E-commerce Rollercoaster Years: A Fireside Chat with John Ho

Michael MicheliniBusiness, Ecommerce, Podcast0 Comments

In today’s conversation, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a fireside chat with John Ho, the visionary founder of Alt Chiang Mai, a beloved coliving and coworking space. Our discussion was nothing short of a roller coaster ride, as we explored the dynamic shifts in the e-commerce landscape both in the lead-up to and during the tumultuous times of the trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us as we unravel the fascinating story behind the changes that shaped the e-commerce industry during these unprecedented events.

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Post-Pandemic Market Growth

    How significant has the market’s growth been in the aftermath of the pandemic?

  • Changing Buying Habits

    Have there been noticeable shifts in consumer buying habits and purchasing journeys?

  • Thriving Product Categories

    Which new product categories have experienced exceptional success in the post-pandemic era?

  • Adapting Sourcing Strategies

    Have you adapted your strategies for sourcing products to align with the changing market demands?

  • Impact of AI & Automation

    To what extent has e-commerce benefited from the implementation of AI and automation tools since the beginning of this year?

  • Global Trends in Live Video Shopping

    Live Video Shopping has gained immense popularity in China and Asia. Is this trend also making its mark in Western markets?

  • Challenges in Shipping and Logistics

    In the post-pandemic landscape, have there been increased challenges in managing shipping costs and logistics effectively?

  • Supportive Resources in Thailand

    What resources and communities are available in Thailand to assist individuals in becoming successful sellers?

  • Managing Finances in Thailand

    How do you navigate the complexities of handling money and transactions while being based in Thailand?

  • Cross Border Summit Promotion

    A platform dedicated to promoting global collaborations and partnerships in the e-commerce ecosystem.

Thank you, John, for having this insightful chat with me.

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

John’s VIP Page
Alts Chiang Mai
Cross Border Summit, Nov 15-17, 2023 – 2023.crossbordersummit.com
√ Visit our GFA partner –  Mercury  – for US banking solutons for your ecommerce businesss
√ Visit our GFA partner –  Casia Cross Better Logistics  – for your logistics needs

Episode Length 59:11

Thank you, John, for the enriching conversation. And to our listeners, a heartfelt thanks for tuning in and being a part of this.

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Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Global from Asia episode 417. Maggie, do you like roller coasters? Yes. Yes? Okay, we’re doing roller coasters today. Let’s tune in. Welcome to the Global from Asia podcast, where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice. And now your host, Michael Michelinie.

So Maggie, you said you like roller coasters? Yeah. What kind of roller [00:00:30] coasters? Like the mummy one? The mummy, I thought you didn’t like that one. I liked it. Okay, I thought it was scary. Alright, so today’s show we’re doing roller coasters. I spoke at a fireside chat about roller coasters and e commerce.

Maggie and my work. In business we have roller coasters too, like the ups and the downs. Business is scary too. There’s up, it’s adventure, it’s a roller coaster. So, we, I was at a [00:01:00] fireside chat with John Ho at Alt Chiang Mai. We’re gonna have the Haunted House with them too, for Halloween. And, we talk about…

The e commerce, Amazon aggregators and the COVID and all of this crazy stuff that happened the last four or five years in e commerce and it’s kind of lining up to the new, new beginnings open borders and beginnings of the cross border summit in just a couple of weeks, but let’s tune into the show and then after I’ll talk more to Maggie about about the roller coasters.

All right, let’s tune [00:01:30] in global from asia. com slash. Alright, we have Tommy, the sales manager at CrossBetter Logistics. How are you Tommy? Hi, I’m fine. We just got to meet here in Shenzhen, China. It’s great. They support the show at Global From Asia. And we also use them ourselves for many of our brands and e commerce businesses.

And Tommy really cares. They always are try to help us save money. You know, not, you have some products you keep for us in China. You have some products you keep for us in the U. S. [00:02:00] warehouse. And I really appreciate it. I really appreciate that. And you’ll, you can talk to the seller, right? You can give them your advice.

You work with many Chinese sellers a lot, right? And you can help help the sellers understand more. Yeah, we are very professional for the shipment to USA and Canada. Also we have warehouse in USA and Canada. We can help our factories, suppliers, sellers for the shipment. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. [00:02:30] Yep, and you even keep stuff in China too.

So sometimes if you have the Limitations of sending too much to Amazon you keep it here in China with with Crossbetter Or you can send of course to the US warehouse They have many different options and they’re always trying their best to find find out what’s the best solution for you So definitely talk to Tommy, talk to Crossbetter and thank you for your support of the community Yes, we have good pricing and the [00:03:00] better Thank you.

Thank you so much. My name is John. I’m the owner of founder and owner of the co living space and co working space here called Alts Chiang Mai. We are regularly hosting different types of events on a weekly, monthly basis. This one that we’re hosting right now, it’s called the Founder’s Happy Hour, which is also one of my favorite events.

Because every time I invite a speaker there’s a new topic that I’m not a specialist in, but I get to ask [00:03:30] the questions, and I get to learn about the industry, the business, and also the, the people in that area of expertise. And for me, it’s, it’s just a great experience to, you know, learn something from time to time.

And today I want to introduce to you our speaker. Mike, Michael? Yep. Who’s also based in Chiang Mai and who’s a, who’s an expert and a specialist in the e commerce business for how many years right now? Almost 20. 20, right. So maybe we can start with Mike if you can [00:04:00] introduce a little bit about your background where you have been and, and what are you currently doing?

Sure. Thanks for having me, John. Yep. Happy Friday the 13th. I think Freddy Krueger might come in maybe. I saw some memes already. Yeah, so I’m like Mike Michelini. I was born in America. I guess I’m American, but you know we can’t control where we’re born. I always think about that lately. I started selling on eBay in 2004, [00:04:30] having no idea what to sell.

While I worked on Wall Street in New York City on junk bond distressed debt on 60 Wall Street at Deutsche Bank. And drop shipping, wholesaling, retail stores, third party logistics. I had no idea. I had, there were so many stories. I used my fraternity as a warehouse for a while. I had my younger fraternity brother helping me do logistics and receiving.

I had a truly school of hard knocks. Had no clue. None of my family was an entrepreneur [00:05:00] or business owner. Led me to China in 2007. Quit my job in Wall Street before the crash. And started buying from factories in China. Thought I would just be there for a month. Turned into 10 years. Met my wife in Beijing, you know, travel all over China grew a team in the Philippines online and came to Thailand in 2018 because of my two children needing school mostly and the [00:05:30] lifestyle and of course COVID.

There’s a, we’ll talk about that I think in the questions, but basically I’ve been selling on eBay, not anymore, but Amazon FBA, I’ve created and sold a few brands, work with teams, have a podcast, do events, you know, learned about almost every part of the process, the hard way. So I try to make it easier by sharing as much as I possibly can in the amount of time I have.

So, that’s it. Wow, 20 years. [00:06:00] Yeah, next year will be 20. 2004. I understand we also have someone in the e commerce business, but… Can I see a show of hands if anyone is already in, in, in the industry or? Yes. Okay, one, two, three. Cool. We have three people. That’s it. Great. And, and, by the way it’s a very casual setting, meaning if you feel like you want to raise your hands and ask any questions relevant to the conversation, please feel free to do it.

I have an extra mic here that I can just give it to you. Yeah? We good? Cool. So, wow, 20 years. Okay what, [00:06:30] what I want to, like, when we were discussing about the topic today, because I’m sure if we talk about e commerce, we can spend days to discuss this, but I suppose we want to focus more on, you know post pandemic and, and the new trends that’s happening right now in the e commerce because I, I suppose you also have seen all the changes from, you know, eBay as a very popular platform to right now.

I don’t even know what it does. I guess used items or something? [00:07:00] Right. And then to Amazon which is definitely the go to place, but then everyone complains about it because of the commissions they cut. But, but what is… What is the biggest, like, impression you have pre pandemic and post pandemic in the grand scheme of things in e commerce right now?

If you can just have a overview of it. I mean, it was kind of one of the craziest roller, the last four or five years have been the kind of most exciting time of e [00:07:30] commerce. I mean, good and bad. I almost thought our business was dead when March, it was actually Friday the 13th in March when the 2020.

When Amazon stopped receiving inbound shipments when the COVID hit and we thought we were dead. I mean, they didn’t even accept new inbound shipments. They said only they wouldn’t accept inbound shipments for non essential items. It was like basically just masks or the alcohol or whatever they deemed [00:08:00] essential, but my products were not so I didn’t care.

I had a container in China ready to go. They didn’t care. People were not, you know, it’s craziest time that it was Friday the 13th, just like today in 2020 when the whole world, that was, that was like peak craziness that one day. And then people thought their Amazon business were worthless. People thought they were going to go bankrupt.

I mean, some people sold travel accessories and they just dropped. Nobody was traveling, right? Yeah. It was this nightmare, [00:08:30] nightmare. And then it totally went the other way. Aggregators came in, investors, just trying to consolidate all of the businesses. So like within six or eight months, all of a sudden it was like the value dropped and it just shot up because then everybody started Buying online old people that go to the stores.

It was like what people said I wasn’t involved but it was almost like what people said happened in 2003 in China with the SARS happens in the whole world because [00:09:00] SARS is when they said Taobao and You know Alibaba’s all their business started really picking up in China because people were forced to buy online Right, and I think that’s what happened around the world So then everybody was going crazy thinking e commerce is the only way everything has to be going online.

So then all these aggregators started going crazy buying up every business they could and they’re driving the values so high To only they’ll crash and there’s even rumors that the biggest aggregators in Amazon are going bankrupt. [00:09:30] So it’s totally like a dramatic drop spikes drops in the industry So, what was it for you, personally, leaving China, based in Thailand, all these roller coaster ups and downs?

And, and, and right now, like, how are you doing, first of all? Like, are you okay? I mean we have, you know, there’s various Telegram and WeChat, WhatsApp groups. And I was engaging a lot and a [00:10:00] new, new, somebody new came into one of the groups. And he’s like, is there still money to be made on Amazon? Is it, it seems so hard.

I don’t, and a lot of us were saying the same things. It’s not as easy as it used to be. The easy days of FBA was like 2015, 2015, or maybe 16, 17, and then it started getting more and more hard. But we said, you know, I love Tim Ferriss, I don’t want to say bad things about Tim Ferriss, but too many people read the 4 hour work week, come to Thailand, and try to do [00:10:30] nothing.

Or try to do the minimum amount of work, right? And I lived in China for 10 years, and the Chinese sellers are like, these foreigners are crazy, they go to like, to Thailand, or they go to like, Digital nomads and they do their brand and then they don’t they don’t work but like Chinese man Chinese like You go to chinatown anywhere.

They work their their butts off. You know, they work hard You know, I know there’s black hat sellers in china, but regardless of black hat or white hat they [00:11:00] work hard And so I, we told them, you got to build a brand, you got to actually work. Don’t just like use jungle scout, find the supply demand source on Alibaba, you know, throw your logo, send it to Amazon and make money.

It’s, it’s a much more effort now. And for me, yeah, I mean, the crazy story is I moved back to China and COVID, I got stuck in China during COVID for two and a half years. I have a car here. I had my belongings here, but my [00:11:30] wife wanted to go back to China after Christmas, 2019. And we got stuck there.

There’s a much longer story to that, but basically we got stuck there. So on the, on the seller’s side number one, definitely not easier. Number two there seems to be a lot more branding involved. Yeah. Can you elaborate a little bit on that that I guess, and, okay, so before you just pick a product, if it’s in the market that has higher demand, then…

The supply side [00:12:00] or if the margins are right and I suppose you can just sell like a larger quantity But now that game doesn’t work anymore. So what does that mean as a seller? So, you know part of that conversation we had today is it’s not just about working hard. It’s about working smart So you gotta you kind of gotta have a strategy.

So I have a few different brands. I was chatting before Each one has a different advantage or at least I think an advantage one time i’m working with the factory directly where we partner And he’s a shareholder in the brand Other times I work with a really [00:12:30] talented designer that’s an expert on branding and we make a very good brand like Excalibur Brothers is one that I’m working on and it’s very well defined branding and it stands out like night and day because we spend so much on the packaging and the story and the experience.

So you kind of have an advantage, whether it’s maybe you’re direct with the factory or you’re really good at branding. Or the third, which I’m not as good at, but John’s [00:13:00] sitting right here, is you know, unique product design. Like maybe Kickstarter or crowdfunding or even direct to Amazon, but being unique.

Even Chinese sellers are patenting more and they do more legal fights between each other. Because they even want to have a patent, you know, to have a patent on Amazon. Because basically the thing is, Amazon is getting more and more I mean it’s… Following the rules before, you know, you can kind of get away with maybe trademark infringements, even if you didn’t know, [00:13:30] but now it’s the other way.

There’s lawyers that are scraping Amazon suing everybody because you mistakenly use a photo that you didn’t know. Or you use a name you didn’t know you can use or a patent you didn’t know that existed in a patent troll. I feel like their patent trolls are just suing people that, but the guy didn’t even know.

So you got to do like a patent search. You got to do IP search. You got to make sure that you tell all your freelancers, don’t use Google images. Cause I’ll get sued and the going rate is about 5, 000. If you get caught [00:14:00] using copyright images on Amazon, it seems like the lawyer conferences. They kind of start with 10, 000, but usually you can get them down to 5, 000, but usually you can’t get them less than 5, 000.

So usually if you’re selling a product on Amazon and they catch you, they freeze your account, they say to 000 and then you can bargain them to 5, 000 in our experience. But basically what I’m saying is you can’t get away with that whether you did it intentionally or not. So you have to kind of use IP and copyright.

I was [00:14:30] just watching one of your videos that you uploaded, and you were talking to this guy called Max, who’s actually at Amazon, business development, sales or whatever, right? And he was sharing about his, his attempt to be a seller and losing 700, 000 Thai Baht. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was pain, I can’t believe, yeah.

But, but to me, that almost sounds like, okay, like, How, what does it take to [00:15:00] actually understand the game that’s, that people are playing nowadays in e commerce, specifically in Amazon? Like how would you even advise anyone who wants to come into, you know, this for the first time and navigate all these like legal issues, product design, branding, it sounds almost like you have to start your own business, but just.

I mean, some issues he made is he bought too much inventory at the beginning. Right, so Max, I definitely [00:15:30] recommend it, it just came out. He’s the head of BizDev at Amazon Global Selling in Bangkok. Super nice guy and super transparent. He shared about his losing of, yeah, I think 700, 000 baht. But he bought, he just jumped right in and bought a ton of inventory.

I think he did coffee filters, or one of them was coffee filters. And he just sent a ton to Amazon. But, I do the opposite. I send almost the minimum to Amazon when I launch a product. Because as much as we try to do research and think we’re right, you don’t really know until you start. [00:16:00] So, my big tip there is don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t send tons of inventory right away.

Send usually the minimum. And then test it. And then you, cause you gotta be willing to lose or it would be wrong. And I’m wrong a lot lately. And you got to just kill products. You kill it. So my strategy would be choose a brand, not a product. Like choose a market, a niche. Like I said Excalibur is a men’s gift.

I didn’t [00:16:30] say it’s like Flask, although we sell a flask, but you kind of pick a category and then you might be wrong on the first product But you almost treat that like like an MBA. I like, I didn’t do an MBA I had saved money to go to MBA school, but I decided to instead Kind of use that as MBA by doing right so you kind of you could take a course But you can also kind of use that first product even if you might lose on it or make a mistake You can use that as like education, but maybe don’t throw the [00:17:00] whole brand away, but maybe there’s a second product in that same brand Category so your branding can be reused right now.

What about the purchasing side? What about the customer side have they also evolved and what are the noticeable behavior changes? Recently, you know you’re doing, I mean, yeah, it’s been so dramatic. Like, of course, I mean, everyone’s, all of our worlds have been dramatically changed with COVID, but especially like sourcing.

And because [00:17:30] of course you couldn’t go to China, Canton fair. It is happening right now. Actually, I saw pictures and we’re trying to figure out how many are there. I don’t think many are there. I don’t think as many are going there anymore still. But you know, the traditional pre COVID was, you know, go to Alibaba, try to go to Canton Fair, but do it all online.

But these factories are hungry. Like I was in, in, in April this year, I went to Guangzhou, Canton Fair, and I felt like a I’m like a beautiful girl in a nightclub with all guys, [00:18:00] you know, like I was like a target. I had, I felt like a deer, you know, like with wolves. They’re like, come here, my product here, my product here, my catalog, more than ever.

Like they were hungry. Like there was not many foreign buyers and it was way more like domestic buyer. Like they made a new category or maybe it was always a category, but the badges were like domestic buyer. But I think a lot of us felt like we just didn’t kind of fill it up, but [00:18:30] you know, the factories are having trouble and of course trade war, Donald Trump, you know, that, that’s still kind of, I think affected China.

So, you know, even part of my strategy coming here was the source here. I am buying from a couple of factories here I could share about if we have time. But you know, a lot of people are aggressively looking at India, Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, you know, so the supply chain is getting, radically changed.

And yeah, I mean, there’s a lot. I mean, Chinese sellers got wiped. A [00:19:00] lot of them got wiped out in 2021, 2021. Do you think you have advantage over maybe the Chinese sellers in the marketplace because you understand like customer behavior better as a, as an American or like, how, how, how is it? Benefiting you based here and conducting business in the e commerce platform, outside of China, let’s say.

I mean, it’s, I guess, I hate to, it depends, but it depends on the category. So, you, [00:19:30] you, there’s all these tools, like, you know, JungleScale, Helium 10, and they’ll, they’ll, they’ll run a report, and they’ll show you, like, flags, usually, of the seller, where they registered, and there’s, like, Red, you know, the Chinese flags.

It’s like all red, you know, and it’s like that’s usually a scary one when I do a Research and I see like the top 20 30 40 sellers or Chinese sellers not because maybe they’re black hat But they’re just don’t do anything to win. You know, I mean, I respect the [00:20:00] hustle I don’t I have a lot of Chinese seller friends personally, but you know to fight against Chinese seller usually is is is not Recommended But when I do see that, and I am doing that, I try to find something where I can be significantly different than the others.

Alright. I’m also curious, what are the categories that you’re selling products online, if you don’t mind sharing? Maybe Riks? I started selling six years ago, [00:20:30] on Google, from the local Dutch marketplace. Yeah, all, yeah. And, for a Dutch person, that’s very easy. And, when I came to Amazon, So I use open to get familiar with the keyboard

and then after Should be on. No, it’s not. Use this one. Whoop. Oh. Okay, I’ll use this one. [00:21:00] Yeah, we’re trying to record, recording. Test, test. Yeah, it says. After the ball pit call, I started on Amazon, and then I found out Amazon has such a hassle, yeah? And, but about niches, I started on a benchmark place who sells to Belgium and the Netherlands.

And Belgium and the Netherlands are, I think, one of the biggest buy countries in the world. [00:21:30] So, people buy all year, every season. And things for the bike, like, I sell lords and bicycle pumps. Yeah, they break. They break soon. They are, like, sustainable. They need them. We need it. That’s where I started.

And three years ago, I found out about a board game. Very easy. [00:22:00] It’s called Croquenot. If someone knows it, I don’t think so. But yeah. Croquenot is quite popular in Canada. So, I found out about the game in France. I came back home. I wanted to buy it just as a consumer. And I found out I could only buy it in Canada, and in Canada it was minimum 350 euros.

And then, [00:22:30] it’s a 7 kilograms big thing, so shipping it to the Netherlands would be also 200. So, very expensive, and then a bill spring in my head, like, well, I can give it to Europe. Right. So much cheaper to make more available. Thank you. So good. Right. So, obviously it’s a regional play, that I, [00:23:00] I, I, I feel like it’s a regional play.

And John, you’re also in which category, would you describe yourself? I’d say wellness and meditation. Right. Wellness and meditation. And we do not sell on Amazon, it’s only through commerce. Okay. So… That’s a bit difficult. Yeah. And gentleman in the back, do you mind just telling us what category?

Furniture. Cool. All right. [00:23:30] All right. Now all these categories that you hear, like, I don’t know, do you have an opinion in terms of what is a trending category nowadays or like, are you also pivoting to a certain products because you see different markets creating now? You know, I mean. I like I try to think of a category that can go wider, like, you know, I mentioned the brand Excalibur Brothers that we’re doing.

I kind of like it because I can kind of pick almost, almost anything that, and I could put under it [00:24:00] in a way, but it’s men’s gift. One of our team members is like, Oh, I have this really good product for women. Can we put on our Excalibur Brothers? He found a product in our research. I’m like, I think that’d be pretty hard to sell a women’s product under Excalibur Brothers because it’s like And of course the name itself, but not just the name, the way we branded it.

So that’s, I try to like think about the brand that can be wide enough that I could kind of experiment with different types of products. But really what you’re trying to sell, do is selling to a kind of customer. [00:24:30] Who’s your customer you’re targeting? So if it’s bike locks, I think pet furniture, you know, is it, there’s AI tools.

I think we’ll talk about that in a bit. But you can also use AI now to reverse engineer even more of the Amazon listings about what demographic they are. You know, the age, the sex. Well that’s going to, that was my next question because now obviously everyone is talking about chat GPT, AI tools, and do you also use some of these to help you with your business?

[00:25:00] Yeah, for sure, we have to. Of course there’s standard chat GPT, but there’s even specialized ones. That will specifically do Amazon listings to the size, to the length, you know, I mean, you can do a chat GPT with like, you know, John was teaching us about the settings, but they specifically output to the, the length of the bullet points.

And I think everybody has, has to use it. My favorite use case, and I’ve talked about it, is, you know reply as a certain tone. So Excalibur Brothers is, you know, of course, medieval. So [00:25:30] it’s like reply to customer as a king of, a king of England and it says, dear thou art, you know, and it’s one time it was really, I kind of had a joke, but you know, customer service replies.

You could use the tone of your customer avatar. And one time I missed to have a lot of team in the Philippines and they said, Oh, the electricity is out again in my, my district. And I say, write letter to Philippines government as King of England upset the electricity is out. [00:26:00] And it was like this long chat GPT that’s like talking like that.

And so you can kind of, you can be even more creative. And like John was saying, like it makes us do even more. So now it’s just giving us pressure to do more work. Create more content, create more listings, create more social media. It’s just like we’re doing it. So what I’m trying to do is, I have a team, so we’re just kind of trying to get them to do even more than before, with the same amount of resources.

But you sort of have to too, because if you’re not doing it, then every [00:26:30] other seller is going to do more with tools and outsourcing, you know, ways of doing it. But, that’s, that’s the game, and if you’re playing that game, okay. AI, that’s going to help you and I was going to ask you also when the customer has like questions and all that, is it automated, automated response right now or do you still hire the team in Philippines to answer these questions but using ChachiPT to kind of proofread it?

We, we, I tell them please [00:27:00] use AI, I don’t know, there’s some companies, I think big corporations that block AI. I’ve heard like, like large corporations are blocking AI from, I’m like the opposite. I’m like, you better use this stuff. I don’t know why I wouldn’t want you to use this stuff. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want me to use it.

I mean, they, well, Amazon blocked because They were asking Chad to retire for proprietary and then that got out. So, I mean, the models are open. [00:27:30] Every time you chat with them, it’s processed. Right. Got it. Maybe that’s the reason why. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, I, and even today, like, we got a negative review on Amazon.

Well, three star, and she says it’s a, I mentioned bar products, so we sell these condiment holders where you can put your cherries and your, even here you could use it, right, it’s like a plastic thing with like cherries and limes and lemons and, you know, those fruits and they put in your drink, and she’s like, it’s really nice, but I don’t know why it’s not a [00:28:00] refrigerator, it should be able to be plugged in and keep it cold for me, like, you pay 25 bucks for this, and it doesn’t say it’s electric, and, It’s good, but you give me a three star.

So actually even Nico on our team used AI and then We wrote back. Well, he can’t even respond to review, but we sent her a message and we say You could take the bins out and put them in a refrigerator because they’re [00:28:30] the the compartments come out. They’re like plastic A little, like, so you, you know, you can’t say anything, but we write nicely and use AI to write a nice recommendation of, this is how you could refrigerate it, just take it out of the bin when you finish.

Eating your food and dinner and put it in a refrigerator, you know, like hoping maybe she’ll think we’re nice and maybe we Give us a five star. I mean customer service is always the biggest challenge when you’re dealing with, you know b2c Situations [00:29:00] where you just don’t know What type of person is buying your products and how they’re going to complain about it But for sure i’ve gotten a lot less requests to make scripts.

I don’t make scripts anymore for the customer service They all use the AI for scripts and like how to respond to customers. That was like something that was to the native English speaker, me, or some other Westerner that the Philippine team would ask us to see is this okay or can you give me a script.

I don’t do that anymore. Right. That saves a lot of time as well. Yeah. Okay. This, [00:29:30] this is another thing that I don’t know if it’s relevant, but because I, I, I’m, I know people in China and it’s a big population doing live streams. On, on e commerce. And a lot of the platforms in China are already attached, meaning that it’s just a one space that you watch the video, you click the button, the payment is within WeChat or whatever, and then you get the product the next day.

Is live video shopping a thing in the West, or how do you see this [00:30:00] progressing? I, I’m not, I mean, I see that Amazon’s trying to do live and there’s these other lives. I don’t, I don’t see it picking up. I’m not as into pulse though. I do think it does work for certain categories. I think it’s a category thing I think it’s more like a beauty like women.

I have friends that are live streamers in like singapore and it’s like skin or I think women use it more and but I think more effective is just just Like tiktok itself not maybe live but [00:30:30] short video in in the west Does work, but I, I’m not familiar with, I know they’re trying to do more live selling, but I don’t think it’s picked up as much, you know, it’s actually it’s somewhat related, but I remember that was actually a reason why Chinese sellers like to sell in the U.

  1. than China, because even before, like in 2000, when I first came to China, I was like, Oh, I want to sell on Taobao, I want to sell in China and all my staff, I was hiring them. They’re like, you’re stupid, man. You can sell in the U. S. go to sleep. Don’t have to do anything. Wake up and have money in your bank [00:31:00] if you want to sell in Chinese e commerce They would integrate the chat into the search even before live selling.

And every, everybody would just click the live chat, talk to them. Right. Bye. And I feel like live streaming is the same. It’s like you gotta kind of be alive, not alive, but awake and working. Like some of these live streamers, they can’t, they can’t even meet me or come to like travel. They’re like, I have to live stream.

All day or like a lot and it’s like a way to show that they’re alive and that they’re not gonna get cheated. [00:31:30] So it’s like a trusting, I think the west, we don’t need to like watch a live stream or to buy a product, but I think it’s more like a place that needs to make sure that seller or the trust, I feel like it’s more about also the expectation the customer.

Like they expect them to be live at certain time. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, it’s like, it’s more like a trusting, I feel. Okay, interesting. Now, after the pandemic, [00:32:00] also, there’s the issue of shipping cost. And, and just moving products all over the world is Causing many of my e commerce friends, like big headaches.

What is your experience of this? I mean, it’s fine now, I think, right? I mean, look, it’s kind of back to normal. Right. Right? But yeah, there was no reason to be a nightmare in COVID. I mean, the prices went… Everyone’s sending masks. You know, that mask stuff. A lot of Amazon sellers [00:32:30] became mask sellers in 2020.

And I just rolled the shipping like crazy high.

Yeah, Evergreen. Yeah, Evergreen. Yeah, as soon as it came out. Yeah, they got, Evergreen got the boat stuck. They also gave the biggest bonus ever to their Taiwanese team, staff. They were making so much money. They didn’t, it’s not like they were. They made so, they gouged the market. They killed the, they crushed, squeezed all the money out of us.

But now it’s kind of back to normal. I had a [00:33:00] delay launching a brand for like two years because I just didn’t want to spend that much. We luckily didn’t start, so we just waited for years to start. I understand you’re also sourcing products from Thailand. So, what’s the, is it any different from let’s say if you’re selling products that you source from China?

Because also shipping is an issue here. And how do you circumvent that? Yeah, it’s a huge, it’s a huge, it’s been a huge issue. Yeah, we do a few air is not so bad if you’re here lightweight products, you know [00:33:30] DHL and there’s even some others like Unix Press they sponsor some of my events It’s like a kind of middle price So if you’re doing air, it’s not a problem, but if you’re doing sea, you can’t do AGL.

So Amazon Global Logistics. In China, most, a lot more people are using that. It’s like their own, or their white labeled ocean shipping. You can’t do that in Thailand. And there’s not as many ships, plus we’re up in Chiang Mai, so you gotta truck it down to Bangkok and then send it out. So [00:34:00] ocean, but I do ocean here.

We do full containers. But it’s just not as often. And you can’t use AGL. And… Logistics, more of the issue is the culture. We were chatting before, Thai seller factors are not as hungry for customers at all than Chinese sellers or suppliers. They don’t, they’re family owned, they seem to just get by, they’re happy, they don’t need [00:34:30] pressure to make more money, in my opinion, with like four, four or five factories I’ve worked with, they don’t care if you buy from them, so you, and they tell me like, some of them are the younger generation, they’re coming back to Thailand.

So one of them was telling me, he could see how frustrated I was when I met him. And he’s like, yeah, it’s slow, but once you get started, it’ll be okay. But getting started in Thailand is slower and harder. Do you think there’s a [00:35:00] good demand of Thai products or Thai made products in the e commerce space?

I think Thailand is a little bit like India. Where they’re handmade handicraft, you know, Vietnam seems like the, the most similar competitor to buy from China is also a land border with Vietnam and mainland China. So Vietnam seems to be kind of picking up a lot more of the customer, the, the, the leaving China than other parts of Southeast Asia.[00:35:30]

But Thailand, there are some injection mold factories here, but they even buy their materials from China, like, they buy the mold from China. So usually you gotta do, so one, one brand I’m doing is dried grass, like pampas, and so I buy from the farmers. And then we have the assembly, so it’s kind of like a lot of human people.

So it’s funny because labor is going up in China, and The same reason you move from the U. S. to China is why you move [00:36:00] from maybe China to Southeast Asia because it’s a lot of human labor. If it’s just injection mold plastics, it’s probably stuck in China because it’s, all the machines are there, all the production is there.

But if you have like something like clothes, or maybe handicrafts or handmade. That’s probably better to maybe look at moving into like Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia. And what about Amazon as a platform itself? Like, are you [00:36:30] still sticking with it? Because I also hear a lot of people trying to figure out ways to not only create their own brand, but the whole funnel, the sales funnel itself so that people can just.

Like maybe they do SEO better so that they kind of bypass that, that place. What is your thoughts on that? I mean, my, my thought, my thought is I I recommend one channel first, don’t do multi channel at the beginning. So I think if you start your e commerce business, like John does WooCommerce, [00:37:00] I think if you’re gonna start with Amazon, do Amazon.

If you’re gonna start with Shopify, WooCommerce, start with that. Don’t, don’t do two at the same time. So you’ve got to pick one first, get that one going enough, and then go to a second. I personally choose Amazon first, because I can while it’s expensive in fees and PPC, I can get turnover pretty consistently.

Because once you get turnover, you can get your price down on your buy side, your factory side. [00:37:30] And also what’s happening is, so like the bar products, a Portuguese distributor contacted our website. I think he saw us on Amazon, because we’re not really promoting it anywhere else but Amazon. So I think there are people searching Amazon and then they actually go to your website.

I got in so much trouble with eBay. They almost banned me. They kept warning me because I would put, like, my website in my listing. I wouldn’t make it a link, but I would put, like, a New York bar store and then Space Com. And then they kept fighting me and fighting me and [00:38:00] fighting me. And I kind of, it’s hard to do that on the Amazon.

But I still try to really brand, brand, brand. Because you can still build a brand on Amazon. And while you might pay a high fees, you’re still kind of making money or even breaking even for a while, you’re building your brand. And of course, once you have a brand, I think that’s the most valuable thing.

That’s the value. With AI and all this stuff, I feel most bullish on brand. Personally. Of course, you can see service [00:38:30] brand, personal brand, product brand. We’re talking about product brand, but I feel like product brand is the most valuable thing with AI because people need to trust a brand to choose between others.

So I’m building brands. Yes, on Amazon first, when I’m ready or when I when I have time, I can then open to multiple channels. And I can use my, my, my turnover and success on Amazon to go multiple channel. And I still, I still defend Amazon a bit. I know they’re a bully and I know they’re [00:39:00] expensive, but you can still use that to kind of bootstrap your brand.

And that’s what I’m doing. Or at least get some traffic going on to, you know, have some brand awareness so that when you decided that you want to just shut down the listing, then people will know where to find you at least. Yeah. Right. There are some people that do that and there’s some stories because they don’t delete your listing.

So, one of my friends back in the day did a photo frame. He’s an inventor. He invented the photo frame that was wireless 2000.[00:39:30]

Eight or nine, it would change the photo automatically from your maybe USB drive or computer. This is old school, but he got so upset because he was on Amazon and he starts on his website and he ranked on Google, but his Amazon was above his website and he didn’t have stock. And people would contact him on the website saying, can you please put more stock in Amazon?

I want to buy from Amazon. He’s like, Amazon, take off my listing, but Amazon wouldn’t remove the listing out of stock or [00:40:00] even his other sellers would sell on his own listing. So that, that’s, it’s kind of hard to stop in a way once you start, but but yeah, I mean I’m also working at a very early stage, I’m working on a web 3 e commerce solution at this early stage, but I believe there’s going to be more alternatives.

Any specific challenges based here as a seller and dealing with money transactions? Coming in and going out that you want to share, you know, I mostly still operate with us companies and Hong Kong companies [00:40:30] personally When I talk to you about when they decide to open a company where there’s three reasons to open a company in my opinion to sell there to hire there or to get a visa there like a immigration so Those three reasons, you know, in Thailand, it seems like a lot of people do it to get a visa, you know, They have to open a company, hire four people.

I don’t know if you’re doing that, John. Some people open restaurants and bars. Do you need to be in a jurisdiction to [00:41:00] sell there? Or can you not just have your company grab this offer to sell? Sure, so the question is do you need to be, have a company in the country to sell there? No, that’s what cross border e commerce kind of is.

The difference is that means the buyer is an importer, even if it’s B2C. That’s why they complain about the tax, you know, the, the duties. Whether it’s Thailand, right? If I ship to Thailand from Amazon US and the agent says I gotta pay 100 on a [00:41:30] 40 item or something stupid, right? That means you’re basically making that buyer be the importer.

So… Yeah, cross border, you don’t have to have it there, but to sell easily there locally to issue with tax receipts.

Basic, basically, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid tax across border e commerce. Back in the [00:42:00] day, especially Chinese sellers kind of, kind of screwed it up for all of us, because they would just sell in Europe, for example. And Europe has VAT, high VAT, right? I mean, he’s, and they would just bypass that, because they would just not have anything there.

And then the local sellers got upset, because they have to pay the, I don’t know, I don’t do Europe much, 17%? Or there’s like, 21? And then the Chinese seller, or the foreign seller, or international seller didn’t have to pay any. So the governments, all the governments are [00:42:30] getting smarter to that or finding more ways.

So it’s getting, the kind of a gap is closing on all of these tax cross border transactions. But then I’d imagine the virus is going to get charged to someone somewhere along the line and that cause is going to be passed on to it’s, you know, like the, that’s what it’s called. Like a B2C, if it’s a small package and they don’t catch that, there’s tons of these small packages.

And they don’t bother, or they don’t check, or whatever, it can slip through, but [00:43:00] that’s the risk. And that’s why usually, like, people complain, and people don’t receive it, and then they send it back, and it’s a whole fight. But, you know, if you read on a cross border transaction, it says you, you’re, the buyers needs to pay the duties.

So they try to, like, declare the value under, like, each country, like, maybe 50, or whatever the value is. Okay I feel like I’ve asked a lot of questions.[00:43:30] Maybe there’s the audience side that also want to ask more questions to Mike. So this is the Q& A part that if there’s anything that you want to ask, you can raise your hands and we can give you a, a mic just here.

Yeah. I got it. I got the mic.

It’s working. What is the name [00:44:00] of of that specific Amazon listing AI? Yeah, I know it’s not that I don’t want to say, I just can’t remember it, also Google, I think, basically, you can look at a lot of these… I think even the team still uses ChatGPT now, but I got a lifetime deal, maybe John can remember, but there’s some of these template y ones that are just easier for people where they give templates of AI outputs and they can do…

Copy. [00:44:30] AI? It wasn’t copy, I mean it was a hard one. They have these kind of like geeky names that doesn’t have verbs in the middle or something. I mean I don’t think we’re using it as much, but basically you get Instagram posts or you can get Amazon Listing is one of them. So you put your prompt and it automatically spits it out, but you can kind of do that pretty easily now within chat GPT.

That was maybe earlier this year, like January. These are all coming out. I’m sorry, I knew, I was hoping it would be asked because I couldn’t remember the name. No worries. [00:45:00] Sorry, sorry. Hey, could you that’s okay. Can you tell, can you tell me a little more about the your web 3 e commerce? Is that, and when, when will it launch?

What’s your expectation? Sure. So he’s asking about the web3 e commerce I mentioned. So yeah, we call it Loadpipe. It’s going to be a new protocol for e commerce transactions on, on, on chain or on a blockchain. We started it by buying Purse. io, which is a tool to buy [00:45:30] Amazon with Bitcoin. It’s been around for nine years.

I’ve met the founders during COVID. They got delayed a month until November to close. Everything is getting pushed back and so that’s why I don’t, you know, I don’t like to be the person that keeps pushing back dates. We hope to make an announcement at the summit next month, but we’re trying to have something ready by mid November So it’s always one month away.

Well, no, I always wanted But it’s a huge it’s a huge it’s a huge project but [00:46:00] actually It’s been moving faster than I thought we were getting a lot of people interested in in it And how would we find more about it? Do you have a website? Yeah, loadpipe. com There’s an email registration for be the first to know.

Thanks, John. Cool. Yes Derek? Yeah, I’m just wondering Thanks for sharing everything so far. I’m just curious You’re building like a lot of different brands and I’m [00:46:30] wondering what is your thinking behind let’s Let’s do this product, let’s do that product, let’s build this brand, as compared to just focusing on one brand and making that.

That’s a good question, it’s a good, you sound like my wife. But She’s downstairs maybe. But I mean that’s a fair question, I mean. I always choose diversification personally, and also, it’s maybe even COVID’s fault. COVID, I can blame COVID, but [00:47:00] one was Asato, the bar products brand with the, that lady who wants the electrically cooled condiment holder.

We had to delay launching like two years, two and a half years. And the product is sitting in the warehouse in Hua Hin. It’s made in Hua Hin. So I, what I’m supposed to do is wait until this brand is ready. You know, like during, especially COVID, you know, I, I, I launched another brand with a friend, Luciano.

And we, he’s a designer. [00:47:30] And we use a new model for that. So they’re all different, I have different partners in each one. And so, I try to partner with, like find, like I mentioned earlier, I try to find a strategic advantage of that brand. It also lets me experiment more. But I do it by category. Like, I don’t compete with myself in the same category.

And and also, I’m a creator. I’m not, I’m not really a business person. I, I, I, I’m the person that will just… So many of my business partners and friends say you should just go into some huge corporation and work [00:48:00] in the R& D and just get a budget and just build stuff in a, in a, I guess I’m like a R& D I love to create.

And so I’m not sure if I advise making multiple brands is very hard, but you try to have a one person that’s the kind of brand manager and I’m not that on all the brands. So what I’m trying to do is have my operating team that’s kind of managing the brands and using our skills to manage the brands.

Well, we have one of the partners that’s kind of the brand manager that knows that brand and that product line. So your, your [00:48:30] operations actually, you have one operations team that manages all the brands. Yeah. And then you have one key person. Yeah, it’s usually the partner.

Anyone else? I have,

I have maybe one more question because I understand you also have a team in Philippines. Can you tell the audience, like, what do they usually manage how does the work goes [00:49:00] and what’s the experience, you know, hiring a team outside like in Philippines that helped you with your business?

Sure. So in the Philippines. I first started working with Filipinos in China when I met I met them at the bar. And I was like, man, your English is really good. What? You’re Chinese? No, I’m not Chinese, I’m Filipino. Like, Filipino? I didn’t really know Filipinos in America, I’ll be honest. I’m just one of those ignorant white guys in the U.

  1. that thinks all Asians look the same. [00:49:30] But, I started learning about Philippines when I was in China in 2008 from my bar nights. And they’re great singers. Right? There are a lot of good Filipino singers. And you know, I put job posts out on English, like, media websites in China, and it would apply.

And, you know, of course, just like in Thailand, it’s hard to hire foreigners in, in a country, because locals get usually preference, or government wants you to hire locals. But I was kind of secretly hiring [00:50:00] Filipinos in China, like, under the table. Don’t tell the Mr. Xi, he might send police to get me in Thailand, but and then they would not be able to stay in China and they had to go back to the Philippines, Marie.

So I started with Marie. She’s married to a German now in Germany, speaks German, but she got stuck in Chi Philippines, couldn’t come back to China. And then I said, stay there. In 2009, I said, just stay there and maybe we can hire more people. And you know, I would go there sometimes. You know, Filipinos, I [00:50:30] think they’re the third or fourth biggest population in the world of English speaking people.

They learn English when they’re, they’re school. And the cost of labor is very low. The, you know, I think it’s their government’s fault. But I guess I’ll take, you know… I guess I, you know, I give them more than I think of their normal jobs, but basically I have 15 people now and they do a lot of content creation.

It’s basically content. We have even this podcast, Alvin will be editing this. Hopefully, I think the camera died, but we’ll do the [00:51:00] audio on the other half. So this show will be done by Alvin. He’s in Cebu. He’s amazing. And I believe team is the most valuable thing I’ve been, especially when I got stuck with COVID.

I doubled down on leadership management training, I’ve read John Maxwell books. I recommend reading leadership, leadership books by John Maxwell. I’ve read a few of them two or three times, but basically team is everything. And yeah, I’m so impressed. Like I’m so impressed with some of the [00:51:30] talent, whether it’s Filipino or anywhere, but Philippines, especially the English and the labor cost.

So I have an Amazon team, and I have a content team, and a marketing team. And, it’s so hard. It’s so hard. You know, like, Sally’s father died earlier this year. So she was out, and her mother died two days ago. So she’s out right now. So there’s lots of hardships in film. I [00:52:00] guess I have big families.

Bullshitting me, I, I believe it, so that’s why you just gotta, almost have to have like two, three people in each department, in my experience. Because one of my friends, he had one superstar that could do everything, and last week she left, he’s dead. He’s like, he can’t even do a webinar, we’re supposed to do a webinar, he, he, he canceled it.

I mean, we didn’t really promote it much, but he was in the webinar, and he had to cancel it. So you [00:52:30] have, I have to kind of build a diversified team. That’s the biggest problem people have. They complain about, say, Philippines or a hiring online because they put everything on one person and one person disappears, family dies, gets sick, gets on a job.

So he’s, my wife, again, is critical of me. She’s like, you have so many people, you waste all your money on that, but you’re trying to build a huge empire. And I believe a team is the most critical part.

Yeah, you [00:53:00] travel a lot, you see them locally, but you also have fiverr or Upwork.

Are you also finding people there? So finding people, again, I don’t want to show off, but I’m at another, another level. But I used to do onlinejobs. ph. I’d say it was probably the best. One of the better ones now, but now I’m so blessed. I actually, I wish it is so much longer, but during COVID I hired HR.

So I have an [00:53:30] HR manager and she hires. And so she goes to like Facebook groups in Philippines and she’s posting in like Filipino Facebook groups. Mostly now. So, if I have to just wrap it up and have a takeaway, focus on the branding use AI tools and build a very strong team. Yeah, I’d say, you know, we, we, we, we talk about product or marketing, right?

That’s kind of the two main [00:54:00] parts of a business. And I think if you’re an Amazon seller or e commerce seller, it’s more and more important product now. And most sellers would agree with me. Of course, when you do marketing, I’m going to say not do marketing, but I, I feel product is more important. Okay. Now I just want to conclude this session of the event because usually I would like You know, like, to have a more proper conversation like this format so that, you know, I can really think of the [00:54:30] questions and have Mike or any of the speakers just answer them.

But then, after this we have snacks and we still have drinks for sale. And I’d really like you all to just network, get to know each other, and if there’s any more questions to Mike. I think your Halloween part, you have a Halloween event and I have a cross borders summit. Yes and we also need to promote two events that’s happening in November.

Maybe you can start with your event first. Okay. Yeah. So in almost exactly one month on the 16th and 17th of November, plus the 15th, we just added an expo. We’re going to have a cross border summit. [00:55:00] It’s a paid event, premium event two full days. We’re bringing speakers that have never been to Thailand before.

If you know about Amazon sellers like Danny McMillan Chris Rawlings, Howard Tai, the professor. So, you know, we’re investing a lot, bringing these great people here to share. It’s going to be heavy Amazon day one, day two will be more multi channel markets. It’s called Cross Border Summit and it’s not for a new seller, so you’re welcome to come, but it’s a little bit more advanced, experienced sellers, [00:55:30] so if you’re interested, and if you just want to dabble, on November 15th, we’re adding a new expo.

We’re going to do the first e commerce expo in Chiang Mai. The day before at crossbordermatchmaker. com. You can check that one out. So, that’s my two plugs. We have, we actually have a couple flyers that we’re going to put on our notice board. But if you want to check it out, you can also ask AP. Another promotion that we want to do is…

Halloween is coming, and so from [00:56:00] 28th until the 31st of October, it’s a four night event. We’re going to have a haunted house experience, but a more artsy, immersive theater style Halloween. This is our third year doing. It’s called Alt. So Scary. AP. If you purchase the tickets from this property or from us, you get 50 percent off half price.

So, you know, dress up, deal, half off ask for friends. It’s a [00:56:30] great event. And, and, and really we want to bring, I think me and Mike, the commonality here is like, we really want to bring like good events and the talents and the community to be more like active Chiang Mai. So. Thanks so much for coming here and to share your experience.

Thank you all for coming. And I hope you have a good night.

And thank you to our sponsor, our [00:57:00] returning sponsor, mercury. com online bank. Well, it’s a real bank, but you can totally online for us. Our blimp program participants are going through this as well. Thank you. Mercury. Travis is great. There’s been on our shows, been in our events. We’re going to have another event where we will have them attending as well.

And if you want to get a little bonus for you and us, if you sign up and do some special circumstances, you can go to globalformation. com slash mercury. I also have a video tutorial that we use even for the blind people. I use the same exact video to learn how to use [00:57:30] it. I hope you can check it out.

Totally free. Why not? See you there. So Maggie, why did you like the mummy rollercoaster? I thought you said that that was scary. I like. It because it’s scary. You like it because it’s scary. That’s actually cool. In, in business, we have to like something too because… If it’s scary, even though something’s scary, you need to still do it, because that’s how you get [00:58:00] stronger.

That’s how you grow, by doing something that scares you. They say something like, do something every day Maggie, that scares you, and will make you stronger. I, I wanna go to the, the place, the haunted house. We’re gonna go. Wait, what is it called? Is it called a spooky ground? It’s the Haunted Mansion, I think.

Not a bathroom. Oh. Okay. [00:58:30] The Meena. Yeah, so this show is going to go online on Halloween 2023. But Mina’s also gonna come. Yeah, Mina’s coming. It’s gonna be great. Alright, well Miles is in the bathroom, Maggie. So, I think we’re gonna finish this show. GlobalFormation. com slash rollercoaster in business and in life.

Alright, say goodbye, Maggie. Bye bye! Miles said bye too. Bye! To get more info about running an international business, please [00:59:00] visit our website at www. globalfromasia. com. That’s www. globalfromasia. com. Also, be sure to subscribe to our iTunes feed. Thanks for tuning in.

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