What’s the most competitive item on Amazon? Smart device cases. What does Matt Altschul’s company, Smartish, offer? Mobile phone cases. And it thrives.
” To even consider completing in a space like phone cases,” he told me, “you need to use each of Amazon’s marketing tools all at once– marketing, coupons, offers of the day, lightning offers, larger campaigns, running ads from outdoors into Amazon.”
I spoke to Altschul just recently about Amazon, phone cases, and custom-made manufacturing, to name a few topics. What follows is the entire audio version of our conversation and a records, edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Smartish and yourself.
Matt Altschul: I started Smartish in2009 I still love it. We’re based here in Austin, Texas. We sell a lot of products on Amazon and some direct to customer. It’s all online. We attempt to keep our company streamlined for sanity. We don’t have the exposure of brick and mortar retail. My life is happy and good.
Bandholz: Do you have any business partners or financiers?
Altschul: I preserve 100- percent control in the business. We have 14 individuals– a great team. A couple of them run the functional side and the sales and marketing side, respectively. But I oversee the ship.
We originally had co-founders that ultimately either died, or I purchased out.
Bandholz: Literally passed away?
Altschul: Yes. You’re looking to connect with people in the neighborhood and comprehend more about entrepreneurship.
About 5 years back, I was involved in an accelerator called SKU, a consumer-product accelerator here in Austin. Now they’re beginning to open some branches around the U.S. I signed up with to get involved with more like-minded people in our neighborhood. And it helped a lot. It assisted me open my eyes to some errors I was making.
It’s an outstanding accelerator to sign up with for any customer packaged products business, particularly in Austin, that currently has a market-validated product. You provide a particular amount of equity for an accelerator program; they provide you with access to mentors and capital or a minimum of introductions to potential financiers.
Bandholz: You need to quit equity for that?
Altschul: Some equity, yes. It’s a little stake in the business that in the grand scheme of things is worth it.
Bandholz: Workers are never ever going to understand the pressure of growing a company.
Altschul: I think we as business owners pertain to terms with a lot of things. Things that created stress in the first 5, 6 years, in time do not. It’s a sensation of no matter how bad it looks, we’ll make it through this.
Gathering state sales tax was among those things that took place to me a couple of years earlier. I was thinking, “I’ll find out this state sales tax thing down the road.” I didn’t recognize I was incurring liability for that tax I was expected to be gathering.
I ultimately came to grips with how much cash I owe these states.
Bandholz: Let’s talk about your distribution technique. You’re primarily on Amazon.
Altschul: I was selling on Amazon prior to I began Smartish. My previous company sold high-end earphones. I assisted a buddy launch that service. All told, I’ve been offering Amazon for about 14 years. I have actually seen numerous models of how Amazon works. Because of that experience, I’m able to maneuver and to browse the market quite well. However there’s a brand-new difficulty every day. Some things I can anticipate and others entirely blindside me.
Bandholz: My company, Beardbrand, does not sell anything on Amazon. I was afraid of the reality that they might snap their fingers and our sales would be gone.
Altschul: Yes, that could happen. We had possibly the most significant scare ever on Amazon a number of months back. Our items were deprioritized from fulfillment centers and got pressed out to a one month shipment on both the vendor and the seller side– 1P and 3P.
It’s certainly a danger that I’m attempting to water down by growing our direct-to-consumer market, which we’re doing a pretty good job at. Certainly a big percentage of our sales is still on Amazon.
Bandholz: You seem to have actually developed a brand name on Amazon, which is various than the majority of Amazon sellers. Speak about that method.
Altschul: My idea has actually constantly been to have a brand that people like, engage, and purchase items from. The flip side of an Amazon organisation is discovering a chance in an item and just cranking it out for a dollar less expensive.
Bandholz: From an outsider’s perspective, phone cases appear highly commoditized. How do you complete?
Altschul: Phone cases are probably the 2nd most commoditized market on Amazon (behind supplements) and the most competitive. There’s no barrier to entry for a Chinese factory to produce an injection mold of an iPhone case and offer it directly on Amazon.
Most of the top 100 sellers are from China. Their items are a lot less expensive than mine. I have to have a truly excellent item– the more ingenious, the better. I require to seriously consider the functionality, the design, the colors, every aspect of it. Otherwise, I get bad evaluations, which can sink a company. There’s no chance you can survive on Amazon without an actually, actually great item.
To even consider completing in a space like phone cases, you have to utilize every one of Amazon’s marketing tools concurrently– advertising, discount coupons, deals of the day, lightning deals, bigger projects, running ads from outside into Amazon, having a PR team getting reviews and having those articles pushed to your site, utilizing Vine, utilizing Early Review. All those things have to be running concurrently and well.
However even that’s not going to get you in the top 100 in cases due to the fact that it’s just so competitive. However luckily so many individuals purchase phone cases that you can live beyond that ranking and still have a pretty rewarding service.
Bandholz: You’re manufacturing in China That’s got to be challenging to handle the relationship with the factory.
Altschul: Yes. I have an ex-pat who runs product advancement there.
Bandholz: It would not shock me if there were Chinese factories that offer their clients’ styles.
Altschul: Out the back door.
Bandholz: Are you able to get pre-production iPhones from Apple so your cases are offered on launch day?
Altschul: It’s a great question. The response is no.
How do we know how the specs or the information a new iPhone case? 2 to 3 months previously, we have to go into production, and we’re cranking out 10s of thousands of units 2 months prior to the phone’s even announced.
Almost every case maker works off of leaked three-dimensional models. Almost every case producer has to work off reported styles.
Bandholz: I can’t think of. I always assumed that Apple had these relationships with case makers and sent them models.
Altschul: No, they do not. Only the leading two or two case makers have official specifications from Apple. It can be a downside as well since you’re in bed with Apple, and it’s controlling when you can produce your products. They state, “You can’t even begin your manufacturing until the day we inform you.” You can’t even speak the name of the new iPhone up until after the statement. In contrast, everybody else is currently putting the listings up and producing inventory. So, there are benefits and drawbacks.
Bandholz: I’ve enjoyed our time. Where can individuals discover more about you and your items?