Adrian is from Blackpool and is the founder of The Ink Squid. Together with a small team, Adrian specialises in selling compatible ink and toner cartridges for brand-name printers. Having been in business for over 5 years the company have established themselves on multi-channel platforms such as Amazon and eBay as well as their own eCommerce website.
Some thoughts from the interview
“I started on my own out of necessity really because my family company got very badly hit in the recession, in fact we got wiped out. I was in the unhappy situation that I had just got married, had a child and moved house and everything went a bit pear shaped. So I had always played around on computers and like eBay and it was an ideal opportunity to start with a clean slate and pick something to try and sell. I started in a very small office with one type of ink cartridge selling it on eBay and it grew from there. We now sell hundreds of thousands of them to 200 countries on eBay, Amazon, amazon.com, .de and our website growing every day. It has been an exciting 5 years.”
“Very much eBay was the heart of it, certainly for the first couple of years. The website came in around 2013/2014 but it was always the big market places, eBay and Amazon, that drove 90% of the sales. The website was, and still is, a relatively small part of the business. The marketplaces generate most of our turn over.”
“We list directly onto amazon.de, we’ve got lots of out listings translated into German. Spain and France are next, we had to back off a little bit with those because of a few other issues, eBay and Amazon keep changing the rules and bringing in new things such as bringing in EAN numbers.”
“Because we generate our own barcodes, we buy our own barcodes and generate our own product pages because they are the ink Squid brand products so they don’t exist already on these foreign Amazon sites in particular. So we have to start from scratch. We create our own listings for Amazon.co.uk and .com and then in order to put those on to the foreign language sites we have to get them translated as well.”
“It was very much the idea from day one was t rebrand. We white label, we bring in goods that are unbranded to start with and them we brand them and everything is sold as the Ink Squid brand. The brand was pre designed right from the very beginning it has always been that way. That was the vision from day one.”
“We get a good measuring stick from the feedback that we get on eBay, it is not quite the same with Amazon. If somebody is not happy you find out about it very quickly. We are just coming up to 25,000 feedbacks at 100%. The product is as near to perfect as you can get.”
“In a perfect world the website because you have total control of your own customers but you then have got to pay for the visibility and you have got to get that visibility one way or the other. The way you do it on eBay and Amazon is by paying the fees, the way you do it on the website by competing with everybody else and paying your pay per click or SEO fees. In my industry, ink cartridges are an incredibly competitive market and generally speaking whatever you want to purchase will be about 3 times as expensive page 1 than it would be on eBay or Amazon because they have to fund their pay per click campaigns to get that visibility. Whilst I would love the website to be the one that we do everything on, it’s very unlikely to happen. Of the others of the marketplaces, Amazon I would have to say is more expensive but it is a lot easier, it is better organised, it is not as erratic. EBay breaks a lot, it is built on pretty fragile foundations and they are always changing their mind about one thing or another.”
“Maybe I was a bit naive, maybe I didn’t realise that it should have been more difficult than it ended up being. We set off with the idea of having a brand right from the very start so I wasn’t affected by selling branding stuff first and then comparing it with selling our own brand. It started off very slowly. It was one ink cartridge type and we grew it from there. We picked a good logo, we have a good friendly little character in the Ink Squid logo, people seem to like that and it lends it to lots of different types of marketing.”
“What we started we did probably what everybody does, when we were just selling on eBay it was relatively easy to manage. We had a stock spreadsheet and as we ordered we would add things on, and as they sold we took things off. As you add on different products and platforms it becomes harder and harder to track that. As far as the order processing was concerned the first proper bit of software we used called Packing Partner which centralised where the orders came into and allowed us to batch print but even so the stock control was still done by quite an advanced spreadsheet. Eventually it got to a point where the only way we could do it properly was using one of the multichannel pieces of software. There is a few of them, there is channel advisor and channel grabber. We went with eseller pro. That just gives you a lot more flexibility to mass change listings and list on multiple channels at a time. We have been using it about 18 months, it does have its’ pitfalls, it is a very powerful weapon and it can be dangerous when you don’t know exactly what you are doing.”
“We were invited to trial it on 20 of our products, probably about a year ago. We send out 30-40kg every month up the FBA warehouses and we kind of treated it, not really taking too seriously but somethings happened where amazon.com have announced in two categories, office for us, if you send to America in amazon.com we have to send it tracked. Our average order is about £15 it doesn’t make sense for us to send orders to America on a tracked service, we price ourselves out of the market to do that. I think what they are doing is pushing everybody down the FBA route.”
“On a busy day in theory we could do 300 or 400 orders.”
“The number of items that actually go missing in the UK for us is about one or two a year.”
“We know exactly down to the fraction of a penny what we make on every product because we’ve got very, very detailed spreadsheets that account for the weights, postage rates and fees and all of that.”
“The one thing I didn’t realize when we set up was the importance of having a logical and uniform, consistent SKU system.”
Best Advice: “I’ll tell you advice that I wish I would have had five years ago and that is to read a particular book that I’ve only read recently and it has lit up so many light bulbs in my head that I can recognise over the last five years going through these particular stages and it’s a book called The E Myth.”
Book Recommendation: Buy The E Myth Online
What do they offer?
The Ink Squid aim to provide their customers with compatible ink and toner cartridges for brand-name printers. The company buy compatible ink cartridges in very large volumes direct from the manufacturer. The inks are virtually identical and the chips are fully compatible with all listed printer models. They believe that customers shouldn’t have to spend a fortune on branded cartridges when they can buy them for a fraction of the price. Their motto-“ink and toner cartridges from under a squid!”
How to contact The Ink Squid!
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