Amazon Product Failure Part 9

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Chris Thomas joins us for a product failure and battle scars from one of his catalogue of Amazon Product Failure, just like the rest of us…

This Amazon product failure will focus on the product called the doggy fun.

  • It’s an automatic dog ‘fetch’ machine
  • Dog put the ball in the top and shoots it out so the dog can go and fetch it and bring it back, load it up and fire it again

What convinced you this was a winner?

  • Chris was in a trade show in China and saw the machine being demoed
  • He went up and got a price
  • The unit cost was about $35 FOB and a bit more on getting it to the US and Chris partnered 50/50 with a pal
  • Placed a test order of 200 units
  • There was only one other seller on Amazon so Chris was feeling confident
  • Later turned out that his product was a rip-off of the other (i-Fetch) which was originally a Kickstarter project and was crushing it
  • Doing $150-200k / month just before Christmas in 2015
  • Knew when Christmas came it would go bonkers
  • No competition apart from iFetch

Chris thought he was in the Money

  • Chris was seeing dollar signs and Christmas
  • Took a long time to get it over in US
  • Live about March 2016
  • Sales took off the 200 units went quick
  • In April, they were back in China and hooked up with the Supplier again who had a new version
  • Search Amazon for Play-ball Automatic Ball Launcher to se it
  • Chris fed back that the balls in their first order were very ‘fuzzy’ and the balls got jammed and slobbery causing some returns
  • Chris helped the supplier smooth their balls
  • It took about 9 months to get the improvements done
  • Was about USD$25 and an MOQ of 500 this time

More Competitors had now entered

  • There were now more competitors in the market
  • Into Jan 2017 and they launched it
  • Within a couple of weeks, Chris’ partner in the States received a cease and desist from iFetch’s lawyers
  • Went back to them and said we’ll just sell out and not re-order
  • So they pushed through to end of May and sold out the 400 units left
  • Then did the honourable thing and stopped selling the product
  • Came out with a profit and sold all stock

The Lawsuit

  • If the lawsuit had kicked in then Chris could have ended in a hole with this Amazon Product Failure
  • Getting the stock into Amazon as they are heavy to ship so not a huge margin
  • Matching iFetch’s price when they started so was making $52 per unit profit
  • The 2nd Shipment landed but a new competitor had dropped the price down from $150 to $70 so slim margins

New Product the Cat Laser Toy

  • The Cat laser toy
  • In August Chris bought this new product for $9 and about 600 units
  • Within 30mins of launching the listing the product was shutdown by Amazon as it was mis-classified as a hand-held laser and was restricted
  • So looked to sell the product on eBay and ways to get rid of it
  • But looked a couple of weeks later and anothe seller was listing exactly the same product and doing okay and still there
  • So Chris re-listed and managed to sell this pet-toy product and selling through to Christmas

Main Lessons from this Amazon Product Failure

  • Searching for patents as part of product selection? Chris not doing so much of this as it’s too costly
  • Could go into Google Patents and local Patents to search cheaply
  • Or prefer to ask for forgiveness after the fact than seek permission in advance, the entrepreneur way

Product Selection Main Criteria

  • Not scared of electronics and there is money in it too, chris has domain knowledge in this space
  • Looking at pet-driers a hair dryer for dogs
  • People are selling human hair dryers and re-branding as a pet-dryer, pretty smart approach
  • Chris is developing a set of sleeping earbuds and is watching a competitor that’s using sports bud and just re-branding

One Piece of Advice

  • Try and modify if you are private labelling, don’t do a ME-TO
  • Work with your manufacturer
  • Bundling is okay but if you do 2 someone else will come and do 3
  • If you can’t add significant value to a product then it’s a short term play for you

Contact Chris