How To: Print Emails & Attachments from your iPad – Google Cloud Print

Recently I purchased a new printer, an all-in-one device, with the added bonus of it being able to be connected via wifi, the black plastic lump even has its own email address and its own apps! I was looking in the user settings of Chrome when spotted this purely by accident and realised it was super neat.

Google Cloud Print Overview

Google have introduced a service called ‘Google Cloud Print‘, which is quite similar to Apple’s AirPrint enabling you to print wirelessly from any device, including an iPad.

However unlike AirPlay, this service is triggered remotely Googles web apps, like Gmail, which means you can print from any network. Super handy for me if I’m out grabbing a coffee, by the time I get home, I can have the latest brief printed off and waiting for my arrival.

Setting up Google Cloud Print

This is child’s play, even I could do it :X Open Google Chrome and navigate to the spanner icon and then select ‘Options’. Scroll to the bottom and hit the sign-in button next to ‘Google Cloud Print’, as shown below:

Google Cloud Print Options

Next, sign in with your Google account information and you’ll see a ‘Success!’ page, you cannot miss it, it has a big green tick on it, like below:

Google Cloud Print SuccessHitting the “Print a Test Page” button is advisable to ensure this actually works and that one has remembered to turn the printer on, give it juice and ensure it has a tree to print.

If you then hit the ‘Manage Print Settings” you can alter which printers you would like available to print with and delete any that are not required.

Google Cloud Print Printers

Time to test!

Now this is the neat bit, grab you iPad, iPhone etc and open up Gmail, from the drop down menu go to print and you should see a menu similar to this:

Google Cloud Print on the iPadSelect a printer and hit print in the bottom right corner and you’ll be notified that the print job has been added to the queue.

Google Cloud Printing - QueueSummary

I tried the email address thing for the printer and wasn’t impressed, I got a load of extra junk printed along with it. This way I you get what you print and enables me to print outside of my office network.

Google Cloud Print also supports printing more than just emails, you can print Word and PDF files too. So if I ever say “The documents are on the Printer” it doesn’t matter where I am, they really are on the printer!

People don’t want Email they Want ME-Mail – Seth Godin

Seth Godin a complete genius in my eyes. I’m current reading his book called ‘Tribes, We need you to lead us‘ and it is, he is, amazing, correction, the correct word is ‘remarkable’.

I’m going to keep this article short, but don’t think you’re going to be lucky today, I’m leaving you with three videos from, grab yourself a cuppa and watch these. They’ll be the most well spent 20 minutes of your entire week. Well, besides calling me on (0)7527 680 153 to help grow your business.

There are too many brilliant quotes to list them all here, but look out for this quote:

People don’t want Email, they want ME-MAIL. Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me-Mail

Think about it, I want, as you want, to read email that is about you. Me Mail. Oh and the purple cow. Oh and the Lava lamp. What am I talking about? Watch the videos.

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Seth Godin: This is broken

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

Seth Godin on standing out

Would you go?

Well would you, would you go and see a massive lava lamp? Pretty remarkable eh?

Argos is Kicking eBuyer’s Butt on eBay

Here is some irony for you, eBuyer the on-line technology retailer is getting its arse kicked by a catalogue store on eBay. I’ll be quite open when I say I am taking the piss a bit in this article, but on a serious side, I’d have expected a lot more from  a solely eCommerce based company like eBuyer.

The thing is I really do quite like eBuyer, they are a natural second behind Amazon for technology purchases (eBay comes in third). eBuyer has to be one of the best examples of a company that has fantastic data, a great brand, but seems to think some-how that does not count for eBay.

Non Fluffy Version

This is actually the first version that you’re viewing now, I did create a second copy that was reworded in many areas, but I felt this version had more bite so kept it. Let me know if you think I was wrong to choose this version and that I should have released the ‘fluffy’ version instead.


Lets put this in perspective, firstly we have Argos, traditionally a high street retailer that leveraged the huge power of catalogues and in-the-home shopping. The Internet was probably somewhat of a second thought to them, but they’re doing a fine job now.


And then we have eBuyer a Rotherham garage start up whom had £250K pocket change (WTF?) and started an eCommerce giant which we know as eBuyer. Naturally you would be expecting that a leading on-line, technology led company such as this to be creaming anything eCommerce wise.

How wrong are we!

There is a saying for this, its called the ‘Face Palm’, as defined by Wikipedia:

facepalm is an expression referring to the physical gesture of striking one’s own face in a display of exasperation. In Internet discussions, the term is used as an expression of embarrassment, frustration, disbelief, disgust or general woe.

Argos Rocks eBay!

Argos is the dark horse here, they have really got their stuff together. Lets take a look at one of their listings. A screen shot is below and you can view the item in the flesh here.


Click Image Above for Full Size version

Its blatantly obvious they have customer services issues but its also clear that they give a hoot and are following up comments and must be working hard in the background.

I like the Argos eBay outlet for many reasons, here are just a few:

  1. Consistent branding across all channels
  2. Not the best eBay shop, but it looks like Argos and they have done an awful lot more than some
  3. Semi decent picture (in the listing)
  4. Their listing templates are well laid out (*coff*, need shipping on the right lads!)
  5. Descriptions are about the best you’re going to get from a company of this nature
  6. We have integrated reviews! (monster unique selling point)
  7. OooO I just spotted social links, that’s naughty the official line clarified with eBay only a few days ago that this was still a very grey area on the links policy and this was not allowed.
  8. A categories menu with extra links
  9. A featured listings gallery

I could go on and on, but in short I quite like the operation being portrayed.  Yes they need some refinement but its doing them good for now. 8/10 for the lads over there at Argos. Wooohooo!

Brewery, Piss Up, FAIL?

Lets take a look at one of eBuyer’s listings, don’t get too excited though, there is very little to gawk at.


Click the Image for a Larger Version

Errr ok, credit is due for having three images and a better description than Argos. But where is the rest of it?

  • What about the shipping prices?
  • No images in the listing area?
  • What about the other products from Tenda?
  • What about the the 32 reviews FIVE STAR they have for this item on their website?
  • Where are the exit points?
  • How much is shipping?
  • Am I saving anything?
  • Is it new?
  • Is it used?
  • I’m an idiot TELL ME in PLAIN ENGLISH what this is about
  • Lead me, I am a sheep
  • That’s some horrible fine print bullets, can I buy this item, am I eligible?
  • What about the 14 forum comments for this item?
  • What about the consistent branding?
  • What about everything someone forgot to put in the listing?

The Irony Is….

That for the past 30 days, Argos are only just beating eBuyer for sales on eBay by a mere £160K. Argos have almost done £1.2M and eBuyer have done £1.04M for 30 days Dec 21st 2010 to Jan 19 2011.

But when you look at the average selling prices (ASP), Argos is shifting way more kit than eBuyer (about three times), as eBuyer has an ASP of £115 and Argos has an ASP of just £37.

Imagine If…

The technology company actually got its act together and focused on its listings and presence on eBay properly and stopped doing silly things like this video and focused on leveraging the sales channel to its full potential. All the things that an eCommerce should know and should be putting into practice and seem to have forgotten.

If you are eBuyer & are reading this:

Read this article, its in plain English Dear, You Could Be Doing So Much Better on eBay UK. Here is How! I hope it helps, because I would be embarrassed to be having my arse kicked by an off-line, catalogue pusher.

If you’re not eBuyer & are reading this:

I sincerely hope that that your business is not presented so poorly, there is so much to be learnt from Argos and the question is:

Do you agree that Argos is kicking eBuyer’s butt?

Comment form is below!

A Previously Unreleased eBay Shop Exposure Tip

This one is little amusing and I only know of a few people have done this and I was the one told them that it even existed.

The Background

While running my own eBay business and few years back, paying out +£200 for an eBay shop was a large expense, back then it was nothing like today’s eBay shops, I had to be ‘authorised’ by someone in in eBay USA and it took several weeks to be set live, none of this flop £350 on the desk and off you go stuff.

Neither did the store have the kind of listing exposure that you probably enjoy now. We used to have something called ‘Store Inventory format’ or SIF for short. Also in short, it was expensive and equally crap.

Without the exposure and added costs, you were truly left to your own devices to promote your store and its listings, which lead me to explore the threshold that makes one store appear in a category in the eBay shops directory.

The eBay Shop Directory

There is a eBay shop directory (Matt hears *gasps* from the readers, no there really is a eBay shop directory) on eBay that follows the eBay category structure, you can see it here and a screen shot is below:


Taking a closer look we have these features:

  1. A search box
  2. A set of categories to the left, that look a lot like the normal eBay categories
  3. Images of the Anchor stores
  4. Several featured shops

You can see a similar layout in the screen shot below, this is shown after clicking into a sub category on the left. You’ll also notice that no basic shops are shown in these results.

ebay shops directory anchor shopsPay Close Attention

Now pay special attention to the left bar, as I hinted above, this is a copy of the  eBay category structure. What I found that the threshold was really low, you just need 5 listings in a given category to provoke the store to show up in the eBay shop categorisation.

So if you’re paying out what is now £350 for an anchor eBay shop (even £50 for the featured eBay shop subscription level is a lot to some), this tactic could gain you extra visitors to the shop and your listings.

Not Spam

I know exactly what one reader (yes that’s you Mr David M!!! I told you I would mention your name this week) of this blog will be thinking when he reads this article, spam.

No, I am not suggesting you spam eBay with random miss-categorised items. I am suggesting that you selectively tailor a selection of items to each category to optimise your search results, while adding variety to the passing buyers.

Possible Example

For example if you sold batteries and mainly computer related items, you’ll naturally be shown in the computing categories, however you could make 5 different battery packs for a specific toy and list it in the toys category #234 or similar.

Check this eBay category structure link, the numbers to the right of the categories similar to (123456) are the item counts for that given category, this tells you which category you should be looking to make packs for.

If you’re anchor level, you should see the most benefit, as the added logo helps convert and the listing fees are dead cheap, even at the ‘Feature eBay shop’ level where the listings are 5p a pop, for 25pence, you can be exposed to an entirely new section of eBay.

Do Not Leave a Comment!

Don’t want to comment on this article? You’re not the only one I can tell ya!

I love receiving emails from my readers, several blatantly say they do not comment because they do not want reveal their names to the outside world, because they do not want others knowing they read this blog, its quite amusing and quite a paradox too.

Mail me directly:

Your Marketing Sucks – Book Review

Your Marketing Sucks” is a brilliant book written by Mark Stevens and really hammers home the hum-drum sucky marketing out there.

While on my way back from a relaxing few hours in the coffee shop where I finished off a different book called Consumerology that takes a psychological approach to why we buy I spotted this sign. I had to stop, I immediately realised it sucked:


This sucks

Mark highlights why there is a high turn over of Marketing managers out there, its because they have become accountable. Not only does he point out how people camouflage spending as marketing, but also how to implement a plan to make sure that your marketing does not also suck.

A brilliant quote from the book is below:

The only way to gauge marketing is to ask if it generates a significant return on investment and in turn helps to grow your business.

Its only a 200 page read and I’ve re-read it twice now, this is a must read for anyone with a small business.

Your Feedback

Read a great book recently? Add a comment or shoot me an email I’ve picked up some outstanding books on personal recommendations and would like to hear from you.

My1stWish Smashes +100,000 eBay Feedback

Its not everyday someone can say they topped one thousand feedback comments on any platform, let alone one hundred times more.

I still remember getting my first score of 10, then 100 feedbacks and then another new star for 1,000 feedbacks, never did I believe back then that I’d personally top 14,000 feedback on single account on eBay, but be involved with companies that did this for breakfast.

One such company that I have had the delight of working with since its creation a few years ago was My1stWish and I’m happy to report that they recently topped the scale by achieving the level of over 100,000 positive comments on eBay.

The moment it happened was caught for wall mounting:


About My1StWish

If you’ve never heard of My1stWish, then you’ve never been in the eBay clothes, shoes & accessories category on eBay UK. My1stWish are a brilliant example of a small business that grew from a bedroom to a turnover of several million pounds in only a few years. Covering eBay, Amazon, websites and International markets to aid their expansion.

Coming Soon…

There is more to follow along the lines of this topic, may be tomorrow? You’ll have to wait and see. Stroke the lantern Aladdin :D

Fulfilment By Amazon Webinar: Shipment Creation and Inbound Process

Fulfilment By Amazon. FBAIf you’re interested to understand in more detail how the shipment creation and the inbound process of Amazon’s fulfilment services (FBA) works, Amazon have a webinar at 5pm GMT on Wednesday 26th January.

I have attended a few Amazon webinar’s in 2010, they were well laid out and always learned something new while watching, the questions & answer sessions at the end can be very useful too.

Register Now

Apparently space is limited (is this a modifier to provoke action?) you can register your place following the link below:

Or for those whom need a call to action button, click the button below:

Register Now

Webinar Overview:

We are pleased to invite you to this FBA webinar focusing on the topic of sending shipments to our UK fulfilment centres. We will discuss the following:

– Quick Reminder about the shipment creation process
– Amazon’s requirements and restrictions
– Examples of common mistakes and problems which occurred last year
– Q&A

A representative from our operations team will be there to share first-hand experience and tips on these issues.

This session will mostly focus on learning how to improve your shipment process and avoid inbound problems. We will dedicate as much time as possible to questions.
For sellers starting with FBA, who are not familiar at all with the shipment creation process, we recommend you to first watch the recording of our previous webinar ‘Create your first shipment’, located here.

Title: Fulfilment By Amazon: Shipment Creation and Inbound Process
Date: Wednesday, 26th January 2011
Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM UK Time

PS: Thanks to Carole from the Amazon FBA team for clarifying the day as the dates were out

How To: Win the Amazon Buy Box

For seasoned sellers, they know when they get the Amazon Buy Box, because they start receiving batches of orders. Its literally an ON/OFF switch for orders once the Amazon Buy Box is enabled for that seller.

In this article I will explain to you what the Amazon buy box is, what impacts it and how Amazon FBA can weigh the odds in your favour to win it.

So what is the Amazon Buy Box?

The Amazon Buy BoxUnlike eBay where you can have multitudes of the same item over many listings, Amazon’s format is different, Amazon has one ‘master’ listing and then allows multiple sellers, including itself to sell that item.

This master item, contains information that is an amalgamation of data from eligible sellers of the given item. Although some master items are created by Amazon themselves and contain more in-depth descriptions than they allow merchants to create

The ‘Buy Box’ is Amazons way of sorting the sellers that have the master product available to the customers.

You’ll notice that there are two parts to this ‘Buy Box’, the one that merchants fight for are the upper ‘Blue Buy Box’, this is how the vast majority of sales are made on Amazon.

The lower part was added in 2010 and shows offers from merchants that are very close to the merchant that is currently winning the coveted ‘Blue Buy Box’ spot.

If you look at the blue part, this is coloured differently from the rest of the section and on the Amazon site, coloured quite differently so it stands out, within it, is the primary “call to action” button, ‘Add to Basket’. You can see it dwarfs the other buttons. This is why getting access to the buy box is critically important, if you’re not in the box, you’re literally not in the game.

Amazon Blue Buy Box Winners

This is where Amazon are pretty darn smart and incorporate a large number of factors into whom wins the blue buy box and also it is to be noted that the winner (where there are more than one equally competing merchants) can and does rotate.

In the screen shot of the buy box above, if you look closely you’ll see that not the cheapest option is sat in the blue buy box, instead an offer for ‘£1,380.25 + FREE SHIPPING’ is winning, although the secondary offer is at ‘£1,369.99 + £6.00 shipping’ which is less than the current winner.

In fact looking at the screen shot below, neither of these two are the cheapest and clearly illustrates that you need just more than price to win the blue buy box and crucially the sale.

competing-for-the-buy-boxSo as you can see, there are actually four other merchants that have this same item for sale, but even still, none of these won the box and instead another has taken the box.

And if this is not bad enough even after 30 refreshes in different browsers, from different machines on different networks, I could not get the buy box to shift off that seller, but I did win at the game by logging into an Amazon account that had Amazon Prime enabled on it.

getting-the-buy-boxSo what are the factors that influence the buy box?

We’ve seen from the above that if Amazon decide that they want to give a seller the buy box, then they will give out the keys to sales and sometimes it can be quite sticky even when prices are quite some way out too.

To understand the logic behind the buy box we need to understand what Amazon wants. This is actually quite simple:

Amazon want only to sell items to customers from merchants it can trust. Ultimately if Amazon suggest a different seller, then this is representing themselves.

Unlike eBay, this is Amazon’s own marketplace, they sell on it themselves, it is THEIR marketplace, so you better have some compelling reasons why they should allow you to sell goods along side them and for them to allow you access to the buy box.

Note: This is why I love Amazon so much, it is extremely rare that I have an issue with an order from Amazon, whether its direct from them or a merchant on the site.

While not exhaustive, these are the main factors in winning the coveted Amazon Buy Box.


Besides actually being eligible, the total order price including postage, is the second most important factor in winning the blue buy box. This is only superseded by sellers that use Amazon’s FBA.


How many do you have and how quickly can you ship? By consistently fulfilling orders in a quick time, improves your chances.


This goes back to consistency and is probably why the seller in the first part of the article stuck on the blue buy box, they have been consistent when selling this product over a period of time.


Really daft, but first you must be eligible for the buy box. New merchants are not awarded access to the buy box for several weeks, even months until they prove that they can be trusted. Remember this is Amazons own marketplace and their own customers.

I say this time and again, never, ever piss off Amazons customers.


By having a low refund rate indicates that you are in-control of your business. Not letting buyers (remember they are Amazon’s buyers) down, you are helping Amazon trust you.

Customer Feedback

By keeping negative ratings to a minimum, you are pleasing Amazons customers. Amazon like businesses that keep their customers happy. These comments can be revised and I strongly urge you to watch the feedback you receive. Remember its their customers…

A-to-z Guarantee Claims

This is Amazons return process. While you are bound to have a number of returns, Amazon expects very few, act fast on these as it will play in your favour. Not getting them in the first place by excellent customer services is probably a better route.

Fulfilment – FBA

This requires a special mention and I will expand on this in the next section

The not-so Secret Pricing Rule

I let this slip in a recent article, you an read it here: The Amazon Buy Box – You know the Secret Formula Right?

Amazon Fulfilment AKA FBA. Guaranteed Blue Buy Box

Quite a bold statement, ‘Guaranteed Blue Buy Box’, but once you understand that by using Amazon’s Fulfilment services called FBA, then you are actually giving the despatch control to Amazon, thus as long as your pricing is relatively close then the buy box is yours.

In the screen shot above where multiple buy boxes are shown, the one to the right includes s screen shot from an Amazon account that has Amazon Prime. This is a service that costs £49 a year and gives Amazon customers access to unlimited free next day deliveries, they do this by offering it on their own and on items that are held in their fulfilment services.

I will be posting more information on FBA in a future article, I did write this up before Christmas but decided it needed more work.

Combining the Factors

Its only by combining all these factors together, can you expect to have access to the Amazon blue buy box and make lots of sales on Amazon.

Sure, you can and will make sales without the buy box, but a common conversation with seasoned Amazon sellers is that they pretty much know when they have hit the buy box for certain items because they get a flood of orders for the item that has won it.

Links of Interest

These links provide further information on the factors that influence winning of the buy box.

Order Blindness – Are You Losing Money on eBay?

Are you too busy wrapping orders, answering ludicrous, idiotic eBay questions, answering the phone, making orders and every other task that can take the attention of a business owner to not be checking your bottom line?

Its very easy, as I personally know and have seen many times over to get caught up in everything that is going on around oneself, if you don’t keep your eye on the fees being paid you could be going backwards.

Do you have a Fees Back Hole?

Do you have a eBay Fees Back Hole?

I will not be covering the need for ‘delegation’ in this article or how to leverage ‘anticipation’ as a marketing tactic.

I am working on an article which covers ‘anticipation’ with some blindingly good real-life examples, one of which is and several others fresh from the Internet only a few days old which I am documenting, so you can copy and deploy yourself with ease (I might too, have I built any anticipation here?), but instead focusing on that here, lets churn some numbers on a real company that caught my eye in late 2010.


I was doing some research in the CSA category on site and the other eBay sites last year, I stumbled across a number of sellers that caught my attention, this particular company (which will remain nameless) caught my attention for the wrong reasons, as quickly doing-the-sums, I worked out they were losing money (or so I thought).

ebay Fashion Outlet

I said at the time I’d come back and look at them in more detail, so here I am sharing it with you too. Its very easy to become wrapped up in the rush of the day to day tasks, eBay is brilliant at sapping up time, but even a rough P&L, it  will let you know if you’re in the red or in the black.

Knowing IS everything

I have a saying, “knowing is everything”. It might sound daft, but I stand by this whole-heartedly and only by experience, I know how valuable this is.

An error, is an output, its just not the desired output. Knowing that it is an error is crucial, if you know you make the wrong decision or the outcome was not as expected, then you can at least write that avenue off and try another, but if you chop and change all the time and do not measure the results, then you really have no idea which way you are going and to me that’s a bad thing.

Sometimes you can only know that the outcome is not as you desired by being in the arena, its great to run theories or models, but sometimes, you got to get in there and try the theory out for real. Only then do you know what really happens and by measurement and control, you can readily work out if you are going forwards or backwards.

What I’m trying to say, get in and try stuff, just be careful and make sure you have ‘events’ you can measure and boundaries on acceptable losses. Be prepared to lose some money, mistakes will happen, only by practice, can you become a master of good mistakes.

Face Value

Even when checking this seller in September, they were churning a decent amount of orders for that month, over December 2010, the month that I will be analysing, on face value, they have been shifting decent volumes again.

Revenue £177,553.95
Total Listings 107689
Successful Listings 10880
Total Bids 12219
Items Sold 10924
Items Offered 109473
Success Rate 10.1

These values are from the 1st to 31st December 2010 and a factor worth pointing out already is that these numbers will be erroneous due to conversions from USD to GBP. But they will give us close enough numbers to estimate the fee values, which is what I am interested in for this article.

I mentioned face-value for this section, because when you look at the numbers, they did quite well, £177.5K for the month, over 10,880 orders, that’s an average sale of £16.31.

At the time, this seller caught my attention for three reasons:

  1. Turn over was decent
  2. The number of listings v’s sold listings was low
  3. Only 7,5,3 and 1 day durations were being used

They have a 10.9% sell through rate, which is the kind of sell through rate you would expect from a technology based category, CSA tends to be much higher than this, maybe this is why it caught my attention?

Combine this with the sole use of auctions (bar a few few Fixed Price ones) and no eBay store/shop listings made me very curious indeed, as this is a very expensive way of listing of you do not keep excessive tabs on what’s going on.

Grinding the eBay fees LogoNow I am going to assume that they are using their free-relist for every auction styled listing. In this assumption, I am being extremely kind to the numbers and them, as some items will sell first time and will not be valid for a free-relist credit, so this number in reality will be higher.

So… The number of paid listings:

107689 / 2 = 53844 Paid Listings

I am also neglecting the 510 fixed price listings for this time period, as they are so small in comparison.

According to the report, they have a average start price of £15.72 and and we have an average sell price of £16.31. Lets now grind these numbers to work out the average start prices on eBay and the average Final Value Fees.

Using and converting the values to £24.94 and $25.88 for starting and selling prices respectively. Also using to confirm the PayPal rates are 1.9% + $0.30 to work out the transaction rates.

Insertion Fee £0.32 ($0.50)
Final Value Fee £1.42 ($2.26)
PayPal Fees £0.62 ($0.68* + $0.30)

*This value was including a average $10 shipping to the PayPal payment.

The insertion fees works out to be:

£0.32 x 53844 = £17,230.08

As I mentioned this number is likely to be a lot higher, now knowing we’re around £17K, I’d hazard a guess the fees are more like £20-21K.

Final Value fees on 10,880 sales:

£1.42 x 10880 = £15,449.60

PayPal fees:

£0.62 x 10880 = £6745.60

This now gives us a total of:

Insertion Fees £17,230.08
Final Value Fees £15,449.60
PayPal Fees £6745.60
Total: £39,425.28

And the Total is…

From a gross sales revenue of £177,553.95 (excluding shipping), the fees account for £39,425.28 of this, giving us a 22.2% channel cost.

22% for eBay is not actually that bad, I noted in a previous article, I have seen such percentages much higher than this, ideally you should be in the 15% range, but anything up to 20% can be worked with and stomached by most companies.

I’ve already spotted a way to save this company £16K per month and I have never spoken to them, they’re not even in this country. Imagine what the effect I could have on a business at ground level, where efficiencies in business processes, such as despatch, software implementation, inventory creation, marketing and so on could be smoothed and refined.

My Conclusions

Actually I was wrong, I had assumed from some rough numbers that the unnamed company was actually loosing money, but after grinding the numbers properly, they are, even with 22% fees still leaving enough room to make profit.

I only looked at the sales values for this company, when looking at their listings and website, there are plenty of areas in which they can can improve, its like every business out there, there is always room for improvement and sometimes its being humble enough to ask for outside help to make them.

Just like myself, I can get blinded by numbers, you can can easily get blinded by the day to day operations, the delights of running a business, but the devil is in the detail as they say.

Your Conclusions?

Do you know if you are actually making money and when was the last time you ran your numbers? Are you really sure?

Exploring ‘eBay Connect’ – What If?

After posting the original idea ‘Sign-In With eBay Connect, A Rival for Facebook Connect?‘ last Friday, I spent most of the weekend thinking on how this could be put into practice and what the implications could be.


Graphical Representations of what eBay Connect buttons could look like

If you’ve not read the article yet, take a quick read here and get yourself up to speed, the basic idea is to leverage your eBay account to interact with other websites, I really do not want any more website accounts and in this article I will be exploring how far this could go and spin offs that could happen.

I feel obliged to make it completely clear, this article is purely hypothetical, there is no real service called ‘eBay Connect’, however if you are reading this and there is such a service, this idea obviously rocked.

So what could eBay connect do that other connection services cannot do?

That was a question spinning around my head for the weekend, how could this be different to the other connection services out there. I came up with the following feature set, although I’d welcome more suggestions from you, the comments box is at the bottom, ironically now with a Facebook Connect button on it :X

The eBay Connect feature list:

  1. Sign into any website with your eBay account
  2. Populate shipping forms with pre-saved data from eBay
  3. Use PayPal to pay for an order
  4. Use a Credit Card (ironically, also through PayPal) to pay for an order
  5. Receive order status updates in your MyeBay
  6. Ask & Receive questions in MyeBay (MyMessages now becomes a CRM system)
  7. Leave feedback for the transaction for the external website on eBay

Now I really cannot wait and I am going to jump straight to item #8. This one truly breaks the boundaries as I am suggesting taking the eBay feedback system and making it available for outside parties.

We’ve seen numerous rating systems appear over the past few years, some a better than others, but they basically offer the same service.  Such examples are:

  • Ekomi
  • Bizrate
  • Epinions
  • PriceGrabber
  • ResellerRatings
  • Shopzilla
  • Yahoo
  • Shopsafe
  • Ciao
  • Dooyoo
  • Kelkoo
  • ReviewCentre
  • Shopsafe

However this time, we’re joining the original feedback system, eBay feedback with the rest of the Internet via ‘eBay Connect’.

First Connecting Businesses to eBay

I came to the conclusion that there was is only two scenarios that need to be dealt with when it came to actually setting up such a services for a business, these were:

  1. A business that currently sells on eBay
  2. A business that does not currently sell on eBay

A business that currently sells on eBay

For such a business, then we would need the business to join their website(s) to their eBay account, thus their feedback will be directly linked to the website and eBay. Purchases made on either platform can be rated and other features enabled.

A business that does not currently sell on eBay

Then simply register and verify a new eBay account and link them up to gain access to the features and functions that are indicated in this article.

Once Connected

Then feedback can be left for transactions that are processed through both eBay and the external sites. Obviously eBay would be mad to just join the feedback system, if they nailed down payment methods, processes (orders, returns, disputes etc) and messages, then this could easily be evolved into a paid for service with some quality service offerings.

Exploring the options

The number of eBay accounts are in the realms of millions, may be more worldwide, I think that you may have just grasped the sheer scale of the potential for this idea, not only am I suggesting with pimp the eBay feedback system allowing for businesses to be rated on external transactions, but for additional value add services to be added to the mix to make such a ‘eBay Connect’ service very attractive.

I’m going to quickly explore the numbered options we started with in the next few sections, these are:

Sign into any website with your eBay account

Fundamental to this entire offering, the promise that by using your eBay account to connect with a 3rd party website will make your transaction, trouble free and as simple as it should be, with no more forms to complete and a payment method you trust.

Populate shipping forms with pre-saved data from eBay

This personally annoys me, even when dealing with an order of an item I really want from a new website, it tarnishes the deal and has been an evil of necessity. Its why I love Amazon so much, two clicks (not one, it takes TWO clicks!), done. eBay connect removes this.

Use PayPal to pay for an order

What a no-brainer, I don’t know the figures, but I bet its extremely high the number of eBay accounts that have PayPal, paying using PayPal is obvious and gives the eBay Connect service a bonus revenue source.

Use a Credit Card (ironically, also through PayPal) to pay for an order

Even in the bullet point for this, I added ‘ironically’ to it, yep, by not restricting payments to just PayPal, an extra scoop of revenue could be taken from the order. I have not even contemplated the full revenue model for such a concept as I am describing here for ‘eBay Connect’, but as you are starting to realise, like I have, this baby has more cash pots that a bent cashier at Fort Knocks.

Receive order status updates in your MyeBay

Emulating what Amazon did to marketplace sellers, take control of notifications in a single place. But why stop there? Create the order as a real order in MyeBay and let it follow the same order track as other eBay orders?

Ask & Receive questions in MyeBay (MyMessages now becomes a CRM system)

Now here is another superb idea, link the communications up beyond standard notifications to the MyMessages section on eBay and take control of the entire process in a fully integrated Customer Relationship Management system.

Make it an API Sir!

eBay’s API (Application Programming Interface) is possibly the worlds most documented and complete API there is, making the ‘eBay Connect’ system accessible via an comprehensive API is a natural step and would accelerate the adoption of such a service.

In Conclusion

The epic scale of such a service called ‘eBay Connect’ is far reaching and breaks the boundaries that are set by limiting eBay to just eBay. By unleashing such a beast to the entire eCommerce world would be shattering and maybe for Web 3.0 (to me anyway) ‘eBay Connect’ means the simplification of all the junk we made in Web 2.0.

What do you think?

Would you use eBay connect if it meant one login and one system to track your orders from multiple websites?

With eBay Connect, A Rival for Facebook Connect?

It only just occurred to me while reading the comment in the article ‘How to Make Your Shopping Cart Suck Less‘ that I really do not want another web account with another company, literally it has to be the quote of the year:

“I need more website accounts like I need an asshole on my forehead”

Facebook have Facebook connect, that enables buyers to join with popular websites, twitter has a similar service called ‘Sign in with Twitter‘ and I’m sure there are others that I’m neglecting to mention (comments section at the bottom please!).

Such services are super neat for me, I am all over the web every day, as I am guessing you are, who really needs that extra account anyway and I’ll normally connect using my Facebook or Twitter accounts in preference of filling another web form.

There are extensions for Magento to do this and almost all major shopping cart systems, damn, I need to get this for this WordPress site too. Its on my list!


An Example of Facebook Connect in action

eBay Connect?


Graphical Representations of what eBay Connect buttons could look like

Even in 2008, eBay was boasting over 14 million active users, imagine the raw potential here for such a service, its fair to say that most people have a email address, a Facebook account, possibly a twitter account and definitely an eBay account.

So link them up, imaging being able to pay for your goods, one sign in, eBay already has your details, yes a confirmation for the password for PayPal, but how slick would that be?

Your Feedback

Have I stumbled upon a golden idea or a flop because its fatally flawed for XYZ reasons? What do you think? Would you use it if it existed?

How to Beat eBay DSR’s – Use Positive Psychology with the Customer

I was reading an excellent post by Chris Dawson on Tamebay regarding the flaw in the eBay iPhone & iPad Apps where sellers can be rated for shipping on items that have free shipping and by their[eBay’s] own design, sellers whom offer free shipping are exempt from being rated & automatically receive a 5 star rating on this aspect.

You can read the full article here eBay DSRs: Are you rated on dispatch or delivery time?. It reminded me of a simple tactic I used employ, which I’ll share with you in this article.

I’ve held off and releasing this article for a Friday, so you can ponder it, get to grips with the concept and let your orders back-up over potentially three days of orders and let rip this beauty on Tuesday, then watch the instantaneous results.

Knowing the Rules

Firstly knowing the rules and how to leverage them is just one part. By offering free shipping, you are immediately incur five stars for DSR rating for ‘Postage and packaging charges’ (although, from the Tamebay article, obviously eBay need to work on this a little for their Apps).

You can see the help page on eBay for the DSR’s here and I have quoted the interesting part:

If you provide free postage, buyers will see a note when they are rating your postage & packaging charges that a 5-star rating is appropriate

Not forgetting this exit too:

No detailed seller rating can be given for local pick up items

Did you know the latter one? I had forgotten, a neat exit point. Offering free shipping and offering pick ups for orders can be two variables worth experimenting with.

The Despatch Process

You most likely contact buyers them when they buy, pay (as for eBay the paying part is not always immediate) and when you ship their order.

Notifying a buyer you’ve received their order and their cash, that you value you them, the order is not in some black hole, have reassured the customer that you’re dealing with the order is great and is an important part of the despatch process, even eBay’s SMP (Selling Manager Pro) does this rather well.

You should do everything you can, to work out a process or employ software that makes the despatch process the most efficient possible, however my questions is, why leave yourself open to the lag of delivery?

Lets bend the perception of time in our favour, after all, we are the time keeper in this process. I’m suggesting while you may have a rapid despatch process, the latter part of the process can be tinkered with, in your favour.

Didn’t you mention positive psychology?

For this you need to use positive psychology with your customer. Let me spell this out in simple words as some might not get this:

Mark your orders as despatched the day AFTER you despatched the order.

Yes that’s right, instead of eagerly marking orders as despatched, flag them as despatched instead and here is the key, then the following morning, mark them off as being despatched.

The automatic despatch email will kick in and the customer will be notified that the order has been despatched.

Imagine your sat your desk and receive the email from company XYZ. The order you made yesterday has been despatched. Sweet. The paradox is later this afternoon it arrives. Has that not exceeded ones set expectations of tomorrow? Have we just warped time in the eyes of the customer?


Its all about how time is perceived

If you’re using a slower services say 2nd class or may be a 48hr courier rather than a 24hr courier as your default courier service (I am ignoring any courier rules you may have in operation, for where orders match criteria their courier service alters, eg an order over £20 goes to recorded and so on…) then by marking the orders shipped as a day late, then you’ve already won a day back from the slower courier service. Essentially the 48hr courier service is now a 24hr service.

Note: You should be offering more than one service, gaining sweet upgrades on courier services, people will choose these if its perecived to be faster.

Does it Work?

I know this works because I used to employ this tactic myself. Amusingly my partner just entered my office and asked what I was writing, I explained the article and she giggled. She remembered reading the feedback comments on eBay, where people were leaving comments like ‘I got my item before the despatch email A++++’.

This is also why I have saved this article till today (a Friday), because if you let Saturday, Sundays AND Mondays orders backup (processing them and actually despatching them of course) but marking them as despatched in your back-end system on Tuesday.

So customers receive notifications that their order has been despatched, but the likely-hood is, that their order is going to be with them that day. Quite a paradox.

Try it, for one day

First we reassure customers that we have their order and their money, this is the customers major concern, if they know the company has got their order and is processing it, they feel reassured. So for this I am assuming you have set up automatic notifications that let customers know that you have received their order (and payment if its separate, like on eBay for non immediate payment listings).

Flag your orders for that day and despatch them as normal, however do not despatch them until at least 9am the next day, as we have the weekend tomorrow(this article was posted on a Friday), you should have lots of orders to prove this with. Then on Tuesday, mark them as despatched, even though they left on Monday.

Say you used a 48hr courier service, we just switched it into a 24hr courier service, even better if you used a 24hr service, this shocks the customer because at 9:34 they get an email to say their order has been despatched and at around lunch time, the posty stuffs it through the door.

Deploying this in Real Life

An interesting point raised when running a draft copy across some peers, was in eBay’s Selling Manager Pro (SMP) it would be a waste of time adding the tracking number one day and the next having to go in and marking it as despatched separately. I checked this on one of the eBay seller accounts this morning who had SMP and saw while this is not totally correct, you can add a tracking number and just save it, although not marking it as despatched at the same time would be be rather silly. I think that was possibly his point :)

I have strong beliefs, one of the core ones is that to be manually doing any task that can be automated by either paid-for software or even free software, is categorically not the best use of ones time.

I did at first consider writing an iMacro to automate this task, that worked from a CSV file that would automate the input of tracking numbers and then marking them as despatched, I’d have this working in a few minutes. But there is no need, with eBay’s File Exchange you can do this using their despatch template at the bottom of this page.

For more advanced tools such as eSellerPro, Channel Advisor, 247 Top Seller or similar, most of these have flags in their sales order processing section which can be used to mark batches of orders.

It was also suggested (twice) that this may be of benefit to businesses that generally offer a poorer service or elect a cheaper, slower service. Yes, this would give such sellers an advantage, especially for media products were margins are extremely tight, using such a tactic as explained in this article would give a business the appearance of giving a higher service than they actually achieve, but keeping overheads to a minimum.

How much saving would you make, if you shipped everything you are currently sending via 24hr courier, to a 48hour courier, if it had no negative effect to customer satisfaction?

If you are already despatching orders within really good time frames, buy yourself an extra days grace and that that 4.7 DSR rating to 4.8 or 4.9. As I pointed out in an earlier article, the eBay Top Rated Seller status can be easily abused and you need every advantage you have to ensure you keep it, as it pretty much guarantees you 20% extra sales volume.

Your Feedback

Try it for two days and see if you see the difference in the responses from customers, it worked for me, it can work for you too, ‘Time Lord’.