Is your brand swimming in a red or blue ocean? In part of the Scale your Brand series we talked with Krystel Abi Assi, one of our Seller Velocity speakers, about the perks of entering into the Middle Eastern marketplace and why differentiating your brand into less competitive waters might be the right move for you.
[00:00:07] Chris: Hi everybody, this is Chris McCabe and here with Leah McHugh. We're the co-creators of the Seller Velocity Conference, which is coming up really soon in Bend, Oregon, April 28th and 29th and Krystel Abi Assi is one of our speakers at this year's conference. Hello Krystel.
[00:00:26] Krystel: Hey, Chris and Leah, how are you? So excited-- so excited.
[00:00:31] Chris: We are excited that you're excited and we like that. You're pretty much always excited every time we talk to, we need you extra excited in a different way for Bend, even after your long flights right? To the United States.
[00:00:44] Krystel: It's fine. Yeah. I love flying. Like it's such a privilege nowadays.
[00:00:52] Leah: That's true.
[00:00:53] Chris: And there are people from all sorts of Western States in the United States. Some people from east coast of course, coming to this event and we wanted to just talk to you briefly today about what you plan to speak about and maybe what your big emphasis will be g iven the number of brands you talk to, the number of people you interact with and the wonderful advice that you have, what are you kind of focused on this year for people?
[00:01:17] Krystel: Well, first of all, Chris and Leah, thank you so much for having me as a speaker. It's honestly an honor to be part of your fantastic conference.
And I'm so excited to meet everyone who's going to be there, including all the other speakers and you guys in person as well, even though, I feel like we already know each other, this virtual world is amazing, but meeting in person, you know, that energy. It's just there's nothing like it. So I'm thankful that you guys decided not to create another virtual conference and you're going to do,
[00:01:53] Chris: yeah no more virtual. . We will be telling the world,, these are going to be in person conferences.
[00:01:59] Krystel: Yes. Finally. That's it. It's done no more virtual let's go ahead and do some in-person conferences. So thank you again... . For anyone who doesn't know me or follow any of my content, I'm the founder of a company called Amazon sellers society.
Primarily to our core. We are an Amazon account management agency I set up the company about six or seven years ago. And I was trying to, and you're going to hear me use this term a lot, and this is something that I'm going to be including in what I'll be talking about during Seller Velocity is I was trying without even knowing to build a business based on blue ocean strategy.
So have you heard about that? I'm sure you've heard about, or you've seen the book or maybe potentially the Reddit because it's a very popular book. So I didn't know back then, what blue ocean strategy was, but in inherently, that's how my mind actually operates. So what I wanted to do was I wanted to find these small to medium sized companies and brands, and I wanted to open the world of Amazon to them. However, I thought, okay, let me, where am I going to find these brands in the blue ocean, where I'm not going to find any competitors? So I thought about the Middle East, because that's where I'm originally from. So that's what we ended up doing. So that's why our headquarters are based in Dubai, not because Amazon didn't exist in Dubai. What we were doing was we were actually helping those brands in the Middle East, Dubai is one of the friendliest and the UAE in general is one of the friendliest countries for entrepreneurs. So that's what we were doing.
Nothing related. You know, the Middle East as an e-commerce marketplace or as a place to sell online. Wasn't even, even though I was living there or I'm living there, it wasn't even on my agenda or even on my radar back then. And then what happened was, in 2019, Amazon finally said, okay, now it's time for me to move into the Middle East.
They opened up their first marketplace, their first out of three because now there are three in the Middle East in the UAE where I was. And you know, you know how there's a term, which I'm sure I'm going to butcher, but it was, it was luck, but it took a lot of hard work. So a lot of people thought, oh my God, you're so lucky because you were there at the right time. Well, yeah, but I had a lot of hard work that led to me being there at the right time.
[00:04:39] Leah: Like the overnight success that takes years.
[00:04:42] Krystel: Exactly. So it looks like. Oh, it's perfect. Like it's magical, but obviously nothing is, anybody who's grown a business knows that it wasn't. So we started focusing a lot because we were getting a lot of demand from our clients, from people reaching out to us, say, okay, this is a new market. There's absolutely no information. We don't know anything about it.
[00:05:04] Leah: True Amazon style.
Yes, exactly. And to add to that Leah---
[00:05:08] Chris: Service providers provide that information to amazon business.
[00:05:13] Krystel: We've spoken about that before.
[00:05:15] Chris: We're the unspoken partners of information dissemination..
[00:05:19] Krystel: You're welcome Amazon.
[00:05:21] Chris: No check coming in the mail.
[00:05:24] Krystel: No check, nothing, no sponsorship, no nothing.
[00:05:26] Chris: Volunteered, donated time.
[00:05:29] Krystel: So, that's how we started focusing on the Middle East and because of a lot of things and honestly, because of market demand and because of the situation and the lockdowns in 2020, our business really, really took off in the Middle East. What we ended up doing was we created the YouTube channel and we started putting out even more content and people were finding us this way. So European brands, US-based brands, anybody who needed information because the information wasn't out there, not just for Amazon, but also logistical information. How do I get my products into the country, even though all of the partners were there, but the dots weren't aligning for anyone. And it wasn't really clear. And as you guys know, you might be a 7, 8, 9 figure seller, but that doesn't mean, you know, how to sell in a completely different country where you've potentially, maybe never even visited. So and that's how we started focusing a hundred percent on the Middle East and we decided this is how we're going to be growing. So what I'm going to be focusing on in the conference is talking about why you as a brand or as a business should be selling on Amazon in the Middle East, again, not sponsored nothing. I have nothing other than my belief--
[00:06:58] Chris: You're an ambassador for e-commerce in the middle east in general it's not just Amazon right?
[00:07:03] Krystel: I should get that title for sure it's not just Amazon.
[00:07:06] Chris: You're an e-commerce ambassador for middle east market.
[00:07:09] Krystel: Yes. Yes. Thank you so much.
[00:07:11] Leah: That's actually what's on her business card.
[00:07:15] Chris: But when we first were learning about you and your business. I mean, that's what came into my mind. That was my first experience with you personally, your business, your company was okay so this is not a well known concept in terms of e-commerce marketplace consultants for the Middle East, specifically for Amazon. We know a lot of people in the community. We know a lot of sellers. We know a lot of business owners, investors, whatever, and the Middle East wasn't coming up that much. And so you are kind of the primary source for all of this information and you might stay that way for years. Right? You might be fielding questions, especially after the conference.
[00:07:57] Krystel: Yeah, I'm fine with that. I'm very happy. But let me tell you why I'm so obsessed with the Middle East and it has to do with my love for blue ocean. So after a while, a few years ago, I was so obsessed with this whole blue ocean strategy that I actually went back to university and got certified in the blue ocean.
And you know, I had it inherently. That's how my mind operated even before I knew what blue ocean was. But when I got certified in it, I just completely understood why it was such an incredible concept. So And, you know, that's what we're going to be showcasing in the conference. The fact that the Middle East is a blue ocean in and of itself.
So the idea behind blue ocean strategy is it's basically the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost. Who does not want that? And it basically opens up a new market space or the idea of following a blue ocean strategy, opens up a new market space for you and creates new demand, which potentially means that you leave a red ocean. The reason why it's called the red ocean is because it's bloody with competition.
[00:09:13] Chris: There's too many sharks eating each other in it.
[00:09:16] Krystel: Exactly. So when you want to think about expanding your business, whether you want to create a new product line which obviously, I'm going to give you a few examples of where blue ocean was actually used when companies created new product lines, or you might think, well, I have these fantastic products. Where can I go? And where can I sell these products where I can find a blue ocean, a place where I can find a lot of customers where Amazon and e-commerce is peaking. It's not at its peak, it's like a hockey stick, right.
[00:09:53] Leah: And people have money that they want to spend.
[00:09:55] Krystel: And people have money. These are Oil rich countries and people make a lot of money here and they liked to spend that money just like any other country for sure. Just like any other region. And they love to invest it as well.
[00:10:09] Chris: Right? Not just leisure income spending. Everybody knows how to spend leisure income if they have that much money, but they also are looking, they're getting more into investing in e-commerce.
[00:10:20] Krystel: For sure. So once you want to explore the idea of blue ocean, you can think about a brand. I'm not sure if you've ever heard about, I think you should have heard about it. So it's called Yellowtail, Yellowtail is a wine brand. Yes, I think it was the fastest growing wine brands in US history, just three years and it was incredible. They did incredibly well. So the idea behind it was, they said, okay, we're not going to just follow the normal way of how you would sell a wine and, you know, giving it these really fancy names that most people don't know how to pronounce and get all of these fancy grapes that most people don't know what these grapes are. I just want a nice tasting wine, that's affordable. That's all that I want. So that's what they created. They basically removed all of the fluff around the wine and the whole wine industry, and they just, they created a complete blue ocean by themselves. They're still selling wine. However, You cannot say, oh, I will buy Yellowtail or another brand because it's just completely different.
So many other companies have been able to follow that strategy. Well, for me, I'm not going to be talking about how you can develop a product. I'm rather going to be talking about how you can develop, how you can start in a new marketplace and what you should look for, both when it comes to operations, but also how to make sure that your products are going to be successful in a marketplace like the Middle East, because the challenging part is there are no tools that are currently operating here.
The tools that normally sellers rely on and other tools of course, tools, that give you concrete data for sure. But they don't tell you whether people are going to accept your product yes or no. Whether culturally your product is relevant. Yes or no. So those are the things that we're going to definitely be talking about.
So there's a lot of information and I hope people are going to see how simple it is and how easy it is for them to move into this market.
[00:12:27] Chris: Sure, it's not foreign to people to open an account or start filling in a new marketplace. It's just that this marketplace might be different than other marketplaces, but that as a concept, isn't that new either. So we're hoping you get really good questions from our attendees.
[00:12:42] Krystel: A hundred percent. And the thing is Chris, that I think a lot of people would wonder, like, okay, but like, it's easier for me to go to Europe, like to Germany the UK, or why should I go to the Middle East? So those are the things that we're going to be talking about.
Maybe you shouldn't come to the Middle East. Maybe that's not the right move for you now. But at least let's put it in your agenda. Maybe it's something that you want to do in two years, but you need to be aware that this option is there. And for some people, especially some brands, they find that their products are already in the Middle East.
Other people are selling their products and they're shocked to find that-- what, like, how are my products already there? And they're selling very well. Okay. I might as well just move it.
[00:13:33] Leah: Yeah, absolutely. Or even if their products don't currently fit in that market, maybe consider developing a line of your products that would fit that market better.
[00:13:43] Chris: Right.
[00:13:44] Krystel: For sure. That's a good point. Yes, of course. At the end of the day, there's no specific culture here because it's like 90% of people living in the Middle East and the top three countries, maybe 90% is an exaggeration, but a very high percentage are ex-pats from all over the world.
So I'm sure. Anybody watching this know somebody that lives in Dubai, for example, or has been living in Dubai for, or lived in Dubai for a particular long period of time. So it's a very cosmopolitan country let alone like an Emirate and the whole region is the same. So it's kind of difficult to say, oh yes, this is the culture. It's an arab culture because it's not anymore. It is kind of difficult to try to assess whether your products are going to succeed. Yes or no, so we're going to be talking about all of those things of what you can do to ensure and to figure out if this is a market that's appropriate for you right now.
[00:14:45] Chris: Like market research, the same way when you're doing any new marketplace.
Well, we've got questions for you. We'll save them for the conference. We know that our attendees. ----
[00:14:56] Leah: Maybe I'll actually get time to sit in on some of the breakouts.
[00:15:00] Chris: Yeah. It's a two day event this year. Last year we had in Boston, we had a very packed single day. We're not going to do that anymore.
We're doing 28th and 29th of April-- Bend, Oregon and they've got a great local startup community there, brands that are there. So you will also find it interesting. I think being in the Northwestern or West Coast, US and meeting some people, it's just different from the Northeastern US culturally, the business community is different and we're looking forward to people appreciating those differences.
[00:15:34] Krystel: Perfect.
[00:15:35] Chris: Thanks again, for joining us and coming to Bend with us.
[00:15:39] Leah: Looking forward to meeting you in person
[00:15:42] Krystel: . Thank you so much, guys.
[00:15:43] Leah: Thanks Krystel.