Today, Aura, the powerful web-based repricer built for Amazon sellers, announced a new integration with a tool Aura’s users have been clamoring to hook up to. And because of this killer news, I also wanted to sit down with Dillon and talk about this announcement, what the Aura team has on deck and the mindset behind taking an Amazon business to the next level in a unique way. Let’s dive into what’s making headlines.
Aura + InventoryLab
The latest integration to make Aura–a data-science and machine-learning-backed repricer built by actual computer science nerds–even more power comes from Amazon-seller-toolkit heavyweight InventoryLab. Starting today, users of Aura will see their buy costs from InventoryLab automatically sync.
Being a feature that users of Aura and InventoryLab have requested for quite some time, buy cost syncing means Aura gets just that much closer to becoming an entirely automated tool, and Amazon sellers taking advantage of both massively powerful tools now have one less thing to worry about when listing and pricing their inventory.
Aura and InventoryLab are heavyweights for a reason. These are top-tier brushless-motor power tools in a sea of screwdrivers.
While this announcement is incredibly essential and enormous for mutual users of both giants, this move is just the top-most, thinnest layer in the entire stack of what’s next for Aura. Syncing buy costs may seem like small beans on the grand scale of everything an Amazon seller-focused tool can do; it’s checking a box on a particularly relevant and important checklist. When complete, this list results in next-level selling most Amazon marketplace occupants aren’t even thinking about right now.
Deep diving into the motivation behind Aura
Last Friday, I sat down (virtually, over the phone) with Dillon Carter, co-founder of the real-time-pricing-maneuver machine, and asked him what he envisions Aura being. Dillon and his team have massive plans for the repricer, and it all stems from Dillon’s total fixation with automation.
“I’m a systems guy,” he says during one of his like-clockwork weekly live sourcing sessions. Dillon sits down in front of his computer every Tuesday at 5 PM Eastern and kicks off a Facebook Live stream within his Facebook group. Dubbed Amazon FBA Wholesale, his group of nearly 9,000 members focuses on excelling in not just eCommerce–there are hundreds of groups across all the major social media platforms for that purpose–but specifically wholesale sellers.
It's All About Systems
We see his fixation on systems every week as he talks about automation, how to streamline processes and shares the doctrine of OAO: optimize, automate, outsource. The ultimate goal is not just to figure out a new method but also to remove manual input and lever-pulling from the equation. Only at that point should you offload the task to someone else. What they’re building with Aura emulates that mindset accurately.
And we can see this in action, too, represented in every piece of content he creates. Spend a few minutes watching Dillon live or listening to an episode of his podcast Wholesale Made Easy, where guests like Amazon seller heavyweights the Mommy Income duo Kristin Ostrander and Amy Feierman, founder of The CFO Project Adam Lean, and Jessica Hill, the founder of the 2,000-member Ladies of FBA Facebook group and educational resource stop by and share their own nuggets of wisdom. Listening to Mr. Carter and his guests chat is like standing in a rainstorm where each droplet gently splatters knowledge and pro tips you don’t hear about from the overly-hyped, expensive guru-led seller groups.
I want [my users] to use Aura but not have to do any work
We spent almost 90 minutes on the phone. Practically the entire time, the topic was on taking Amazon businesses to the next level: a casual afternoon conversation with good-as-usual Florida weather on one end and what would eventually turn into a monsoon outside my office on the other. Dillon and his crew believe “going to the next level” isn’t just about finding the next significant source for products (something he openly walks his audience through every week on his live stream) but about removing the human element from the day-to-day of running an Amazon business.
Repricing Like Never Before
“I want [my users] to use Aura but not have to do any work,” Dillon tells me as we start shifting into the future of Aura. Such a shift includes going deep into the concept of macroeconomics, an idea that’s hard to swallow for a lot of Amazon sellers. Traditional schools of thought focus heavily on individualistic ideas and microeconomic procedures like ensuring a specific SKU maintains a single price to provide a minimum ROI (Return on Investment–the profit made either on the original buy cost of the item or the total COGS–Cost of Goods Sold) is always on the board, not considering what the long-term costs look like.
Instead, with all the data and metrics the Aura team has collected about how Amazon prices, oft-seen competitor maneuvers, and what strategies end up with a fatter bottom line, their engineers wrote code to consider all that.
Dillon called this an oscillation strategy, a pricing strategy he often recommends to his users live and via Aura’s chat and email feature. It’s incredibly outdated to think of the two main variables sellers are exposed to when operating on the Amazon marketplace for the first time: minimum and maximum price. Applying a macroeconomic perspective to Amazon selling goes so far beyond deciding on what the minimum someone is willing to sell their product for and hoping it sells.
A seller isn’t likely willing to let there exist a potentially massive difference when there’s additional money to be made.
With oscillation, the crème de la crème, heavy-hitting repricing strategy involves focusing on the Amazon buy box–that space on an Amazon product page with the “buy it now” and “add to cart” buttons–and trying to beat it. Because the competition isn’t an individual seller, but instead more of a maneuver to re-acquire–a fixation if you will–the buy box position. Often this involves under-cutting the buy box price by $0.01.
Once the buy box lands in the seller’s possession, Aura sits and waits. If another seller comes in and takes the buy box away, Aura repeats and re-acquires. Aura will make these moves dozens of times an hour, if necessary, to ensure the seller sees more buy box time and more overall sales.
“But that leads to price tanking!” This statement of angst is something Dillon hears all the time and is a topic of frequent frustration from many newer sellers within the various Facebook groups, YouTube channels, and even from some seasoned veterans who remember _the simpler times_. The common consensus among these similarly frustrated sellers is to “simply share the buy box,” not considering that doing so is akin to price-fixing.
(Ed: It’s a touchy subject, for sure. I don’t recommend getting involved in those kinds of conversations if you can help it. I used to, touting the predictably unpopular opinion, but do so much less frequently. I came to understand this process and ideology by discovering its power and seeing the results on my own.)
It goes beyond what appears to be malicious behavior, and this is truly where Aura shines. When Aura hits the minimum set by the user, it doesn’t just sit there. It climbs! If other sellers are willing to follow someone down to the floor, if they’re now the only ones sitting down there, they’ll likely readjust to close the gap, Dillon says. A seller probably isn’t willing to let exist a potentially massive difference when there’s additional money to be made.
Once other sellers adjust, the process starts over.
To be clear, this doesn’t always work with every SKU. Sellers are still responsible and should be aware of which products they’re selling where this won’t work. Dillon is still confident in this maneuver and has a lot of data to back up the success of such pricing strategies.
An on-paper example of the benefit of this kind of maneuvering, as he explains it to me, is the notion that a seller could list an item and set a high minimum price that results in something like a 100% ROI. While the idea is grand and the potential for taking $20 and turning it into $40 would act like a dog whistle to an Amazon seller, he postulates that pricing more aggressively–say a 40% ROI (or just $8)–but being able to move 3x the units per month actually makes more business sense. When it’s all said and done, that same product returns a more significant ROI for the month and returns more capital to the seller to re-purchase or buy a new product.
Too many sellers get caught up in building a business that everyone else has; instead of that, build a business from scratch using your strengths, he states.
The Aura crew crafted the machine-learning-based repricer with this mindset, and it shows, not only with what they’ve released so far and spoken about at length on all their channels but with what they’re working on next.
What’s up next for Aura, repricer premier
To an extent, I had to redirect the dialogue back on track a bit because Dillon will geek out about these concepts to anyone that will listen, and he openly admits it, calling himself a nerd multiple times during our conversation.
What I wanted to get out of him was what the bootstrapped group of three–Dillon, James, and Artem–is going to aim their data science cannons at next. While he wasn’t willing to divulge hardcore specifics, we did dive into the illustrations of their grand visions.
Aura, their sophomore Amazon-centric Software-as-a-Service offering (the first being Vendrive), is self-sustaining. Without taking investment money or being bought out by more conspicuous players, the team is free to innovate in ways they see fit and take big chances.
Earlier I mentioned that the team fixates on automation. That didn’t even begin to touch upon the list of targets.
Repricing isn’t the end-all, be-all. Dillon envisions a world where even inventory, prep centers, and shipping are automated. Some of the driving forces behind this mindset are Salim Ismail’s book Exponential Organizations, a book that focuses on what the next generation of companies look like and why it’ll be exponentially more substantial than anything we see today.
The future for Amazon sellers is inevitably about building an end-to-end, (nearly) humanless logistics, purchasing, and business management network.
He paints a lofty yet not wholly farfetched picture where an Amazon seller has a defined list of SKUs in their inventory. When it comes time to re-order, the seller doesn’t have to do anything. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science drive the decision on not only when to buy but what volume and systems automatically cut the PO and transfer the money to the supplier.
The product is received at a facility somewhere, likely an automated prep center. This obelisk of Amazon seller existence does all the necessary work–or at least provides detailed instructions for humans on what to do–for each order and the items within. The product is shipped out to Amazon warehouses and is put up for sale.
Dillon says their 20-year plan comes from his fascination with what automotive giant Toyota is building with their AI-focused ventures. The future for Amazon sellers, he opines, is inevitably about building an end-to-end, (nearly) humanless logistics, purchasing, and business management network.
Aura is just the first step for the Florida college student, currently powering his way through the penultimate semester before graduation. His repricer achieves his goal of being “simple, yet complex under the hood” and being a resource to grow an Amazon business without having to spend 100 hours a week.
What’s coming down the pipe for Aura and Aura + 1, Dillon hopes, will turn any full-time+ eCommerce business into a few hours/week operation powered entirely by computers. Whether that’ll happen is anyone’s guess at this point, but as with all advancements, they never happen… until they do.
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