesses to really get a good idea of the market so that they can build their listings out correctly.

And what we do, I know you mentioned the advertising, the SEO that we built, a one, we pair it with the advertising. Like you have to spend on Amazon, like Jeff Bezos made a paper click model. If you don’t pay it, you can’t play. Yeah. So you have to even just a little algorithm secret. Like if you’re not spending X amount of dollars on your account a month and a day.

They’re not even going to put you in the same situation or same category as a competitor, who’s spending that much. Yeah. So it gets really granular and really, really interesting. And by no means, are we talking about $10,000 budgets, a hundred thousand dollar budgets, but you do it, you do have to spend to a certain extent and what the advertising allows you to do.

It allows you to reinforce all the search phrases that you’re going for from your SCO. You’re really padding that. So you’re trying to index for twice. But there’s only so much real estate. Amazon gives you in your listing. So the advertising, you know, it’s called PPC on Amazon. Pay-per-click you can really go above and beyond.

So reinforce everything you’re doing on the SEO. Plus you can add all these new search phrases that you’re trying to index for. And really what aeioTU does is you have to recycle the SEO X amount of times a month. You have to adjust the advertising hourly. Like you have to stay very, very ahead of the game with the advertising.

Cause it changes. By the hour. 

Arlen: Yeah. Interesting. And so it’s definitely not the set it and forget it. You can’t just set up your listings in the paper, like campaigns and just step away from it. It’s gotta be monitored 

constantly. 

Justin: Oh yeah. You won’t stand a chance to hang it like that. 

Arlen: Gotcha. That’s very interesting.

I don’t know if that’s a whole lot different. It probably is a little bit different. Like you said, in this case with Amazon, you kind of have to pay to play. It’s kind of tied in with the regular listings. With Google. If we’re looking at Google and kind of comparing Google with Google ads, the regular organic search and the Google ads pay per click search.

I want to say it’s a little different. It does seem to be a little, I guess you could say they’re a little bit separate. The worlds are a little different Google. 

Justin: Totally. And just full transparency. I say this, my partners, our employees, our clients. I understand smelling salts and Amazon and nothing else.

I really could not comment much on Google. That’s just not our department at all. But what I do know from Google, just, you know, I work in the space and we have a lot of SEO, Google ad words, partners that we refer our clients to, if they need help with that. It’s kind of like a cousin, it’s not exactly like a brother or sister to Amazon.

The search ranking takes a lot longer on it on Google. It could be much, much quicker on Amazon. So that’s to the extent of my Google knowledge. 

Arlen: Gotcha. Appreciate you sharing that. And I understand these days, there’s so much, I’m sure that you’ve got to know with just the whole Amazon ecosystem that. You know, it’s best to be, to stay focused and keep that your main wheelhouse of tools are within that sphere of things.

I totally understand that now, you know, I know a lot of business owners that are listening, a marketers that are listening. One of the, kind of the main things that everyone sees with Amazon is the reviews. Since reviews seem to be a big factor when it comes to people’s buying decisions on Amazon. Are there any specific strategies that a business can do to continually get good reviews?

Justin: Yeah. It’s funny. Like when you live in a world where fake reviews are, it’s incredible. And if you don’t have, I mean, just company policy, like we don’t even want to advertise certain listings if they don’t have at least a couple of reviews because the reviews really give the customer some proof of concept behind the listing.

So Amazon has just so everyone who’s listening knows Amazon has cracked down drastically on fake reviews. So if you’re not getting reviews of certain legitimate way, your account could be suspended and deactivated overnight. So you do have to be extremely, extremely careful with how you go about getting reviews.

Again. Like I can’t give away some of our algorithmic secrets, but some tips are. You can do review campaigns. So something like feedback, five feedback with you can set up these campaigns where you set up automated emails. So when a customer buys it, you can set the email campaign to let’s say four days after the customer purchased the order.

And this is really like, If anything, this isn’t even to generate positive reviews and yet positive feedback. It’s also to combat negative reviews and negative feedback, but you have to be really careful with the wordage. And I can’t really go into exactly how it needs to be worded, but if it’s not by Amazon’s policies, again, you can be suspended.

Your account can be deactivated over things. Our product inserts, little two by four cards, thanking us summers for their purchases. You can slip it into the actual product packaging. And it’s funny, like, just going back to how granular that we call it, the eight, nine algorithm. That’s the Amazon algorithm based on a certain day, you actually receive a review, can actually give you an algorithm boost for a particular search phrase.

It’s crazy. And also it’s important to know that the total amount of reviews. Do not matter as much as the sales philosophy, you need reoccurring reviews. If you just get, you know, hypothetically a hundred reviews and you call it a day, if you’re not consistently getting reviews, that’s not doing your listing any justice.

And so it 

Arlen: has to be consistent. You can’t just get like an influx slowly. Like you said, maybe you do a particular email campaign where you’re reaching out and encouraging people to get live feedback. You can’t just do that as like a one shot deal. And then. You know, maybe you’ll get an influx of reviews and then just kind of leave it alone.

After that 

Justin: it’s gone be reoccurring. Like you always have to have review strategies in place. And I look at, you know, just for fun, sometimes some of these YouTube videos, I mean, a lot of these guys are violating very clear policies. So people really do need to be skeptical with how they go about getting in generating reviews.

Yeah. Hope that answers your question. 

Arlen: Yeah, definitely. And I appreciate that because that’s a big. Factor when it comes to, I know people’s buying decisions. I just don’t personally, when I’m looking. For products on Amazon, you know, that’s one of the first things that I look at is the her views. And, you know, then I kind of go from there.

So I’m, I know that’s very important. And so I, it makes sense how Amazon is really cracking down on the fake ones and making sure that that stuff is eliminated. So they really have some truthful and honest. Feedback for all of their sellers there. That makes sense. So, you know, as we get ready to wrap things up, but what are some examples of some companies right now that are selling on Amazon that are really killing it these days that we could all learn from and you know, what it thinks that they’re doing 

Justin: to be successful?

I don’t want to just name, drop big companies because there are a lot of variables why a company does well, you know, they could be spending a hundred thousand dollars a day on digital marketing. They could be spending a hundred thousand dollars a day on, on Amazon PPC. So there’s a lot of variables to that.

I think what would be a better answer for that question is what categories are performing well currently? So just again, through the Krone epidemic, there has been. I mean, the food category is through the roof. We have clients that are seeing record days, record weeks, record months. It’s it’s insane. Like they can’t even keep up with their, their manufacturers can’t keep up with them.

So a lot of them are finding multiple manufacturers so they can get more orders out in infants for our end. Obviously hand sanitizers and face masks are widely searched. Oh yeah. Essentials like toilet paper papers, house, home goods. We’ve noticed a decline in kind of the athletic market, especially smelling salts.

Like I don’t think any of our clients were hit as hard as I was hit. My sales were down about 80% in. Wow. There’s nothing I could do about that. Like I can’t call Trump and say open the gym so I can keep selling. It’s like, you know, there was nothing I could do. So, and, you know, it’s changed like my sales aren’t down as much as they were, and now that gyms are opening up, but a lot of category, I mean, suitcases, you know, airports are closed.

So that’s changing now, as things are settling down, but really the food industry was, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. That was insane. 

Arlen: Yeah. I can definitely imagine, you know, with everything going on and people shutting and, um, relying on just the grocery stores and, you know, try to get unique items or items that aren’t in grocery stores.

I mean, you really have no, there’s not too many other options other than, you know, Amazon or, or dealing directly with the seller. So I can definitely see how the food items are. Exploding. And also because of the fact that the restaurants have been shut down, people who are trying to, I think of some different, unique things that they can, they could eat at home, you know?

Cause they can restaurants, 

Justin: but that’s just me. 

Arlen: Yeah. I hear you. Awesome. Justin, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and I’ve definitely learned a lot and I know our listeners have as well, as far as Amazon is concerned and it just seems like. This is definitely a great opportunity to really take advantage of the Amazon marketplace.

If you, if you have a brand, if you’re considering selling within that channel, as opposed to are also in addition to selling direct to consumer from your own site, I think there’s no better time than now. I think to kind of 

Justin: no better time than now. I mean, the online eCommerce is only growing people. See the Amazon statistics, everyone’s price checking from website to Amazon to see if it’s available.

Half of all online purchases are happening on Amazon. So really like if you’re not, you’re not getting with the program, you really don’t stand much of a chance in the eCommerce world. 

Arlen: Yeah. That’s what it seems like. Definitely for sure. Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for that. And, uh, I, you know, I always like to close things out with, uh, one final question.

We’re kind of switched gears just for our audience and get to know you a little bit better. So if you can, if you don’t mind sharing one fun fact with us and our audience that, uh, you know, they may or may not be surprised 

Justin: to nobody. I’m an Australian citizen. I think it’s really some, I don’t think I’m that interesting, but I dropped out of school to pursue music and music’s always, I mean, since I was probably 12, been a passion of mine, I play guitar.

I play piano and I was producing music full time. Very, very seriously. I thought I was going to be. The next top and Harris or Testo so let them out. But yeah, I mean, my goal is to really establish a good online presence with OHSU, with ammonia sport, for anything else that my future holds, but I really can’t wait to go back to 

Arlen: making music.

That’s good stuff. It’s definitely something you can always get into. Know a lot of people out of business people that. I have music as a passion and do that on the side. But yeah, it’s definitely something that no matter what you’re doing, it can always be part of your life and kind of. Helps keep things.

Yeah. Keep things diverse. I mean, you know, have your foot in other doors, other than just the business world, 

Justin: I spent like 16 hours a day on my computer. So if I can pick up my guitar for five minutes, it’s fantastic. 

Arlen: I hear you. Yeah, me and you both man, 60 hours, you know, sometimes more or less, it’s just the nature of the beast, but yeah, it is always good to have a side passion or hobby.

That kind of pulls you away from the screen and then get you into some other stuff. That’s great, Justin. Well, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And, uh, you know, lastly, before we let you go, you know, if any of our listeners want to get in touch with you and are interested in selling on Amazon, or want to pick your brain anymore and want to see what you can do and what you can offer them, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Justin: Yeah, absolutely. You can go on AOT marketing.com. You can contact me at, sorry, [email protected] I was going to throw on an email there, but yeah, I mean, that’s probably the best way, but yeah, it’s been really fun. Thank you for having me Ireland. 

Arlen: Not a problem. And thank you for joining me today on the eCommerce marketing podcast.

Justin: Awesome. 

Arlen: Thank you for listening to the eCommerce marketing podcast.

 

Podcast Guest Info

Justin Rapoport
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at AO2 Market