What’s the most competitive product on Amazon? Smart device cases. What does Matt Altschul’s business, Smartish, sell? Mobile phone cases. And it prospers.
” To even think about contending in a space like phone cases,” he informed me, “you have to use each of Amazon’s marketing tools concurrently– advertising, vouchers, offers of the day, lightning deals, bigger campaigns, running advertisements from outdoors into Amazon.”
I spoke to Altschul recently about Amazon, phone cases, and custom-made manufacturing, among other topics. What follows is the whole audio version of our discussion and a records, modified for length and clearness.
Eric Bandholz: Inform us about Smartish and yourself.
Matt Altschul: I began Smartish in2009 I still enjoy it. We’re based here in Austin, Texas. We offer a lot of items on Amazon and some direct to customer. It’s all online. We attempt to keep our service simplified for sanity. We don’t have the exposure of traditional retail. My life enjoys and good.
Bandholz: Do you have any business partners or investors?
Altschul: I keep 100- percent control in the company.
We initially had co-founders that eventually either passed away, or I purchased out.
Bandholz: Actually died?
Altschul: Yes. It was demanding. Through all of it, I have actually been in charge of whatever. It’s been lonely often. Who do you lean to? Who do you want to for advice? To a fault, I worked on my own for a long time. Whoever is listening to this is already doing better than I did. You’re seeking to connect with individuals in the community and understand more about entrepreneurship. I didn’t do that as much from the start.
About five years earlier, I was involved in an accelerator called SKU, a consumer-product accelerator here in Austin. I joined to get involved with more similar individuals in our neighborhood.
It’s an outstanding accelerator to join for any consumer packaged goods business, specifically in Austin, that already has a market-validated item. You give them a specific quantity of equity for an accelerator program; they supply you with access to mentors and capital or at least intros to prospective investors.
Bandholz: You have to give up equity for that?
Altschul: Some equity, yes. It’s a small stake in the business that in the grand plan of things is worth it.
Bandholz: Employees are never going to understand the pressure of growing a service.
Altschul: I believe we as entrepreneurs concern terms with a lot of things. Things that created tension in the very first 5, 6 years, in time do not. It’s a feeling of no matter how bad it looks, we’ll survive this.
Collecting state sales tax was one of those things that happened to me a couple of years earlier.
I ultimately came to grips with how much cash I owe these states. If I experienced that in my very first 5 years, I would’ve been stressed. Being 8 years into it, I recognized we have actually gotten through comparable issues prior to, and we’ll get through this.
Bandholz: Let’s discuss your circulation strategy. You’re mostly on Amazon.
Altschul: I was selling on Amazon prior to I started Smartish. All told, I have actually been offering Amazon for about 14 years.
Bandholz: My business, Beardbrand, doesn’t sell anything on Amazon. I was afraid of the fact that they could snap their fingers and our sales would be gone.
Altschul: Yes, that might take place. We had possibly the most significant scare ever on Amazon a number of months ago. Our products were deprioritized from fulfillment centers and got pushed out to a one month shipment on both the vendor and the seller side– 1P and 3P.
It’s definitely a danger that I’m trying to water down by growing our direct-to-consumer market, which we’re doing a pretty good task at. Definitely a large percentage of our sales is still on Amazon.
Bandholz: You appear to have produced a brand name on Amazon, which is different than a lot of Amazon sellers. Discuss that technique.
Altschul: My concept has always been to have a brand name that people like, engage, and buy products from. The other side of an Amazon service is discovering an opportunity in a product and simply cranking it out for a dollar cheaper. That’s not as fun to me. I take pleasure in item development. And we attempt to stay in our lane. Smartish sells phone cases and related stuff. We don’t make desk mats or pens or CBD oil.
Bandholz: From an outsider’s viewpoint, phone cases seem extremely commoditized. How do you compete?
Altschul: Phone cases are most likely the second most commoditized market on Amazon (behind supplements) and the most competitive. There’s no barrier to entry for a Chinese factory to develop an injection mold of an iPhone case and offer it straight on Amazon.
Many of the top 100 sellers are from China. There’s no way you can live on Amazon without a truly, truly good product.
To even think of completing in a space like phone cases, you have to utilize every one of Amazon’s marketing tools at the same time– marketing, coupons, offers of the day, lightning offers, bigger projects, running advertisements from outside into Amazon, having a PR team getting write-ups and having those write-ups pushed to your website, using Vine, using Early Evaluation. All those things have to be running at the same time and well.
But even that’s not going to get you in the top 100 in cases since it’s just so competitive. But fortunately numerous people purchase phone cases that you can live beyond that ranking and still have a quite profitable organisation.
Bandholz: You’re production in China That’s got to be challenging to handle the relationship with the factory.
Altschul: Yes. I have an ex-pat who runs item development there.
Bandholz: It would not shock me if there were Chinese factories that sell their clients’ designs.
Altschul: Out the back door.
Bandholz: Are you able to get pre-production iPhones from Apple so your cases are readily available on launch day?
Altschul: It’s an excellent question. The answer is no.
How do we know how the specifications or the details a brand-new iPhone case? Two to 3 months previously, we have to go into production, and we’re cranking out 10s of thousands of units 2 months before the phone’s even revealed.
Almost every case maker sweats off of dripped three-dimensional models. Whether Apple allows this to take place, they know they can’t control it. But almost every case producer has to sweat off rumored styles. We resemble, “Okay, I think this is right.” Or, “This is probably 90 percent right.” Or, “Possibly this is most likely 97 percent proper.” And after that one day we need to choose, “We’re going to lock-in. We hope that it’s best.”
Bandholz: I can’t imagine. I constantly assumed that Apple had these relationships with case makers and sent them prototypes.
Altschul: No, they do not. Just the top 2 or so case makers have main specs from Apple.
Bandholz: I have actually enjoyed our time. Where can individuals find out more about you and your products?