Such a Small World. Happy Wednesday

(Not the best picture, but it was stunning this morning)

Work this out, I’m walking to the third place, it’s raining and a beep appears from the pocket, it’s facebook, I’m now chatting to a friend on the opposite side of the planet. The world now feels really small and he’s enjoying the time out.

I look around, it’s raining, I’m the only one with sunglasses on, stepping in puddles. It appears that starting with the mindset that every day is going to be a ‘Happy Day’ is working well and I take a few minutes to chat to Clive who stands in almost any weather to meet his customers and have those briefest of conversations while he earns a decent wage, working, rather than begging, with the BigIssue.

Another pop up on the phone and it’s a colleague from India, we’re just checking over a few things from the day before’s design and are implementing it today. I’ve already spoken to the PA this morning and the content team are doing well, we had some issues with the quality of work from a new employee yesterday from the Philippines, I don’t think he realised we check the work so excessively with the tools I made, but it was already in-hand and process was working well.

I’m now sat slurping coffee, always black to start with, the blend here always makes a wonderful, full flavoured drink, after a 15 min conversation with Karol, whom I now class as a friend, rather than an counter clerk in some coffee shop, joking about the coffee and service in Starbucks, coaching him on the stark realisation that 1 in 1000 or so customers you’re going to annoy, upset or in their eyes under-deliver no matter what and that it’s knowing this and then dealing with the situations that will arise, makes the real difference, no matter how his ‘boss’ reacts, but being prepared in advance and acknowledging the problem, swings the advantage to him and the manner in which it’s dealt with.

And it’s not even 10am. Happy Wednesday.

Managing Large Adword Campaigns with Google Adwords Editor

Google Adwords EditorEver wondered how search marketing companies & larger companies deal with more than a few Google Adwords campaigns? The answer is easy, they use the right tool for the job, Adwords Editor is one of them and best of all its free!

Managing Campaigns x 10,0000

A slight exaggeration, however using the Adwords Editor, you can manage literally hundreds of campaigns over several accounts using a single, free tool.

A key feature of the product is the ability to import new campaigns via CSV, you can update them via CSV for external processing and then import them back in again. Its all quite civilised and dealing with hundreds of campaigns at one time is a very simple task.

Why you should use the Adwords Editor

Here are the reasons why you would want to use the Adwords Editor:

  1. You can import and export your campaigns from Excel. That means for geeks like me I can do all the work in excel and then quickly and easily import the campaigns for immediate upload to Google.
  2. It works offline. This is brilliant if travelling or out of signal range. Just send the updates when you’re next connected.
  3. The Editor works with more than one Adwords account.
  4. Finding duplicate keywords is easy, see here for more info.
  5. This is an official tool created by Google,

So if you want one up on your competitors, you are about five up now. Or the biggest feature for me, was the import/export features. Being able to manipulate data outside of the interface and import, was a huge win.

There are other tools, mainly paid for, plus there is an API as well, which for the larger PPC based companies build their own interfaces to our use hugely expensive software to manage campaigns on an epic scale.

Helpful links:

The Top UK Affiliate Networks

wedge-of-cashFollowing on from my two articles on affiliate networks titled ‘Part 1: What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?‘ and the continuation in  ‘Part 2: What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?‘ today I’ll be covering who the top affiliate networks are in the UK, who’s with them and which one you might want to choose for your affiliate campaign.

There are about a dozen different affiliate networks that operate in the UK, this list is not exhaustive, but are networks I can vouch for through personal experiences. In no particular order these are:

  • Affiliate WindowAffiliateWindow
    Also known as” AWIN”, they have the widest ranging set of affiliates programmes I know of. They are also the most expensive from what I know of too.A company I recently dealt with was quoted £2500 and an on going monthly price of around £500 per month, plus commission on paid commissions too.

    Affiliate Window is in the process of updating their backend to ‘Darwin’ which is a welcome improvement in eye candy, but not entirely sure about functionality. The a short list of merchants using them can be found here and clicking on “Our Merchants”.

    Now this is being listed as a separate affiliate network, but  they were bought by Digital Window (AKA Affiliate Window) in March 2010.My dealings are only ‘light’ with, but they do house some of the much larger clients, names like Very, 3 Mobile, All Saints, BBC Shop, ASDA, BT and so on. I have no idea on pricing for these, but I am guessing its more than AWIN.
  • WebgainsWebgains.
    Webgains are a personal favourite of mine, these were the first affiliate network I joined (as an affiliate, not a merchant) and have used them ever since, while lacking on some of the big names, this team have a large array of merchants and they really know their salt.Pricing is much more affordable, in the region of £1000 setup fees and a monthly charge of ~£250 plus commission’s.
  • Trade DoublerTrade Doubler
    I use TradeDoubler for some clothing suppliers as an Affiliate, this is not their strength but it still brings the pennies in each month. From a Merchants perspective, TD tend to lean towards betting, consumer electronics & holidays. I have no idea on pricing for these either.Trade Doubler’s current client list can be found here, if you were focusing on the EU, then these would be my first suggestion, see here for why.
  • PaidOnResultsPaidOnResults
    Absolutely no idea on these, other than I know several high profile affiliates use them to great effect. When someone mentions them, I do immediately think of children’s toys and lingerie, what a wacky combination. Anyway, a list of their merchants can be found here.
  • AffiliateFutureAffiliateFuture
    These are of a holidays & flights network, although I did pick up a few feeds for clothing and footwear from them ( was one). Their client list is here and again I’m unable to comment on their fee structure for merchants.
  • Commission JunctionCommission Junction
    eBay used these before they developed their own platform (or skinned someone elses[?]), slightly more American and has a reliance upon banner ads than data.Its extremely corporate and I suspect the merchant fees reflect this. This would be only my suggestion if you are actively targeting the US because of their coverage there. I spoke with their UK Sales manager a while back, while the client did not use them, the was very helpful.

You may be wondering why I have left out the eBay and Amazon affiliate programmes, this is because they are not website orientated, all of the networks above are.

This article should have brought you up to date on some of the UK affiliate networks that are available and that I’ve given you a first hand impression of each. Whoever you choose, work hard at it!

Part 2: What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?

wedge-of-cashWelcome to part 2 of ‘What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them’, this is a continuation of the article I started yesterday here. Lets get straight to it.

Who’s Using Affiliate Networks To Promote Their Products?

Now this is where I am going to start name dropping, names such as Matalan, OFFICE Shoes, Misco, McAfee, Hilton, Vodafone, BT, P&O, Maplin, Kodak, eBuyer, Marks & Spencers, Littlewoods, Very, ASDA I could run out of this virtual ink listing all the companies that use affiliates to promote their sales.

Marks & SpencersBut don’t let the use of high street brands put you off, there are thousands of smaller merchants working the affiliate scene and some convert better than the big boys!

Companies use affiliate networks for a simple reason, they work and they also work on commission on confirmed sales. Unlike PPC (Pay Per Click) and PPI (Pay Per Impression) the money is spent before knowing the results, affiliate networking is for a confirmed purchase.

Examples of Affiliate Sites

Sadly none of these are mine, I do have an a good idea from old data, on some of the revenue these sites create and its not small amounts, by any means:

Special Networks

eBay UKNow there are two affiliate networks which are worth a special mention, these are eBay and Amazon. Thats right you can use either of these companies to promote your own products. This also explains where some of your fees go to each month, into affiliate pockets. Well the ones that converted browsers into buyers that is. Remember almost all affiliate schemes are based upon commission on confirmed sales.

eBay is a bit ‘funky’ as they have changed their stats and payments to work on a fairer structure is based upon actions, bids and purchasing, with a more true representation on what the customer that was referred by the affiliate is then doing on the site.

Amazon UKAmazon is also a bit ‘funky’ too, unlike the typical affiliate program that would have a cookie period of say 7, 30, 45, 60 or 90 days, Amazon has a cookie life of just 24 hours. Yes, as an affiliate they need to convert their browser into a buyer in 24 hours from them clicking the link. Sounds horrific, but Amazon converts like crazy and its one of my largest income streams from affiliate marketing.

Summary of Affiliate Networks

You should now be aware of what an affiliate network is; that affiliate networks mostly have a setup fee, a monthly fee and a commission to be paid to both the affiliates that drive you sales and a commission on the commission’s to the affiliate.

But within this structure lies the key, once you can get over the the monthly overhead, the sales that are generated by the affiliates should be much cheaper than those acquired by other means, plus its your customer to market who you wish after the sale.

In the final part of this series, you can discover The Top UK Affiliate Networks.

The ShayTards – Hey! I’m vlogging here

Shay Carl & ShayTardsFor me, I cannot stand soaps, EastEnders, Coronation Street and so on… they all make me cringe and I’ve grown to strongly dislike the format and just get up and walk out when they come on. Tending to prefer factual ‘input’ where ever possible, either through the net, books or the iPlayer, plus my free time is normally late or exceptionally early in the day and there is little else on.

A prime example is I have thoroughly enjoyed ‘Wonders of the Universe‘ series and it kinda puts everything into perspective when you look at the world as a dot, with in billions of other stars and in some obscene amount of time, time will cease to exist.

I’m a little surprised I’ve not mentioned Shaycarl before on here, those who are linked to me on Facebook, see the odd post from me via YouTube about them. Today, I’m sharing my obsession with the outside world.

About ShayCarl

It started on March 5th 2009 and since then Shaycarl has literally posted a video a day and shared his life online with everyone.

His catchphrase is “Hey! I’m vlogging here!”

Prior to this Shaycarl was an evening DJ for station Z103, Idaho, US, where a video blogger called Philip DeFranco saw the response that Shaycarl had posted and decided to promote his content, increasing his number of views on the Shaycarl channel.

The Shaycarl channel now has over 890,000 subscribers, pimped over 12,000,000 channel views and the family centric version called the ‘ShayTards’s very quickly took in +800,000 subscribers, and some 62,000,000 channel views, which are insane numbers and they’re ranked in the top 25 channels on YouTube (anyone know a leader board for YouTube?)

Meet ShayCarl

Watch this, this kinda sets the tone of the rest of the videos, recorded in 2007, its gone downhill fast.

Meet The Tards

I can’t remember the first vlog I saw of the Shaytards (I should have just picked one at random), however it was one of the ShayTards and it just stuck. The ‘Tards’ are Shaycarls family and I’m 100% sure Shaycarl would not have been so sucessfull without the involvement of his family both in the video’s that are recorded but the 100% backing and inclusion from all of them.

Presented with his wife Katilette, they have four children, Sontard the eldest, Princesstard, Babytard and Rocktard the youngest, born in June 2010. I’m shutting up, meet them here:

Debt Free!!!

January 15th, 2011, they announced they were debt free. The VLog is below, its one of the most memorable, because of what its stands for and shows what can be done with determination and grit, oh and a whacky sense of humour and a very amusing family.

Two years

Thanks to Dave, this is the Two years VLog edition, enjoy!


You can subscribe via the following links below:

PS: This is a new super wide format I’m using, its all to do with the video’s and this might give you a hint of whats coming in the next few days ;-)

Part 1: What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?

Affiliate NetworksThis was an old post that I’ve revamped for human consumption. “What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?” is a really good question and a very short answer is yes, you should be.

I’m looking forward to explaining and givening examples over the next three articles, as I discuss what they do, how they work, who uses them, how much they cost and ultimately why you should have a network as part of your online marketing strategy.

The Affiliate Concept


An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs

Starting at the beginning, we have merchants, businesses that have websites and want more customers, we also have people like me affiliates (I was focused on Affiliate Networking for the majority of 2010) who want to specialise in their area which is known as publishing and will happily pimp themselves for a percentage cut of the merchants sales.

Affiliates and merchants normally come together via a 3rd party called an ‘Affiliate Network‘, which is a place where affiliates can find merchants to promote & vice’versa and acts as a trusted party between them both. As you can imagine there are a few of these globally and I’ll be looking at these in detail next week.

The Merchant gives the Affiliate a fee, typically for a confirmed sale, again typically through an Affiliate Network.

Affiliate Program Fees

Affiliate networks hold lists of merchants and lists of affiliates, then promote them to each other. The affiliate networks make their money in several ways:

  • The start up fee to the merchant
  • The on going monthly fee from the merchant
  • Commission on the commission’s paid to merchants
  • And in some cases a fee they take from the affiliates for joining

That sounds like a lot of fees to shell out as a merchant, but to give you some idea, the start up fees for a affiliate program range from a few hundred, to a few thousand and monthly costs vary from £250-500 or more.

The actual percentage paid to affiliates (those nice people known as publishers that get you customers) can vary and be tiered on performance. For technology based products, commissions of 1-3% are common, for clothing 8-15% are common, holidays are similar of not more and gambling can be much higher.

Note: Are these fees starting to ring true to the updates set by eBay in the eBay May 2011 update, Tech = 3%, CSA = 15%?

Yummy Cookies

Cookies are worth a special mention here, this is because you can set the length of time you can allow your affiliate to gain commission on a sale from the time they referred them to your site(s).

Note: We’re not talking about those delicious snacks, we’re refering to cookies, that are dropped by websites into the clients browser, the HTTP cookie, see here for more info.

Normally this is a 30 day cookie, some companies offer 7, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 or infinite or if your name is, then the cookie life is 24 hours. More on that later in another article as I am not willing to contribute to the ongoing war, sorry debate over cookies and their timings at this time (this is an industry wide hot topic, sadly with no ‘right/perfect’ view).


There are several different ways you can tackle affiliate networks, you could ban PPC affiliates or stay text link only OR you could open your affiliates up to allowing them to use PPC (on or off your brand name) and give them something called a ‘datafeed’.

Affiliate networks do more than just put an affiliate and a merchant in touch, they can handle data feeds given from the merchant to the affiliate network, for adaptation and distribution to their affiliates, then track clicks the sales and report these back to both parties.

Datafeeds are files that contain the very latest (hopefuly!) information from a merchant on their product catalogue, so you as the merchant can keep your affiliates up to date on the latest products you have.

Below is a screen shot of items selected using the AffiliateWindow ‘Create-a-feed’ tool in their new (ish) Darwin interface.

Affiliate Window Create-A-Feed Tool

Affiliate Window Create-A-Feed Tool

Contacting Affiliates

This is also part of your fee to the Affiliate network, you should be assigned an account manager who will ‘woo’ the top affiliates in your product area(s) and get them to take your feeds. A tip here is to do two things. Firstly research who is promoting your products, secondly now knowing who is, speak with your account manager and get them to promote you to them.

As a merchant, you can either choose to allow anyone to join your network (suggested) or filter the affiliates that want to join (not suggested) and the different affiliate networks have different tools to allow you to communicate with your affiliates.

Here is a screen shot of a message from the Dorothy Perkins affiliate program:

Example: Dorothy Perkins Affiliate Email

Example: Dorothy Perkins Affiliate Email

In the second part of this series I’ll be covering the following sections:

  • Who’s Using Affiliate Networks To Promote Their Products?
  • Examples of Affiliate Sites
  • Special Networks
  • Summary of Affiliate Networks

You can read the second part here Part 2: What Are Affiliate Networks & Should I be using Them?

Apology from John Perkins, CEO SilverPop Leak

play.comFollowing on from my tweet this morning, here is the letter from the CEO, John Perkins reguarding the suggested compromise of customer related data.

Have a good read of the email below and then re read it again with the sections highlighted at the bottom.

The Email

Dear Customer,

As a follow up to the email we sent you last night, I would like to give you some further details. On Sunday the 20th of March some customers reported receiving a spam email to email addresses they only use for We reacted immediately by informing all our customers of this potential security breach in order for them to take the necessary precautionary steps.

We believe this issue may be related to some irregular activity that was identified in December 2010 at our email service provider, Silverpop. Investigations at the time showed no evidence that any of our customer email addresses had been downloaded. We would like to assure all our customers that the only information communicated to our email service provider was email addresses. have taken all the necessary steps with Silverpop to ensure a security breach of this nature does not happen again.

We would also like to reassure our customers that all other personal information (i.e. credit cards, addresses, passwords, etc.) are kept in the very secure environment. has one of the most stringent internal standards of e-commerce security in the industry. This is audited and tested several times a year by leading internet security companies to ensure this high level of security is maintained. On behalf of, I would like to once again apologise to our customers for any inconvenience due to a potential increase in spam that may be caused by this issue .

Best regards,


John Perkins

Read it again

Read the mail again, this time note the following sections:

“Investigations at the time showed no evidence that any of our customer email addresses had been downloaded.”

And then this sentence:

“ have taken all the necessary steps with Silverpop to ensure a security breach of this nature does not happen again.”

Is it just me, or do these contradict each other?

Congratulations to eBuyerExpress on eBay!

The day I released the article called ‘Argos is Kicking eBuyer’s Butt on eBay‘ the web stats went bonkers with the staff over at eBuyer looking at it and earlier thread called ‘Dear, You Could Be Doing So Much Better on eBay UK. Here is How!‘.

17 different people I counted from the webstats at eBuyer and I’m happy to announce that they’ve taken stead and revamped their current listing design, from what was a mildly embarrassing layout (but none the less an amazing start it has to be said) to what is now something more visually attractive and should see them break the £1M  monthly sales bracket again.

The Latest eBuyerExpress Design

You have to agree its a massive improvement on their old design.

New eBuyerExpress eBay Template

New eBuyerExpress eBay Template

You can view the new version here on eBay:


The effects of a person’s actions that determine his destiny in his next incarnation (Hinduism and Buddhism)

Acknowledgement is all I ask. However here’s the thing, you’re happy to take, but not to give back. You’ve made a little mistake (its actually quite a serious flaw). I’ll let you find it, its quite obvious when you hit it.

Are There Alternatives to eSellerPro?

I’ve been asked this question too many times to ignore it. As you would expect there is some general unrest amongst users of nearly all the systems I’ve come across, not just eSellerPro. And the larger the business using eSellerPro, because they take a percentage-of-sale, the more expensive it becomes and monthly bills of +£7,000 are not unheard of.

This article was originally published in March 2011 and it’s sorely been due an update for quite some time. This is the updated version for the end of 2013.

I’m looking forward to clearing up a few areas in the following sections and also aiming enlighten you to what the “2 year cycle” is that causes account churn. Also this should save me typing/having long conversations and have a resource to help anyone else that asks :)


I feel it is important that I state, clearly and openly the following facts regarding myself and my interactions with eSellerPro. Read the full version in The Unofficial History of eSellerPro (that has changed too as they have one CEO leave [see here] and another non-marketplace oriented CEO arrive [see here] in late 2013).

  1. I am a Former Employee of eSellerPro
    I used to work there for almost three years. I am not a shareholder
  2. I work with businesses that use eSellerPro
  3. I’m not a Sales Rep
    I do not get any “kick-backs” for writing about eSellerPro (maybe a mistake on their part as this is the updated version for 2013?)

The Underlying Questions

This might not be pretty reading for you but I feel its absolutely required to state these questions, because that’s what is really being asked. These questions can be boiled down to four main areas, these are:

  1. I’ve been using eSellerPro for X months, its great, but I am not feeling the ‘all singing all dancing’ I was sold
  2. I’m annoyed with little support and no development time I used to get and feel trapped
  3. I am an eCommerce manager, I need to weigh up if my decision to use eSellerPro was the right one or not
  4. I feel like a change, what do you suggest Matt?

These are all ugly questions and I’m sure there are others too, let’s dive, answer these and if you have any other questions the forums are here.

The Four Nasty Questions Answered

Below I do my best to answer these four underlying questions for you:

Q1: I’ve been using eSellerPro for X months, its great, but I am not feeling the ‘all singing all dancing’ I was sold

What you must remember is that you are buying access to what is an extremely complex system, that gives you lots of processes to make your business operation more efficient. Sometimes in its complexity is its beauty, but other times it can cause confusion and utter frustration. I whole heartedly feel for you.

It does not matter if we’re talking eSellerPro, ChannelAdvisor or any other platform here, the same applies. You are using a tool to make your operation more efficient, they all just differ in the depths of ability and each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Now for the smarter business owners they relieve themselves of the day-to-day tasks and move up so that they can deal with the important business things. This is called leverage, they use a tool to automate as much as possible and then go about setting themselves to work ON their business not IN their business, eSellerPro is just one of many tools that are available to aid this.

Q2: I’m annoyed with little support and no development time I used to get and feel trapped

Bluntly put, this is to be expected. eSellerPro has had multiple rounds of VC funding and things are going to be different.

The VC company is there to make money and of course there is bound to be a disparity between what the original ideology for what the tool should have become and what the VC company needs to do to make their money back (and a lot more, because remember they invested to make money, not in ideology or a utopia to make the the tool as best as it can be).

Think of it as a mother weaning her offspring, it hurts but everyone grows up. If you were expecting the same kind of attention you got in the early days, sorry those days are on their way out, if not gone by now. You’re probably feeling trapped for a good reason, the product is deep & wide, if you’ve got all the different business operations running through eSellerPro, such as accounting, inventory control, order management, couriers, supplier management and anything else this beast does. I’d feel trapped too.

eSellerPro is a monster system that was designed to cover every aspect of a multichannel business and now in hindsight an approach that I have openly admitted to being the wrong approach [see here].

Q3: I am an eCommerce manager, I need to weigh up if my decision to use eSellerPro was the right one or not

This one is tricky because it needs a good understanding of where you came from, what you are doing now and where you’re going.

However a generalisation is that if you business can cope with the barrier to entry for the eSellerPro product (Fees, training time, staff costs, need for systems etc…) then you’ve probably made the right choice until the monthly fees start to really become expensive.

Q4: I feel like a change, what do you suggest Matt?

I don’t bull-shit and know my stuff backwards (which is to be expected from someone who ran their own business for 3 years & has worked with two software providers over the past 10 years). So please don’t take this personally when I suggest the following:

It’s my opinion that instead of changing providers, you try and change first.

Regardless of the current provider you’re using, I’m suggesting that you try and change first. This is because the real cost of moving providers can be huge.

Lets say you have a team of 10, how many hours do you think it will take as a team to change providers? Now triple it.  Us human’s are the worst estimators, if I say something is going to take an hour, that normally means three.

Because these software platforms are so deep, the cost of moving from one to the other can be immense. It would be fair better to attempt to take a fresh look at your situation, speak to a mentor or someone outside your business who you trust and see if there is a way you can work with the system rather than against it. Take a holiday, do something before you commit to changing your software, especially with something like eSellerPro because it is so deeply tied to your business..

The 2 year Churn

This is a natural process and it goes on all the time regardless of what arena you are in, its why you hear unconfirmed rumours that ChannelAdvisor sell 200 accounts each month, but equally loose 200 accounts per month globally. People frankly get bored and after a while get itchy and start looking at what looks like “greener grass”.

This is a human trait, the grass always looks greener on the other side, we get bored. I’ve known businesses jump from one platform to the next yearly and of one specifically that has used all the major ones at least once! I’m just pointing out, that if you are thinking this question, that you maybe wondering what the grass is like over the hedge and sadly the real answer, that few can honestly tell you, is that its probably just the same, just a different interface.

The Alternatives

I’ve answered some of the underlying questions you might be asking yourself right now, I’ve also hopefully done as much as I can in a single article to point out the following:

  1. Being uncertain is a good thing, its only natural.
  2. The grass might be greener somewhere else.
  3. Think through moving providers extremely seriously and weigh up the true costs of moving providers.

Now onto the alternatives.

The critical piece of information that no sales representative of any company is going to tell you is that “this system you are looking at its not the perfect system for your current business“. Something has to give, namely you.

Thankfully there are several alternatives available across the globe, they all vary in depth of functionality & costs. The next comparable 2nd Generation software to eSellerPro is ChannelAdvisor.

ChannelAdvisor has the same kind of pricing structure as eSellerPro, a minimum amount to be paid, say £600 a month and a percentage of sale from 1 to 2%. If this percentage of your gross sales goes over the 1-2% amount, then you pay this instead. This is why with both of these companies can be insanely expensive for larger businesses with businesses paying them thousands of pounds every month (which might be one of the reasons why you’re reading this article right now, it’s getting silly you’re paying more but getting exactly the same level of service).

Yes there are others, ChannelGrabber, StoreFeeder, SellerExpress there are lots and lots of 2nd generation software providers. Sadly I’m getting bored with the offers of “come see XYZ” and they’re receiving back messages saying, “In less than 100 words, explain why your system is not the same as everyone else’s” for which I rarely get a reply or if I do it has something to do with price and not functionality or an entirely different way of working (that would be a 3rd Generation of multi channel software).

All 2nd Generation multi-channel software works in a similar method, either a flat-fee per month or a percentage of sale. The level of expertise in each software product varies and so does the functionality too.

An Obvious Alternative?


Yup that’s right, you may of picked up the hint from earlier that this was coming. The alternative that you have not been thinking is staying put and changing yourself to match the situation you are in. This goes for any provider, not just eSellerPro.

Think back to why you wanted to use eSellerPro in the first place, write down the reasons and now go back and achieve them. If you can whole heartedly say you’ve tried every option, then maybe its time you weigh-up the alternatives.

In Conclusion

I’ve answered the four underlying questions that are being asked. I know full well that saying certain things straight is not always the best way, however sometimes these things needs to be said and if you’re reading this, its too late :)

I sincerely hope that I have given you an insight into possibly what you are really asking when you say “Are there any alternatives to eSellerPro” and that there are options and an option you might not have been considering, changing yourself.


PS. If you’re sick-to-death of 2nd generation providers, say hello to the 3rd generation

Making Sense of the Pending eBay UK Updates in May 2011

If you’ve not heard yet, you have now, there are some stellar changes coming up for eBay UK in the May 2011 update. You can read the full update here and in the next few minutes, I’ll be discussing what this means for you and your business.

As far as I see it there are two options

#1 You cry like a little girl

girl-cryingThis option is normally chosen by merchants that are on the edge or so rammed up the whole idea of selling on eBay arse, that they get stuck, throw toys around and eventually burn out. Lets hope your competitors either do not twig there is an update at all or select this option.

If you would like to select this option go to the eBay community boards and start ranting how eBay ruined your life.

#2 You fully embrace the changes in advance

This is what smart merchants to. They analyse what the landscape is going to look like knowing what the updates are and work out how it affects them and how they can change to leverage this to their advantage.

If you would like to select this option, read on.

The Updates

I’m going to follow the structure in the update page from eBay, but give you the spin you need to turn this into plain English and see where its going to hurt and where there is potential and where work possibly needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition.

‘Value for Money’ Fee Updates

I’m just not seeing how the ‘Value for Money’ part is going to be interpreted by merchants, all I’m seeing is almost a universal hike in fees. Yes there are a few winners, but overall, expect to be paying more after this lands.

Fact: eBay UK will become more expensive that it is currently.

I would like to point out that eBay is amazing value for money, even at its higher closing rates the amount of exposure you gain to customers is immense and its never been so cheap to sell on eBay and the barrier to entry for new merchants is extremely low.

Remember I come from the era of SIF (Shop Inventory Format) where we paid 20p for 30 days/GTC and had no exposure, now you can pay a few pence or nothing (with an Anchor eBay shop) and gain access to the main listings and all its exposure as a normal listing. Bargain.

Summary of Fees Update


The ‘simplified final value fee’ is a bit of a hoax, yes it makes working out what you will end up paying easier, but I’d like to point out that sellers did not care before with the multi tiered final value fee approach, as they relied upon eBay to calculate the different levels of fees and it was absolutely no issue for the seller.

Lets be brutally honest, anchor shops are poorly marketed, so sellers who have them either have not worked out this or have more inventory that makes it more economical for them to upgrade. If you’re at this level then the 1p to free listings make little difference and again with the Basic to Featured shop upgrades, the lines are so close, you’re better off going for the featured shop as soon as your’re allowed to.

If you’re selling technology based products, then there is a fair chance you’re going to be much better off if you have a ASP of under £100, over this you’re going to be paying more, with a 200% increase on sales of £600 or more.

Parts sellers are going to have a mixed experience, again ASP’s come into play, if you’re sub £30 going to see a 1.9% saving, over this due to the ‘simplification’ you’re going to be loosing out to the tiered fee structure that was in place before the update.

CSA (Clothes Shoes & Accessories) sellers are worst hit, this to me personally sucks somewhat, as its CSA that has seen the largest growth for the past year and now eBay are ‘tapping it’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, there are updates that if actioned properly and effectively will give us an advantage over slower moving clients (or those that ‘rant’, I’m just making a little point, remember option #1?).

PowerSellers: Focus on quality

I’ll be quite open, I read this part of the update as blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah. Again, taking my own advice, I am not inserting a rant about DSR’s, I’m just going to point out they are flawed as indicated in a previous article I wrote How to add icing to your competitors Christmas on eBay: Top Rated Seller Flawed?. Ultimately upping the standards of sellers has to be a good thing for the overall community.

eBay Express is Back!

Whoops, sorry its called ‘eBay Shopping Basket’, silly me :X


The New eBay Shopping Basket

If you’ve not heard or seen this, go to this page immediately, print it off and read it thoroughly, this is a critical update you need to know about.

In the update, its described by eBay as having these attributes:

  • Faster and easier shopping
  • Better value
  • Fewer fixed price unpaid items
  • Make payment simpler
  • Bigger orders

Let me translate these for you, the duplicates are not typo’s:

  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payment
  • You can offer them more stuff in more places and eBay will probably charge you for this later on
  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payments
  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payments
  • You can offer them more stuff in more places and eBay will probably charge you for this later on

Now we know eBay buyers are not the brightest of bunnies and quite scared creatures too. So it is a sensible suggestion by eBay that you re-think your postage strategy and start with a free option and then expedited options at sensible (lucratively cheap) values. You’ll also want to check on your postage discounts and ensure that you are using them where ever possible.

New Feature Bundles

Well almost, all that has been included is a sniff at the bundle feature that certain sellers are using in BETA currently. This is one feature that has been sorely been missing from eBay for a long time. Expect this to be rather similar to that automatically created by Amazon.

Item Specifics Updates

For CSA sellers, this is either going to be a huge task for sellers with large inventories and no back office tool, or a bit of a bind for more technologically advanced sellers. As I have a conflict of interests here (due to me publicly showing I work with My1stWish on LinkedIn yesterday), I’m just going to boast I have a tool that will tell me which records are affected and I’m not prepared to share it.

Being slightly more constructive for other CSA sellers you’ll need to check the table that shows the requirements in the May 2011 update, hopefully these should not be too painful and there are bulk editing tools such as this.

Electronics Category gets Amazon-Fied

Have you tried buying ‘tech products’ on eBay lately? Its a nightmare, Amazon is so much easier imo, eBay should be better by this time next year.

The requirement of EAN’s and matching existing records has been around for quite a while now, there are many reasons why I believe this is a good change overall, such as cutting down on the clutter on eBay and more transparent pricing for buyers.

Stellar Update – Variations!


An Example of Variations. Just note the sales volume to the right. Yes that really is 12,686 sold!

Rather excited about this one and you should be too. Multi variation listings have been around in the CSA category for ages now. There are again many reasons why you should be using these, the biggest is because they are common place now and make it easy for customers to select goods that are available in variations (such as colour or size), however there is a distinct benefit for best match search too (whoops did I say that?).

If you’ve never sold with variations before, then see this help page on eBay and also it would be a wise move to have a scan through the CSA category on eBay also and see how they are used by sellers in a category where its been a feature from when they were first implemented.

If you’re using a tool such as eSellerPro, 247TopSeller or ChannelAdvisor, dealing with multi level variations differs and I strongly suggest if this your first interaction with them, to start by manually listing an item as a variation in one of the clothing categories and then making the correct inventory structure (with the tool’s support team if needed) so you know how to prepare for this type of listing.

Its critical that you realise also that you cannot form a new multi variation listing from existing listings and you will loose the best match history on old items when moving from single items to variation styled listings. To be brutally honest, the sooner you move, the better.

Duplicate Listings Removal

Now this is a smart move by eBay and its going to catch out quite a few sellers that are perhaps bending the rules a little too far. To see how you are impacted, eBay have released a tool that identifies possible duplicates and allows you to download them as a spreadsheet.

I tried this today on a few eBay accounts, amusingly none were true duplicates, it just highlighted the lag in the tool we’re using to deal with some listings that were ended.

The wording around what is a duplicate is a little sketchy, because it does not account for fashion items where one week you may get a “black lace dress” and the next another “black lace dress” and chances are you’re going to describe it in almost the same manner. I only hope that eBay has been vague on purpose and are looking at the item specific attributes for a more informed view on whether an item is a duplicate or not.

On a side note, if we think about what eBay are possibly doing here, they are indexing key attributes for each listing and then comparing them for similarities and rejected some that are matching too closely. Now this by itself is quite simple, do this for millions of sellers, over possibly trillions of listings everyday, now that is truly amazing.

Global DSR Updates

This is quite a nice move by eBay as they are relaxing the standards for international sales and also giving sellers back the information they need to identify problem areas with international orders.

I have a saying that I previously shared, which is quite simple, but works very well for me:

A mistake or an error
An unexpected outcome, but none the less, an outcome. Knowing its a mistake or an error is critical!

Knowing, really is everything and this is a fantastic move. You can see the new global performance standards here.

Other Updates

There was an update to the Listing Analytics tool, some information about conditions for media items, buyer email spam was cut down with the removal of some duplicate emails from SMP, tracking numbers can now be taken for all couriers and also some category changes coming in April 2011.

In Summary

For me, the sole area for leverage as a merchant is to jump on the multi variations as soon as possible. Yes fees are going up, there are some other changes blah, blah, blah.

Variations are were your attention need to be, screw everything else in this update, go learn about variations immediately, they are going to change the dynamics of your almost ALL the categories you sell in.

The Unofficial History of eSellerPro


esellerpro-logo-200This is the first of several articles I have lined up, the best place is to start is in the beginning and with the history of the eSellerPro.

In the next few minutes I will be sharing the previously untold history of eSellerPro, then in future articles moving into the top three reasons why I believe eSellerPro is better than comparable products such as ChannelAdvisor, then I will be taking a look at other parts of the software from an outsiders perspective and how it can be applied to your business.


It may seem odd to be starting with a disclaimer, rather than at the end, however I feel it is important that I state, clearly and openly the following facts regarding myself and my interactions with eSellerPro.

1. I am a Former Employee of eSellerPro.
Starting as their third implementer to deploy the software to clients, I very quickly picked up the product from my past experiences as both a seller and managing similar clients previously at MarketWorks. In a relatively short space of time, I was the Implementations team leader and not only training new staff, managing the implementations team.

2. I am an Advocate of eSellerPro
Now this may seem contradictory, however the line is very clear, I left eSellerPro due to personal reasons, one of which was how the company was structured at the time. Since then funding has been sourced and the company has moved from a solely CTO led company, to now a board of directors, with an externally appointed CEO to lead the expanding team.

eSellerPro (as in the product itself) is in my mind, is brilliant. I have to say this as I enjoyed influencing the way it built up over the ~3 years I was part of the team. It was once interestingly described as “a core product with a customisation layer”, although it just so happens that the customisation layer is rather deep and can be quite complicated at times.

I have the upmost respect for team there and have no wishes to upset any carts. I was once amusingly asked if I was a “eSellerPro Pro”, today if asked, I’d reply with no, “Im Pro eSellerPro”. How’s that for a tongue tie?

3. I Use eSellerPro
I now work directly with My1stWish Ltd, they were actually the first business I implemented with eSellerPro. They use eSellerPro as their base software product and it is still used today to demonstrate how the eSellerPro system can be deployed to prospective clients.

4. I’m not a Sales Rep
I am not a sales rep and I am not receiving any commission. If you are seriously considering using eSellerPro and haven’t spoken to them yet, do so and ask for “Miles”.

The Unofficial eSellerPro History

I used to use Marketworks for my own business, after wrapping that up, I ended up working for them in implementations and as their UK support representative. This is how I know where eSellerPro started from and also why. I’ll explain in detail in the next few hundred words or so.

eSellerPro most interestingly started because of the failure of & ChannelAdvisor to adapt to the UK Market properly. A Software developer was brought in by a customer of MarketWorks (I will now abbreviate to MW) to integrate their MW account and sales orders to Royal Mail, for invoices and large scale despatch. Remember this point, I’ll be referring to it later as I feel there might be a silly mistake about to be made all over again.

The Landscape in 2005-2007

marketworks_logoAt the time there were only two real contenders in the ‘Auction Management Software’ arena, MW and Channel Advisor. Yes there were others such as Afterbuy, Spoonfeeder, eBay’s own Selling Manager Pro (SMP) and the likes of Auctiva and similar. They were all pretty basic, it was only CA (ChannelAdvisor, I’m abbreviating that as well) and MW that could offer a eBay selling tool to a degree of complexity and offer (relatively, for their time) semi-decent websites.

Interestingly, the developer who was brought in by the MW customer, developed another application for processing MW orders into SAGE. This was quite interesting to MW as they saw the chance to secure more customers with this and I believe an agreement was made to deploy this to customers for a set monthly fee (as they did not have this, CA had it via TradeBox). I can only remember two customers who purchased this application, although I am sure there more.

The entry point into ‘Auction management Software’ must have been enough for the developer, Chris Farrelly to realise that this is potentially a market for a similar product to MW, although quite a good product for its time and ChannelAdvisor was in front a little, both were extremely US orientated and there could be the opportunity for a product to rival both, but home grown and UK centric.

A side note here, this that unbeknown to me until quite recently, because of MW and CA’s short sightedness in the UK, led to the development of another software product called 247 TopSeller which had to have been started in a 2-3 month window of that of eSellerPro being first developed.

I left MW a few months after, it was a team of 4/5 that turned into a team of 1, the then “EU Director” Mike Searle’s, after his unprecedented hatred and consistent rants about CA, their questionable and I add wholly unethical practices at the time (they have got better), actually left and joined CA. That marked the beginning of the end and not long after, was bought by Channel Advisor on the 12th September 2007 for an undisclosed sum (an unconfirmed rumour was it was a “fire sale”).

An Amazing Stint at eSellerPro

I was working for a Diamonds firm in London when I received a call from a chap called Matthew Dean, he knew too much about me (quite flatteringly actually), as he had been trying to track down the right individual to help him expand a company that he had invested in, which was called ‘eSellerPro’ and my name kept appearing.

I met Matthew several times before agreeing to terms, one thing I quite happily boast about seeing the eSellerPro product for the first time, is that I could either see that the product that could solve every issue that I had at Marketworks, both as a user and a supporting party or could, with my guidance, solve them better than anything that had been conceived before. And today it does.

From the day I first met Chris, to the day I left the team, it was one hell of a coding bender and quite a ride. I’ve heard phrases such as ‘working 18 hours so that you do not have to work 8 hours for someone else’, however this was different, Chris’s lust for development was and probably still is unprecedented by anything I have ever seen and will ever see again.

When I first started, eSellerPro did have an employee in the USA called Karen Newton, quite frankly she was not that well supported (probably my fault to be honest, I should have realised) that well and with what was nightmare of a customer, it was no real surprise that we were told that she was no longer working on US clients and they were to be handled by support (there were no true support representatives at the time, the queue was managed by implementers and developers directly).

The Past CEO

I believe it was around May 2009 that a CEO was brought in, a chap called Paul Ayres, it was quite a momentous occasion, as for the first time I personally saw a chance for the business to gain a commercial aspect (as you can imagine, a CTO led company is extremely development focused and could become frustrating after a long enough period of time).

This sadly did not actually last for long and we were told, rather unceremoniously in a meeting that Paul had departed the company. Why things didn’t work out with Paul I’m not 100% sure, maybe it was too early, maybe it was a clash of true interests. I understand that he is now working on a social networking product called ‘MyCube’ and wish him the best for his new venture.

The Investment

In September 2010, several months after I had departed, it was announced that eSellerPro had secured funding by Notion Capitol for £2 million pounds, a new board would be created and a CEO employed. Frankly this was the second best thing to happen to eSellerPro after Chris’s & the teams relentless work on the product.

Now I did not realise how major this sell out was until I looked at the submitted accounts. Business Finance is a personal weakness and I need to nail this for my pending MBA studies, so what better place to start with is companies that I know about first hand.

Before the investment (see here for press release), the share distribution looked something like this:

Pearce – 70
Barker – 50
Milton – 100
Newton – 50
Dean – 70
Terry – 52 (Ordinary B)
From a total of 1052 shares, this left 660.

However on checking the share make up after the sale, they looked quite differently.

Barker – 50
Milton – 0 (these were transfer on 11-06-2010)
Newton – 50
Dean – 70
Terry – 52 (Ordinary B)
Dean – 70
Notion Capital – 420 (Ordinary B)
Ben White – 15 (Ordinary B)
Ian Milbourn – 15 (Ordinary B)
Shares allocated for staff & other parties – 167 (Ordinary C)

From a total of 1052 shares, this leaves just 143.

With the shift in assets appear as quite a drop for Chris, however to have managed to retain a decent chunk of the coupled in with the likelihood of contractual benefits as part of the process; Chris has most likely done very well, especially if you consider the background of Notion Capital in technology based companies.

A side note here is that I personally don’t think Notion Capital really knew what they were buying, it is not a ‘Lemon’ by any means, however I personally do not believe it will be a quick flip that they have enjoyed with previous ventures like Brightpearl.

eSellerPro Lite

Unbeknown to most outside parties, there is a secondary product called ‘eSellePro Lite’, a web based version of eSellerPro developed for RoyalMail. I am not sure on the viability of this option, although in theory, it could be a direct like-for-like rival to CA as it is browser based.

The United States is an obvious place to expand to, I’m aware that an office is being sourced, although a friendly tip here to eSellerPro is to remember the history of eSellerPro and why it started. Making the same mistakes that originally spawned the idea would be a bit silly, especially on their home turf.

Now at the present day, eSellerPro has bulked out quite heavily head-count-wise, there are dedicated support representatives, the development team has literally tripled in size and the same can be said for the implementations team. A board is in place, with Chris, Ben White, Ian Milbourn and the CEO Keith Bird.

The End…

This concludes “The Unofficial History of eSellerPro”. I hope this has given you an insight to eSellerPro that you’d never been told of elsewhere and an understand of where it has come from and possibly where its going too.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

Updated Services List, Forthcoming Articles & Client History

Forthcoming ArticlesI’ve been really quiet again on the article front this week again. I’ve not given up, quite the opposite. I’ve been beavering away in the background updating other content on the site (like Amazon & eSellerPro category pages) and that’s what this article is about, what is coming up and what I have completed in the past few days.

Also, I have a draft article on my MBA progression that is due for tomorrow morning (Friday 11th March), if you have any background on working with someone whom has an MBA, been through the process, employed, read about or have any information you may feel would be of use to me, please contact me today, as I’m at the OU in the evening.

Forth Coming Articles

This is not a complete list as there are a few that I wish to keep in my ‘back pocket’ for later use. However should give you an idea on the topics that are due to be released here in the forth coming days:

  • What is Fulfilment By Amazon & How much does FBA cost? (FBA Calculator included!)
  • Should I be using Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon)
  • Which eBay Shop Subscription Level should I be using? (Fees Calculator included!)
  • The untold truth about using 3rd party software such as Channel Advisor or eSellerPro
  • Is eSellerPro really worth +£2,000 plus fees?
  • Why choose Channel Advisor, aren’t they Web 1.5?
  • What is 247 TopSeller?
  • An Ex Employees/Insiders guide to eSellerPro
  • Get Ready, Get Set. Facebook Credits are going to change EVERYTHING
  • How To: Using eBay Shop Keywords to Leverage the Extra eBay Shop Pages

Client History!

This page is really is in its infancy currently. however it has been an interesting experience, remembering all the different companies I have worked with. The stark reality that there are so many and how different each of them were. The Client History page is not complete yet, however it visually shows the breadth of businesses I have had and still have the joy of working with.

New Service Offerings

I’ve been documenting what exactly I can offer potential clients and what I have been helping businesses for what is a very long time now with. Its been quite an interesting process as I am well-rounded-character and have experience in a lot of fields, that is a quality that makes me unique, however I do have key offerings, these are:

Business Mentoring & Consultation
The person you can turn to for advice, suggestions and solutions to your issues. If you want to work 4 hours per week we’ll work towards that, if you want to grow by X% then, we’ll do what is needed to achieve that goal.

Competitive Intelligence
A legal and ethical business practice, which allows executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organisation. Competitive Intelligence is the defining, gathering, analysing and distributing intelligence about a company, its products & services, its competitors and any aspect that affects the company in question.

In short, knowing your competition better than they know themselves.

Data Manipulation & API Integrations
I am an expert with MS Excel, can write VBA, iMacros, PHP and JavaScript by hand, however I know that there is no point in adding complexity, if the lowest skilled user cannot use it. That’s why I have for a long time used the term I coined ‘Matt Proof’.

From SOAP to CSV, XML to HTTP Post, if it needs to be altered, chopped, changed, manipulated, uploaded or abused to a much nicer format for use elsewhere, then there is an extremely high chance that I can aid you with this. I’ve included several examples on this on the Data Manipulation & API Integrations page.

If you are interested in any of these services, then contact me today.