Charles and I natter away like a pair of old Queens. After an hour of rattling away during the "pre talk" we decided it'd be beneficial to just hit record.
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In this episode we discuss:
[0:00:00] George Reid: Welcome to us Always Day One. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast you're going to hear industry experts, brand owners and amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions you should be asking yourself bang your amazon business now, let's jump in. Hello ladies and gentlemen, today I've put Charles back on the podcast. We were supposed to start recording 60 to 70 minutes ago, but he's been telling me his life story and we've just got into a bit of an aggressive conversation about amazon FBI aggregators Charles. Welcome welcome back on my delightful podcast. Do you want to give the audience a brief background to what our last five minutes of discussion has entailed?
[0:00:48] Charles Instone: Yeah, well thanks for firstly, thanks for having me back for the second time. Hopefully it's better than the first. Um yeah, so we're chatting um yeah, about amazon aggregators and you know how they sort of stormed into the amazon world, buying multiple businesses and what the future of that really looks like and where we see that going, you know, long term, how is the aggregated business really going to affect small businesses on amazon, what it's gonna look like, what their own exit plan is as well, um and whether there's gonna be multiple winners in the space or whether, you know, it's gonna be the biggest is the best and there's no room for second place in it.
[0:01:37] George Reid: And your, your opinion kind of falls into the camp of there will only ever be a small number of aggregate at the end of all this, essentially, people who get the most money and they'll come in and look to build out their own brands and essentially, you know, be a form of amazon, which I kind of agree of a little bill amazon at the basics range, As many other ranges are these aggregators gonna go fuck it, we've got so much data now because we bought 100 brands, we've got a banging team, We've got operations down to a T, let's just start making our own brands and running other brands out of out of business because we can and we've got the dollar to do so.
[0:02:20] Charles Instone: Yeah, I think, I mean it's a likely scenario in which these guys are buying amazon businesses and optimizing them right, and making them more efficient. So essentially what you're going to have is the most efficient amazon sellers the world has ever seen, which is fantastic and amazing user case, you know, the ones happening in the UK America europe and Australia right now. Um but what that does mean is that if they decide to start selling their own brand, which I'm, you know, I'm sure they're going to at some point they can use those optimized dollars and raised cash to then fund those brands and you know, run advertising, you know, prices and CPM stupidly high because they can afford to do so because once they launch a brand they're going to make it work and it's not like, you know, if it works, it's going to be when it works and it's a lot like the amazon things, you know, they very rarely failed uh launching things. I mean there's a couple of years in cases like when they were trying to sell tickets for gigs and then the the fire phone, amazon phone and you know, within amazon they actually say, you know, amazon things, but they can only ever come up with these two examples, they very rarely fair, then it's going to be
[0:03:38] George Reid: good. Yeah,
[0:03:39] Charles Instone: yeah, they're really fucking good at what they do and that's gonna be the case with these with these uh aggregated as well like there is that they're going to become so so good at a launch new products into the space as well, you know ones that a complimentary to the brands that they fall. Um but they're going to launch new brands as well and they're gonna know amazon better than or amazon itself almost and the operations behind it is going to be so lean that they're not only gonna have bigger margins than any other player coming in, they're also going to have more marketing dollars to spend and help spend competitors
[0:04:13] George Reid: and they're just gonna have the best talent you think about who's managing your ad budget in, you know, filling sally who I always seem to go back to actually don't I think I know a couple called filling sally. That could be why childhood friend always go back toward Philip I've never met um filling sally set up a brand with the dream of going on amazon and then maybe some of them are in charge of operations, of finances, you're the ones in charge of advertising and marketing and they do a course, they get some training. Um They do the best they can with their limited budget. They're going up against someone who's got 10 years experience. Perhaps there's an agency owner or running or working in an agency on advertising. If you just go along that category, Who is an absolute beast when it comes to managing Amazon advertising campaigns like top 10 in the world, you're competing with a completely different skill set. Then you throw into the mix that they don't care if they necessarily lose money or break even for the first six months because they've just got a game in their head where they go, we can do this for six months, we can afford it for six months. Um and eventually we're going to build ship. Those reviews have the best content and all of a sudden were organically now ranked higher than everyone else. We can take it back for advertising. Um so it runs profitably and filling sally and all of those out there who are the equivalence, they haven't really got a leg to stand on, in my opinion, it's a dire situation. We're painting. But we started the discussion like I don't really see kev caveat to that argument.
[0:05:56] Charles Instone: No, and I looked back uh you know when we're amazon and our dear friend Ben timmons, starting his amazon business selling gym logbooks, go on amazon by right now. Um I also beat him on podcast less ugly on this. So, uh but you know, you look back at Ben and Ben's, you know, like many amazon sellers, you know, worked worked hard at his brand. He's, you know, it's taken in now, What is he going on? About five years selling gym logbook, four years or something? Yeah, thousands of thousands reviews at number one. Um, you know, his category doing super well that timeline is going to get so much shorter and shorter when you're thinking there's gonna be people and like you said, from, you know, from operations from actually agreeing crisis for products with producers and manufacturers to amazon advertising, you're going to have just a souped up version where the margins, the biggest it can be, then they're probably going to layer on a deep sea layer. So you know, all these brands that they're acquiring, they're probably gonna have deep sea sites or some sort of email list, which they can then use to promote the other brands as well. Direct traffic to the new listings as well. It's gonna take no time to get to number one. In comparison to what we would conventionally say. It's like uh when we were on the F. B. A floor amazon or whatever, you would say, you know, if you're going to launch a product is gonna, you know, at least a year for you to get Number one already, pressure to be best in the category. That's just gonna get lower and lower and lower. And, you know, if you have an email list or socials or whatever, you know, D. C. Or for the other brands, let's say they are selling, I don't know, resistance bands. And they want to bring out kettlebells, you know, using that resistance band uh brand. They can essentially use the email list, say we've launched a new product, then direct lows of traffic on their cattle bell listing. Start generating those of sales through their amazon's gonna recognize it. That, you know, the algorithm is going to start saying they're directing external traffic to an internal listing, which they love. They love it when it's in traffic to an internal listing and loads of people are buying it. The conversion rates through the roof. We the algorithms going to pump it right? And then when you add on advertising dollars on top of that, it's just that this model that you just can't really compete on as a small business.
[0:08:36] George Reid: And I've seen examples of that before. Some of the biggest sellers in the UK conversations that I've spoke to them, they've got a huge imagery range and they know that they can get ranking it as little as two months just because the size of the account is so large, they're getting such monstrous volume to traffic and they're not necessarily perfect with some of the other tactics you've talked about there are driving external traffic to amazon or building a monstrous email list or social follow all these things. Um, so this is
[0:09:08] Charles Instone: proven time and time
[0:09:09] George Reid: Again that brands can do this. Which is why you see some of these big players with these huge infantry. I think they've got like 1, 2000 skews and I'm adding hundreds every month. But now this is, this is having steroids to the whole situation because you're going where we're going to hire the A team And the a team isn't just Amazon 18, it's an off of Amazon a team as well is the 18 for design. Um, we've got infinite budget Friends. The whole flower becomes monstrous and unstoppable. Really similar to when amazon released the product. The only thing I would say which is uh kind of resurgence to it is people do like buying from small brands. That's the only caveat people like the story. But do people even know? Probably not. You can make up symbolic story about filling sally if you want to, if you're scum back marketer, which many people can be and you met them um and you go, well we've just made it up, but here's some fake to people who run this company. Um I know someone who's literally got a brand and they is a bloke and he claims to be two females because it works the market and that's fine. So it wouldn't surprise me if you'd see where there's a caveat to it. Yes, for a small brand. Bullocks are actually worth billions.
[0:10:33] Charles Instone: Yeah, I mean you actually see this now with what I call Big CPG, so you know like Unilever PNG and people like that and also the massive beauty houses as well. Um They are starting and incubating startup brands but you know, come out of nowhere and they're suddenly stopped everywhere. Everyone's talking about in like the next big small brand. They've got founder with a really amazing story and then if you do some digging is like Unilever and you know, the consumer doesn't know that, you know, if I said I got 100 products in front of you and said pick which one is a union lever. I mean most of them probably are if they're not, they're going to be the S. K. O PNG PNG. Um So I mean that's just really replicating on an amazon level what we're seeing in the world, stay in the, in the D. C. And C. P. G. Marketplaces. Um And I mean whether or not I have a problem with it, it's sort of irrelevant. But I think there will come a time where, I mean if we really extrapolate from here um you know years and years in the future where customers want to know whether it's a small business and I've been a massive supporter of small businesses. I've advocated for massively. I always try and shock the small businesses if I can. Um And I want to know whether it is a small business, but if you're then pretending like you are giving face, you might not necessarily be saying you are explicitly, but if you're giving the impression you are then that's enough and most most consumers to buy your product. And I think at some point regulation would have to come in to say, you know, you have to identify with what you actually are as a business because it is confusing and I was saying to you before this, you know, small business is the backbone of most Western economies um and by pretending to be one um is going to have a massive economic impact on those economies as well. So I can imagine regulation will come in very, very long term or you know, one or two players win it. Yeah, it's just the way it is um by me short term as well for small businesses right now, it's great because it's you know, is giving them an exit of a business that previously you didn't have much option off in the amazon space. Like if you just in amazon brand, there's no way private because he was going to buy you, there's no way I was going to invest in you. There is no way Unilever would buy you or the heart group in the UK or PNG no one like that. Um, so this is now giving amazon sellers a really great option of actually selling their business and using that capital to do something else, you know? But long term, I think it's, it's pretty grim reading for small businesses in my opinion.
[0:13:32] George Reid: Yeah, I'm inclined to agree. You know, it's great because you go, there's so much potential around this industry right now, which is fantastic if you're looking to sell your business and you understand how to structure in such a way, so you can inflate your value as much as possible. But you're right, There's gonna be a period that could be one year, two year, five, year, 10 year where these aggregators going to get more and more money and there's going to be this explosion of them buying brands grape also, then creating their own brands. Perhaps gonna take a long time for any anything to be in place to restrict that activity. So you could say the way brand registry works on amazon, you need to jump through some hoops, you could say you need to jump through some hoops to prove that you are a small brand, which therefore would then have a brat badge similar to how amazon has a climate friendly badge. Now, perhaps you kind of have certified sally and Phil business, maybe maybe a different name. I don't know. We can skip all that. And you know, if anyone from amazon's listing and want to get me in on some of the naming, happy to be involved. But that could be one option to go, well, we're certified small business.
[0:14:49] Charles Instone: Can I just say one from amazon inviting you into a meeting with a novelty. Uh, imagine
[0:14:57] George Reid: George you were allowed in meetings. You were told to stay at your desk, do you remember? Oh yeah. Sad, sorry, existence of my amazon. Yeah, you're right. Um But I think that that's an option though and that is something that could be enforced, which would give some sort of protection. And I've always kind of preach this idea of this shop local button where people can go, Boom press it should be a radius of 100 miles. I want to see businesses are within 100 miles of me or 50 miles. So I know my money is going to fill in sally who live around the corner rather than some big conglomerate, who are based on the other side of the world that happened to have bought this brand. I think something like that, particularly what's happened with kind of lockdown et cetera, people looking to look after those in the neighborhood could be kind of counteracting what's, what's going on. I don't know, it could be tracking shit.
[0:15:56] Charles Instone: No, no, I think you're right, I think there's going to be a large amount of innovation in this discovery space, like really knowing what you are buying and you see it like with sustainability and like being the court registered and stuff like that. I think Shopping Small business is now becoming a big issue, whereas obviously sustainability has been a big issue for 2025 years more um, for brands, so that's had a little bit more time to sort of incubate and innovation to push through. I think now what we're gonna start seeing is people are similar ILk or you know, whatever, there's normally something that will come out a badge or something that's saying that you are registered or certified small business, something like that. It's a new problem and there won't be solutions right away and you know, we are talking years and years down the line of of this, but I think it's also important to say it's um, it's very easy to be like big guys versus small guys when actually, you know, love these guys, the aggregators are, you know, growing, they raised huge amounts of money, but they're, you know, they're also relatively new to what they're doing. It's a space that a long time ago, they no one knows the direction in which these businesses are going other than what the media is. Um, and maybe a year or two down the line. And I mean, it's also, I mean, it's a hugely, hugely complex and difficult space to competing and I think personally, you're not gonna see a lot of winners in that space, You're gonna see the biggest one, biggest few in each, each local, maybe breakthrough and they're, they're all generate money for sure. But in terms of like exits and stuff like that, I mean ratios, it's such a massive stage now, you know, that most people are probably looking at the ratio being like, we'd like you to acquire us as in the aggregators themselves, but you know, once they've acquired the businesses they want to acquire and locals, I think it's going to be quite difficult for the others to get purchased. I was saying to you before they started, it's like, you know, if I want, when, when these businesses have their operations and fall actually starting a brand themselves themselves is going to be better than acquiring a business that had already acquired lows of businesses and already got the juice out of them. I said it's like having an orange response if you want an orange in or the juices already squeezed out of it, you're probably going to be like, no, that's a big gross thanks. It's an extent, to an extent they're going to do something similar. But why would I already by highly optimized businesses when my whole business is about optimizing businesses? Uh, yeah. So what I would do is still continue to buy small businesses that haven't been optimized or I'll start my, so what I'm saying really is, you know, if you're not in the top one or two in in the local, the likelihood of three ratio by you or, you know, you being an attractive option for other aggregators to acquire you, it's probably not a viable exit plan. You might be able to like private equity group or whatever, but the space is so, so competitive. Um Do
[0:19:06] George Reid: you think it will be similar to how I had a conversation, a podcast a while and I can't remember the name of the chap where you've had lots of software companies emerge in the amazon space. Now. We're seeing the merger little bit, so we saw Helium 10 merged with uh I can't remember the name of it. Um
[0:19:29] Charles Instone: Yeah, yeah,
[0:19:32] George Reid: I know the name of the company. Um they were good that really, really good ads Agent add software and they've merged with them recently that helium 10 have actually just brought out a an advertising software which is obviously pulled from the merger. We were saying these software company is gonna slowly merge, merge, merge by each other out and then there's going to be kind of like four or five big players and you go with one of one of those five and that's it. There's not space of one else. Do you think it's gonna be a case of kind of exactly the same with these aggregators where they go, we're going to buy out the competition. We don't want people going in buying other brands and those brands could come to us. We prefer to have one name which is an obvious one to go to. I'm selling my company, I'll go to the ratio that's an obvious one and then I'll get the most money from horatio and that's logical for pressure to do or would be people be thinking I don't want to sell to a big company. I actually want to sell to a smaller company where like the founders because there's that element as well, right?
[0:20:38] Charles Instone: Yeah. Yeah. There is and it's difficult to really know where it will go. But the most dangerous thing, I guess in principle for the business that is trying to buy certain companies at a certain valuation, like let's say it's 2.5 to 3 X yearly revenue or whatever there by the danger is as these brands or as these aggregators and more aggravates come into the space, is going to be competition for that purchase or that person and then go, let's say in the UK, they can go to perch, they can go to Heroes, they can go to old SAM and they can get best quote. Yeah,
[0:21:23] George Reid: I've been approached by X Y. Z. Yet they've offered me 3.5 X. Here is my kind of info, what are you plans for? For me? They're interested you want often anymore?
[0:21:36] Charles Instone: Yeah, I mentioned to you like a chat to a group of people that want to start with these before and that was, you know, significant risk. And, you know, all the people in currently, you know, aggregates now will will know this risk. So it's nothing new. But I think it is interesting that the more and more people that enter the price of these companies is going to go up and up and up right, because their whole business model is built on acquiring certain amount of companies over a certain period. So let's say they have to buy 66 companies and a quarter or whatever.
[0:22:12] George Reid: Yeah.
[0:22:13] Charles Instone: To keep up with the growth of the company to keep up with that targets. But as soon as the competition or the bid of that is going up because, you know, this uh paul and sally or whatever the name for you came up with. Soon as they've got multiple options to go to and they can play them off against each other. I mean that's a bidding war. You are now at an auction house, you no longer have control over. And I think that's really, really dangerous for the model that these companies have. So either they'll be pivoting on that model over time or like you said, there would be someone that will be like, is actually just gonna, you know, cost us less to acquire the biggest companies in the space and just have one and you might still have small aggregated or whatever. But that's going to be much more difficult for them to get their name out to the ports and Saudis of this world so that they know that there's a, you know, a new agriculture space you really want. And it happened in the advertising world as well, like most media agencies around by 22 massive conglomerates. Right? So that might be the case that there's actually multiple brands behind it. I don't know. But all I see is that is supply and demand curve and the supply of aggregators is going up. Right? So
[0:23:30] George Reid: yeah, very quickly
[0:23:31] Charles Instone: the price of the acquisitions is likely to go up. I'm not, you know, a master's in economics or anything, but I think I read
[0:23:42] George Reid: I read. Yes. So it's four billion is being invested in these types of companies aggregators since April 2020. That's after yeah. And then raise a group of just got 400 million. Which Okay, so let's flip it around a little bit and think about is obviously shit time and good time for small brands. Good time because they can sell, they can play people off each other. Fantastic news shit time because if they don't sell perhaps in a long time, then they find that the aggregator that didn't sell to has decided to set up a brand just like theirs and has pushed them out of business. What let's say you're in this position, what are you thinking about to create a bit of sustainable success? And I want to talk a little bit about omni channel presence here to go, okay, amazon could be really dangerous for me to play in and just staying on its own. What should I be doing to counteract that should worst thing happened in the world? An aggregator comes along in two years time and create a brand similar to yours and you fudged amazon?
[0:24:53] Charles Instone: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's similar to, you know how like Amazon uh partnering with brands to develop their own brand or whatever in it,
[0:25:04] George Reid: which
[0:25:04] Charles Instone: other existing ones out. I think the best option brands have is um, revenue channel diversification. So no longer solely relying on amazon is the sole source of revenue long term. I mean you don't have to, you know, listen to this podcast and be like, you know, shit, this stuff happening overnight, I've got to start a Shopify store, I've got a sound byproduct into target or same as recent UK or whatever. It's not, it's not necessarily the case, but I think with a long term you have to, or I would recommend that you look at diversifying where your revenue is coming from. Um, there's so many, so many different options that you can have. You know, let's say you sell protein, you can sell that into gyms, you can settle into pharmacies, you know, online e commerce stores, you can sell it into that, you can have your own DTC store. Um, but it really reduces the risk and not only that it will improve or likely improve your amazon ranking because you're going to get more people organically searching for your brand as as well by your brand. You're also going to be able to have your own list or, you know, email list or socials or whatever to direct traffic and we touched on this earlier, but amazon vastly, vastly rates external traffic going to a listing page than you just having a sponsored ad and directing it because if you think about it like the point of view, they went more and more channels they want. So you directing from inside amazon to a, you know, an amazon listing page, that's great, you're spending marketing dollars with us. Fantastic. But external traffic coming in words, you're taking people from off amazon to on amazon. So if you have your own email list and you're you're selling you know we've got an exclusive deal or exclusive launch and what's going on amazon. You can do the same that these flashing lights are doing right. You can artificially accelerate the rate of which we'll get to number one for a certain category. And that's if you if you're looking at from an amazon point of view that is massive benefit to having control of your own data in your own list. I'm sure that you deleted on about this before in terms of having more control over your business. Um But it also provides much more stable revenue if you're having your own D. C. Start site. If you're having you know retailers consistently placed new pos View products. Um Yeah I think I think it just gives another dimension of growth. Yes it's a little bit more to manage, finding and sourcing different retailers and stuff like that. Um But I mean it's not you can grow at your own rate as well in that respect.
[0:27:54] George Reid: Are you are you thinking then the bricks and mortar option having them distributes? I guess you can label them as would that be the first point of call or would it be I need to get a website, I need my own way to sell things online without using amazon because as we've seen with lockdown and stuff, you can't rely on the bricks and mortar else. It's good for physical brand awareness and to see the touch point I have a physical touch point. Fantastic. That can quickly get wiped away. Whereas the e commerce site which has got some good ranking, you've got a good email list, you have some good social followings, which you can direct stuff to. It. You always you always need that, right?
[0:28:40] Charles Instone: Yeah. I mean I'm going to be really careful not to get like a sweeping statement because obviously like in the world that we live in like nuance and context is such a big thing and there'll be people listening being like, well website website is not right for me because that's what is that personally for me, I can't think of many instances where our website isn't beneficial. We're living in a world where it's like your own piece of land right in this hole. E con worlds, you know, world of the internet and on social media. So that's why you should have your own pages. That's why you should have your own website regardless of if you're selling through it and operate like maybe you're saying the operations is going to be a headache. You know have your own website and directed to an amazon listing, whatever it's your own land where you can collect data, you know who your customers are, you can interact directly with your customers. I don't think personally, it's too much work and I'm trying to be careful and mindful that there might be people that have certain instances. Uh that would be a lot of work. Dm me that is the case. I'll tell you you're wrong. Uh Yeah, I think, I think starting a website is a no brainer, whether it's the biggest channel you have right away, that might not be the case. Maybe you're new to the market marketing spear. You don't know too much about facebook ads or S. E. O. You might not know about how affiliates work, you know, whatever you can take the time there, but at least you're putting the market down and saying that this is my brand, this is where it lives. I can direct people there, and that's that's my first preference where I send people, you know, check out our website to check out our socials and start developing that social uh and community following. Um And then, yeah, I mean, like you said, you can then go to the bricks and mortar retailers and the pos could be massive or whatever, and that's gonna be your highest uh highest revenue generator outside of amazon or whatever. But at least you have that piece of land on the internet that you're saying is mine.
[0:30:47] George Reid: And following on from that, because you said that it could be easy, it could be hard pans out in some capacity, computer literate, you are could be one term to use you and I may be able to whip up a website in in under an hour, You probably do it three. But, you know, I'm better than you.
[0:31:05] Charles Instone: What uh
[0:31:08] George Reid: at what stage do you reckon brand owners should start to look externally support with this? Or is it, I mean, we know it's possible to do it all alone, you can always learn, but then what's the downside upside of that? Should they go needing a website? I should hustle my way through it. I hate the term, but it fell into my mouth. Um Or should I immediately be going? It makes sense to me to get someone up work whose offshore, who's well priced to support with this. So, it's done right? Or, you know, there's a basic thing to do the job.
[0:31:45] Charles Instone: Two. Yeah. I think um I think we can all be guilty of letting preconceptions, uh, stop progress, right? So if you just look at it on a real layman's terms, like, what do you need? I need something on a on on the internet, that is my domain and, you know, says who I am, tells the story of my brand and a couple of products listings. If you go through someone like Shopify or, you know, there's other providers out there, but sees them as an example. Um, if you go through something like shocked by it, I mean, you're very, very likely to have the computer literacy skills to start there. If you then want, you know, an all singing, all dancing website, you know, I think
[0:32:34] George Reid: what
[0:32:34] Charles Instone: we can be guilty of is look at competitors or look at other brands that we want to be like and be like, I want to make a website like that. Well, likelihood is if they have a website that's super impressive, it's cost them 25 ВЈ50,000,, right? Um, you don't need that. There will be people that will buy from you because they believe in your vision or they'd like your product or the pricing is great or whatever reason not everyone in the world looks at a website and goes you know that could look nice. I'm not going to buy from there. There will be certain people that say sure but what I'm trying to say is don't let the preconception or like having to be perfect. Get in the way of you starting a website for me. I just started if you need someone from up work or five or whatever to help you with it have a low budget but you don't really need to. I mean um for example with the drug store I made that website the drug store and it costs us probably including um Like a bit of custom work probably like 500 600 quid.
[0:33:42] George Reid: Yeah
[0:33:43] Charles Instone: and I'm not a were so high and you looked at a few piece of code here and there to plug in like literally copy and paste. I didn't make any custom or anything like that. I don't know how to. Um But if you look at that website then there'll be retake. There'll be people being like oh I want a website like that or whatever but it doesn't have to be expensive. And granted a bit of knowledge about how to build websites or aesthetics or what
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