What is eSellerPro & How it Can Help Your Business?

So what is eSellerPro and how can it help your business? To answer these questions effectively, I’ve put together a 3 minute video overview where I discuss the following:

  • The 3 core parts of eSellerPro, these being:
    • Inventory data & stock management
    • Order aggregation
    • The “Channel Profile” to keep the sales channels up to date
  • Suitable business types

Answered in a 3 Minute Video

Before you watch this video it’s important to note that I am a former employee of eSellerPro, clients that I work with use eSellerPro for all or parts of their businesses.

I’m not a sales rep nor do I receive any incentive from eSellerPro to publish this content. I certainly do not believe that eSellerPro is perfect, no solution provider is. What I am motivated to do, is to ensure that you choose the right back-end tool for your business and eSellerPro “could” be one that is most suitable to you.

Your Feedback

I haven’t covered the 3 core elements to eSellerPro in any great detail, the video was only designed to give you a brief overview of what these are and how they could help your business. However, these will follow in the next few days.

However did you find this video useful? Have you or are you using eSellerPro to run part or all of your business? Let me know in the comments box below.

That’s Curious BrightPearl is Releasing a Magento & eBay Integration?

Brightpearl LogoBrightpearl, now that’s a curious one.

It appears they’re adding a Magento & eBay link to their arsenal (see their shhhh page here) and I’m super curious!

If we look at the different SaaS (Software as a Service) providers out there, they’ve all originated from different angles:

  • ChannelAdvisor came from the perspective of eBay
  • And so did MarketWorks too
  • eSellerPro came from an order processing perspective, for which the marketplaces & listing were added later.
  • 247 TopSeller has hefty Amazon slant to it
  • StoreFeeder came from a Fulfilment perspective
  • Linnworks came from an ERP and MRP satellite systems
  • ChannelGrabber from a need to combine eBay & Amazon together

Brightpearl, Where Did They Come From?

As we’ve seen above each of these providers have come unique points of view and Brightpearl isn’t exception. Brightpearl came from two entrepreneurs and co-founders Chris Tanner and Andrew Mulvenna, whom was frustrated with the likes of NetSuite & Sage and how everything from a website (osCommerce) & accounting perspective was not linked and hindrance to his business at the time called “Lush Longboards”.

A years coding bender in 2006/2007 led to the development of Brightpearl, two investments later from Eden Ventures & Notion Capital, Brightpearl have over 6000 customers, a solid product that combines the features of a inventory management system, full-blown accounting (including purchase orders, quotes & invoices), contacts & a CRM tool (which is excellent I hasten to add! They’ve extended the Rapportive extension that links with Gmail), a web-based EPOS system (this is very cool) and an eCommerce offering for integrated websites.

Recently Kate Gover from Lahloo Tea discussed how Brightpearl helps her business. The video is below:

When I met the team at Brightpearl last year (hola!), the irony was that the businesses using Brightpearl felt it so valuable to use Brightpearl for their online channels that they were manually importing sales orders from other sales channels like Magento, eBay & Amazon, so that they can leverage the functionality of Brightpearl to its full potential.

eBay can get deep very quickly and Magento API is pretty poor currently, especially if you want to do complex tasks. I don’t know how far they’ve gone with the integrations yet, but even if they’ve done the basics such as stock control and order aggregation, it could be pretty slick.

Now it’s looking like they are adding a Magento integration and an eBay integration…. From a different perspective, that of website & accounting, that’s why I’m curious.

You can find out more about Brightpearl on their website and Shhhhh page where I found this information is here http://www.Brightpearl.com/shhh.

What is an Amazon Product Detail Page?

Hola! In this article, I introduce you to the Amazon product detail pages and the different variations of the detail page for products on Amazon.co.uk

If you’ve never sold on Amazon, are looking to do so or are already a seller central merchant, then taking a few minutes to watch the video in this article will help you and your staff understand what an Amazon detail page looks like and the variations that they come in. Because they’re not all the same as I show!

The Amazon Product Detail Page

The product detail pages on Amazon can and do change between product types. In the video below, I take you through some of the common components found on an Amazon product detail page such as:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • User-contributed content
  • A Product Title
  • Variations if present (Size, Colour and Size & Colour)
  • Pricing information
  • The ‘blue buy box’
  • Frequently bought items
  • What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item
  • Product specifications
  • Technical details
  • Product details
  • Product description
  • Customer reviews
  • Tags & several other elements

While not an exhaustive list as Amazon just like their product detail pages, do change the layouts from time to time,.

Anatomy of an Amazon Product Detail Page – Part 1

This video is part 1 of a multi-part video series that covers the anatomy of an Amazon product detail page from the basics in this article, to show how the inventory data you create, rules, options etc.. can impact what is shown on the detail pages for products you create on Amazon.

Reference Links

In this video, I show several pages on Amazon.co.uk, you’ll find visiting these for yourself very useful (as I have sped through some parts of them on the video) and I’ve included direct links to them below:


You now have a great founding in what Amazon product detail pages look like, the variations of them and the common components that you’ll find on them. This is crucial if you’re intending to sell on products on Amazon and also if you are already selling on Amazon as I’ve come across businesses in the past that didn’t know that you could list products with variations on this marketplace.

As I’ve shown in each of the product detail pages, there are several key sections that when creating your inventory for sale on Amazon, then you need to be fully aware of these sections. It can be tempting to skip sections and not know what the repercussions of missing them out are or what the sections in the import sheets actually mean in the first place.

If you’re thinking about selling on Amazon or already are and would like to know more, then checkout the Amazon category here, as I will be adding the following stages to the article over the next few weeks.

Like this video & Article? Let me know by either leaving a comment below!

Reverse Engineering an eBay Template from an eBay Listing Part 1

Following on from the article series around eBay listing templates I recently covered in Part 1 and Part 2. In this article, I reverse engineer an eBay listing template from an eBay listing and show you the parts that make up an eBay listing template.

This is again going to be part of a two-part series and in the second part, I’ll be showing you the template that makes up the eBay listing, which is probably a lot like the one used to create the eBay listing we’re dissecting today in this article.

So let’s dive in!

Introduction to Keywords

Wait……………. Before we dive into this, I need to introduce you to something called “Keywords”. Keywords come in many names, macros, variables, shortcuts, custom fields are a few common names, they all mean that they are a placeholder for data to be entered into.

For example, if we had a product whose colour is ‘Black’ and its data field is called ‘Colour’ then it’s quite possible that when we see a listing extract in the image below, that the actual template on the left is using such a keyword, so that when the item is listed, it becomes like the right-hand side.

introduction to template keywords

This is how large sellers on eBay are able to create consistent eBay listings, they’re not making every single listing by hand they’re using tools that are advanced and allow them to focus on each core element of the listing separately.

Note: These ‘Advanced Tools’. You’ll be seeing a few of these over the next few weeks and what they can do.

Reverse Engineering an eBay Listing Template

What I am now about to do could be explained in a couple of thousand written words, but I can do better than that I’m going to show you using video and take you through stage by stage to reverse engineer the template that site beneath an eBay listing.

From the video, I have included the template I reverse engineered as a screen shot below, so that you can see how the sellers listing template could look like in their backend tool.

ebay listing template with keywords


I remember the first time I was introduced to keywords (or Macros as they were called in MarketWorks), they were quite odd I have to admit and it took me a while to get-my-head around them.

eBay Templates enable businesses that use 3rd party tools to sell on eBay to crucially separate their product data from their eBay templates.

I eluded to the fact that some software tools allow you to template the templates. At eSellerPro, the boundaries of what can be done with templating was pushed to a level I didn’t think was possible (or even needed) and I’ve been known to create some complex structures of product templating & data that have allowed exceptionally slick data input methods for businesses in the background and what the  customer sees as in the eBay listing, looks superb.

This article was designed to introduce you to what an eBay template could look like in a back-end tool, what I didn’t cover was the data that powers the listing in the background and that’s in part 2 of this series.

SOPA & ACTA Explained in Video

There are two agreements being kicked around presently, the first is “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA and we’ve seen a lot of news coverage for this, however the second “The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” or ACTA and has caused riots over in Poland.

While I agree with the general idea of both of them, what they actually imply is far too reaching for my liking (and a lot of others apparently, including Matt Cutts from Google). Rather than me explaining these both (badly), here are two videos I have personally found useful to bring myself up to speed.

SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act – Video

ACTA – The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – Video

Your Thoughts

Do you think either of these is a good idea?

Have You Received a Price Parity Policy Warning from Amazon?

Amazon LogoHave you received a “Your Amazon Seller Account: Policy Warning” that details two products that have the pricing issues when compared from your Amazon selling account to your website? If so read on and if you haven’t yet, it appears Amazon is doing the rounds.

Update: You’ll also want to check this article out as Amazon are now notifying businesses that are falling behind on their response times Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times.

I’ve seen this a couple of times so far this year already (and several times last year too) and after the concerned email yesterday, its about time I cover this in more detail. We all know that price parity across all sales channels is ni-on impossible and I’ve included some practical advice at the end of this article on how to tackle this issue.

I’m sure 99% of you are not well versed in actual agreement that was agreed to when you first started selling on Amazon and in my breakdown the price parity that Amazon expects isn’t going to be pleasant reading, hence the inclusion of some suggestions.

The Amazon Price Parity Policy Warning

There are numerous policy warnings you can receive as a seller on Amazon (frankly none of these are good) and this article is focused towards the price parity warning titled “Your Amazon Seller Account: Policy Warning” that is being sent out by Amazon to sellers ‘Performance Notifications’ section of your seller central account.

An Example Policy Notification

I’ve stripped the product details from this notification to ensure the sellers details remain anonymous, however I will be including ‘example’ prices as we’ll need these later in the article.

Amazon Policy Warning Price Parity Email

An example of an Amazon Policy Warning Price Parity Notification

Its also worth noting that for two of the notifications I’ve seen so far, Amazon have quoted prices from Amazon Webstores, which is there website offering so this doesn’t just apply to sellers using 3rd party websites, this also applies to sellers using Amazon’s own website product too.

The text version of this notification is below and I’ve highlighted several sections in bold as we’ll be looking at these later in conjunction with the Amazon agreement.

Greetings from Amazon,

We are writing because it has come to our attention that some of listings may be in violation of our policy concerning price parity. Customers trust that they’ll find consistently low prices and other favourable terms on Amazon. To help preserve this trust, we generally require that sellers who choose to sell products on Amazon not charge customers higher prices on Amazon than they charge elsewhere. For products you fulfill, this typically means that both the item price and total price you charge customers for a product on Amazon must be generally at least as favourable as the item price and total price you charge customers on other sales channels.

– The “item price” of a product generally means the price of the product itself.
– The “total price” of a product generally means the total amount payable by a customer for that product, including discounts, rebates, promotions and shipping.

It has come to our attention that some of your listings do not abide by this policy. Example listings are provided below. Please review all of your listings to ensure they abide by this policy.

For more information, please refer to Section S-4 (“Parity with your Sales Channels”) of the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement, available in the Policies and Agreements section of seller Help.

We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for selling on Amazon.

Seller Performance Team

Example listings:
Example ASIN: < ASIN 1 >
ASIN Title: < Product Title 1 >
Date: < Date > (London, UK)
Total price on Amazon.co.uk: £65.19
Total price on <Website>: £59.49

Example ASIN: < ASIN 2 >
ASIN Title: < Product Title 2 >
Date: < Date > (London, UK)
Total price on Amazon.co.uk: £10.96
Total price on <Website>: £8.99

Understanding the Warning

So lets cut the crap here and understand that Amazon want you to have your products listed on Amazon at the best prices possible, including their commission of sale and this is their way of pointing out that on some of your products that there is a difference and they don’t like that.

So picking up on the two points from the Amazon notification email:

– The “item price” of a product generally means the price of the product itself.
– The “total price” of a product generally means the total amount payable by a customer for that product, including discounts, rebates, promotions and shipping.

They’re not holding back here and want to factor in all the factors to the total price “including discounts, rebates, promotions and shipping” (which is part of the agreement I cover in a few moments), so if you’re running say an email marketing campaign with a special promotional code, according to Amazon, you should adjust your prices to match this offer (more on this later).

Its also interesting that they’re quoting the “Amazon Services Europe Business Solutions Agreement” in the notification and explicitly the section S-4. The full agreement can be found on the Amazon website here.

I have included an extract below (correct at 29 Jan 2011) of the policy section S-4 and this is in bold and my own comments are in the quote bubbles.

S-4. Parity with Your Sales Channels

Subject to this Section S-4, you are free to determine which of Your Products you wish to list for sale on a particular Amazon Site.

So you’re able to choose which products you list on Amazon and which products you don’t. (That’s nice)

You will maintain parity between the products you offer through Your Sales Channels and the products you list on the a particular Amazon Site by ensuring that at the applicable Selling on Amazon Launch Date and thereafter:

(a) the Purchase Price and every other term of offer and/or sale of Your Product (including associated shipping and handling charges, Shipment Information, any “low price” guarantee, rebate or discount, any free or discounted products or other benefit available as a result of purchasing one or more other products, and terms of applicable return and refund policies listed on such Amazon Site) is at least as favourable to users of such Amazon Site as the most favourable terms upon which a product is offered and/or sold via Your Sales Channels (excluding consideration of Excluded Offers);

The selling price for your products must be at-par or more favourable to Amazon buyers when compared to your other selling channels.

(b) customer service for Your Products listed on such Amazon Site is at least as responsive and available and offers at least the same level of support as the most favourable customer services offered in connection with any of Your Sales Channels (provided that any such customer service will at all times be conducted in a timely, professional and courteous manner) (this requirement does not apply to customer service for payment-related issues on Your Transactions, which we will provide); and

Customer service should be uniform across the channels. That’s an assumed factor.

(c) the Content, product information and other information under Section S-1.1 regarding Your Products listed on such Amazon Site that you provide to us is of at least the same level of quality as the highest quality information displayed or used in Your Sales Channels. If you become aware of any non-compliance with (a) above, you will promptly compensate adversely affected customers by making appropriate refunds to them in accordance with Section S-2.2.

Read this section twice. That’s right, if there is a price difference between your sales channels and your Amazon sell price for a completed purchase is less favourable to an Amazon customer, then you are expected to compensate ‘adversely affected’ customers.

From my notes later in this article, it appears that this threshold of ‘adversely affected’ is a 9% or greater difference between Amazon and your other sales channels.

For Amazon-Fulfilled Products, we acknowledge that if the shipping and handling charges associated with the sale and delivery of any of Your Products listed for sale on such Amazon Site are included in (and not separately stated) the purchase price listed for Your Product on such Amazon Site (collectively a “Shipping Inclusive Purchase Price”), then the parity obligation in (a) above will be satisfied if the Shipping Inclusive Purchase Price and each other term of offer and/or sale for the product on the particular Amazon Site are at least as favourable to users of such Amazon Site as the purchase price and each other term of offer and/or sale for the product (including any and all separately stated shipping and handling charges) pursuant to which the product is offered and/or sold via any of your sales channels other than the particular Amazon Site.

FBA is a special case and they’re acknowledging that there are other costs associated for sellers for this method, but is still to be factored in when it comes the first part (a) for price parity.

Where Did Amazon Obtain the Prices From?

Please understand that because almost all of the notifications I’ve seen have come from different website products, then someone from Amazon has quite likely been through your website manually to check these prices. Also from the emails I have copies of, two use the Amazon Webstore product. Even if you use this to run your website selling activities, you’re not immune.

Note: Amazon could of course used ‘Google Shopping’ to check the prices. But because of one of the prices quoted in one of the notifications, I don’t believe this is the case or if they are, they’re manually verifying on the sites.

While a date stamp is included, no time is included. Which is a shame as we would been able to pin-point exactly the source of the user agent used to check the prices on the external website, but is also a point we shouldn’t overlook as, its an exclusion that can be used as a battering point because most businesses use repricing software for the channels and it could be easy to argue that between software updates, that the prices are likely to be out-of-sync with each other across the sales channels.

The Threshold for ‘Adversely Affected’ Prices

This is a curious one, as what actually constitutes as ‘adversly affected customer’? This is where having a unique view across different businesses comes in really handy.

I’ve looked through the notifications, taken note of the percentage differences between the Amazon price and the website selling prices and there seems to be a correlation between them.

Using the Amazon 15% commission range as a common key across the notifications, in all the examples I have, the selling price difference is 9% or higher between the price being stated that was on Amazon and the price being stated.

To be fair to Amazon, in pretty much all cases the selling price difference was a lot higher than 9% more on Amazon compared to the businesses website and on several of them, the prices had a difference of over 30%. So if you’re asking yourself is this warning warranted, it probably is!

Reality Check

I personally see the policy warning as a poke from Amazon to say:

“hey you’re prices are out, can you keep them in-line with us please”

While I understand why Amazon would like to ensure that their prices are the most competitive for their customers, even in their own agreement they’re using terminology that allows for some lea-way in the pricing between selling channels such ‘adversely affected’ and the term ‘generally’ is used twice in the notification itself.

It appears that this definition of ‘generally’ is in the region of a 9% or greater price difference between Amazon and another sales channel and as per my comment earlier, in the cases I’ve seen so far, the examples given were a lot higher than just 9%, with several over 30% and looking at a per SKU level, maybe the pricing is out and the warning was founded.

I’ve not seen (as of yet) Amazon do a re-run of a price parity check on accounts, however if they were to, I’m sure if you or Amazon dig deep enough into any business that is using more than one sales channel that you’ll find a difference in prices.

Whether Amazon actually take this further than my interpretation of it being a reminder to “play fair”, only Amazon know. As such, I’ve put together some suggestions that you should find useful, no matter what your account size or back-end software:

  • Use the Amazon selling price as the website price
    Now before you scream “NO WAY!” at this as you’re likely to command a better price on the website than on Amazon, remember the reach that Amazon has to potential customers and even if you do your best to keep within say a 9% window of price differentiation, Amazon is most likely a far larger sales channel than your website, probably for eternity.
  • Export & Cross compare Prices in Excel
    As the likely hood is that there are you’re using a variety of different software platforms to run your websites from I’ve not included an excel example, however the process is really straight-forwards, IF you have used the same merchant SKU over your channels or another key that allows you to cross compare your inventory from different channels.An example would be to use eBay File Exchange to export your eBay listings, an Amazon ‘Inventory Report’ export from the “Download Inventory File” section in Seller Central and also an export from your website. Then using the VLOOKUP function in excel (see this link on YouTube for examples) to cross compare prices and run as a percentage in a column extra.
  • Repricing Software
    With almost all decent repricing software for Amazon, you are able to set an ideal selling price, a minimum and also a maximum too (if it doesn’t Google ‘channel max). Ensure that these are taking into account your website prices, so that you try and keep within the 9% window or maybe… work the prices backwards to your website.
  • Percentages!
    Its really easy for anyone (like Amazon or a customer) to point the finger and say “well for that SKU the price is different”. What I would suggest as a practical measure is that you point out to Amazon (probably not best done to a customer though) is that if you cross compare the prices globally across you selling channels (using the tip above) that “on average” the selling price differences between the channels are within X window and that if they look at individual cases, then they’ll always find fault. But as a overall picture it should be relatively easy to prove that you do keep your prices in-two with Amazon’s expectations

Your Feedback

And finally:

  • Have you received this notification too? 
  • Have you spoken to Amazon support regarding this, what was their reaction?
  • Did you make any changes to your pricing? 

Let me know in the comments box below.

How to Save eBay Searches and Have the Results Emailed to You

A heavily under-used feature for both buyers and merchants on eBay is the ability to make a search, save it and then to me notified of the results on a daily basis via email.

This is very handy if you’re a buyer and are looking for a rare item, a seller who is conducting Market Research or an intellectual property rights owner (someone who owns a brand name for example) who has a desire to monitor eBay for their products and keep track of merchants that are using the marketplaces to distribute their goods or services upon.

In this article, I’ll take you through how to save a search, how to manage them and how to set up email notifications for them.

So What is a Saved Search?

Each time you make a search on eBay,  there is an option to save the search so that you don’t have to keep looking for the same search terms over and over. You can then manage these searches in your My eBay section of eBay and also set up email notifications for daily updates.

There are several instances where this functionality would be very useful, these are:

  1. You’re looking for a rare item
  2. You want to save the search you’ve made and reuse it at a later date
  3. You want to be notified of the latest listings that match the search criteria

Note: I won’t be covering advanced search techniques in this article, this will be coming soon in the form of an eBook that goes way beyond what I could sensibly fit into a single article.

How to Save an eBay Search

For this example I am going to use a real search that I have saved in my buying account, its for a device called a “Neuros OSD”, it’s a network device that allows me to play media files over a network on a normal TV. They’re very useful, but they’re around £100 new and I’ve picked up 2 so far from eBay sellers for under £20.

#1 Make The Search

First of all you make the search as normal on eBay. The search in this example isn’t particularly advanced, but it is looking in the item title and the items descriptions.

eBay Saved Search 1


#2 Press ‘Save Search’

Below the search box there is a “Save search” option, click it and a new window appears as shown in the two screen shot below:

eBay Save this search

#3 Rename & Set Email Options

In the pop-up panel that appears you are now able to save the search. But before doing so, give the search a name that you’ll easily recognise, it makes life so much easier later, especially if you can image that you have 5 or even 50 of these in your account.

Once set, press “Save”.

YAY. Easy-peasy!

eBay Saved Search - Name the Search

Managing Saved Searches

My eBay: Saved searches

You are able to manage your saved searches within My eBay, a direct link to this section of you account is here or you can follow this path:

Got to eBay > Along the top press “My eBay”> On the left click on “Saved Searches”

Obviously you can delete any saved searches you no longer need, this is a simple case of selecting them on the left and then pressing delete at the bottom.

You can manage the options for each of the searches from this page also and crucially redefine or copy searches too. A really handy feature is that you can add notes. A good use for this is if you were drilling down a selection of seller accounts for a specific search or needed to add extra information which is perhaps too long for the search title.

Redefining a Saved eBay Search

Once you have one or more searches saved, you are able to redefine them. On the right-hand side of each saved search, there is the option to “Edit Search”, if you click this you’re taken to the search results page.

I show this in the screen shot below, take note that there is an extra option in the search results that allows you to save this search as either the same search name or if you’d prefer as a new saved search.

Saving as a new search could allow you to easily separate the different condition of items, such new and used items. If we think back to the example if an intellectual rights owner, they could easily be altered to both new products and also monitor how the second-hand market for their products is shaping up.

Editing a Saved eBay Search

Saved eBay Searches Summary

Saving searches can literally “save” a lot of time, especially if you’re going to be using the same or similar searches over a period of time.

Having them emailed to you is a handy feature, but for power users that are using this functionality to research eBay it’ll prove to be too much information and as eBay only allow a daily email, a summary email for the weeks listings sadly isn’t an option.

My biggest tip for you is to name the well and add notes to the searches. While eBay shows the search criteria, when you’re working with more than 20 searches, adding a note that explains what the search is supposed to return, will speed up your activities.

Have you used the eBay saved searches before? How did you find them? Leave a comment in the comments box below.

Barcodes, GTIN’s,UPC’s, EAN’s, ISBN’s, JAN’s & ASIN’s Explained

Barcodes, these can cause confusion, especially if we account for all the different names they can be referenced as and even the term barcode isn’t technically correct, GTIN is. As such this article aims to dis-spell the myths & confusion around them and give you the 101 on the different variations, what they are and how they’re used.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to broadly call all GTIN (Global Trade Item Numbers) as ‘barcodes’, this is what you’ll likely to recognise them as from day-to-day items and will help keep things in plain English (which I know you like).

What is a Barcode?

A ‘barcode’ is the visual representation of a set of numbers. In the video below, I show several products and on the back of each of them are images and some numbers, like in the image below:

What is a barcode?The ‘barcode’ is the vertical lines and these are the visual form of the numbers below, ie 012345678900. However for ease, very few people know what GTINs are and the term “barcode” will make more sense to more people as we’ve all seen them on products, like soup. So I’m calling them ‘barcodes’.

A barcode by its correct name is a GTIN or its full name ‘Global Trade Item Number’. These come in various forms and are globally universal indentifies to find product information across databases and differing platforms.

Think of them as an international “postcode” that identifies a single address, but for products.

This video covers the contents of this article, including examples and where you can obtain your own barcode range for selling on eBay & Amazon.

Note: Before you watch the video, I’m going to quickly add that this was recorded last year, since then I’ve solved the lighting and sound quality issues, plus my office has been re-decorated with the artwork from the children.

Why are Barcodes Important?

When you’re shopping (say in Tesco’s) you’ll see the clerk scan the items through the till, the till is scanning the barcode on the product and then this is being looked up in a database to obtain its price and do some other stuff too.

Barcodes are ‘keys’, this is a term for used in databases and the idea is just like your front door key, the key should only fit one lock, thus that key belongs to that door and ‘ideally’ none others (see the note on this later).

This is why when your items are being scanned in the supermarket, the price is returned and you gain an accurate bill. Also in the background, this key is also used for many other purposes, such as stock control and reporting functions.

In short, one barcode = one product

Barcodes on Amazon

Just like in the supermarket when shopping, Amazon also uses these ‘barcodes’ as unique identifiers for products.

There are some exceptions which are for seeds & plants, furniture and home decoration categories and in such instances approval must be gained from Amazon to do this. However as a general rule you will need a barcode to create a new product on Amazon.

Note: While barcodes used for Amazon should be unique, it’s possible to find products on Amazon that have more than one GTIN used to identify a product. This is caused by two reasons:

  • Expiry
    As I cover in the video above, barcodes are leased, not owned. It’s quite possible for the barcodes to be re-used and thus two different products have the same barcode identifier for them.
  • Duplication bySellers
    It’s quite common for two different businesses to have their own barcode ranges, as such with unbranded goods its quite possible for the same product (say a pair of boots) to be listed more than once on Amazon under different identifiers.

GTIN Variations

There are five main types of GTIN’s that are in use (with regards to Amazon), these are:

  • ISBN
  • UPC
  • EAN
  • JAN
  • GTN-14


ISBN ExampleThese you’ll find on books, this is because ISBN is short for ‘International Standard Book Number’ and can come in both 13 and 10 digit numbers.

I’ve included a photo of the back of one of the books I’m reading at the moment and you’ll see in the bottom right-hand corner an ISBN both as a number and the visual representation of that number for barcode readers.


These are “Universal Product Code’s” and generally you’ll find them on most USA (American) based items.

The use of these in the UK for products is somewhat limited and you’ll see EAN’s far more more often and you’ll see why in the next section.


EAN is short for ‘European Article Number’, hence this why you’ll see these more frequently in the UK.

EAN’s are everywhere, some examples are below on some random items I found in my home, if you look around your’s, you’ll find they’re everywhere!

Examples of EAN's from Household Items


These are ‘Japanese Article Number’s and, to be honest, you’re unlikely to come across them in the UK for products listings to Amazon or just about anywhere.


Global Trade Item Number or GTIN’s have a few names, the first is GTIN-14, UCC14 or ITF-14, ultimately they are 14 digits.


Amazon LogoAn ASIN is an acronym for ‘Amazon Standard Identification Number’. Once an inventory record has been created on Amazon, Amazon assigns their own version of a barcode, called the ‘ASIN’ and it’s a key that is unique to the Amazon marketplace.

The crucial note here is that ASIN’s are Amazon’s own product identification system and is unique to Amazon.

Note: I am working on a more in-depth description of what ASIN’s are, it’ll be published in the next week or so, if I forget to update this article (quite likely) search for ASIN at the top of this site.

Obtaining a Barcodes

Barcodes are not technically owned by a business owner, instead they are leased for a period of time. You can lease these from numerous companies, however, the source of these is a company called GS1, you can find more information about them here http://www.gs1.org/barcodes or http://www.gs1uk.org/ for the United Kingdom.

Allocation is based upon the companies requirement, for example if you are a small manufacturing firm with only a few products, then you may only be allocated 1000, however if you require hundreds of thousands, then you’ll be allocated many, many more.

The fees for the subscription are based upon company turnover, using the current figures (July 2011) from the UK GS1 site, the joining fee is £107 and the annual company annual subscription fee is £117.

You can contact GS1 at http://www.gs1uk.org/about-us/Pages/Contact-Us.aspx if you have any specific questions regarding pricing and subscriptions.


Barcodes or should I now say GTIN’s are everywhere and they are a way for businesses to assigned unique product identifiers to their products.

They appear in several common formats and we should also note that while a ASIN is not a true GTIN, its so commonly used in eCommerce for Amazon, it might as well be.

So do you feel more comfortable with ‘barcodes’ now, how and where they’re used? Let me know in the comments box below & if you have any feedback, I’d also love to hear from you.

The Top 8 Pitfalls of Using 3rd Party Software To Manage Your Business

“I thought using 3rd party software to automate my online business was one of the best decisions I ever made?”

I asked myself this question back in November last year, since then certain events have happened and  I strongly feel that adding software to manage repetitive parts of an on-line business is a sensible move.

This is to the point that it doesn’t matter which tools you use, as long as they’re automated and take less work than processing the tasks manually would take is a good thing. However, sometimes the pitfalls are overlooked and in this article I delve into these.

Setting the Scenerio

Let’s make a fictitious company called “Widgets Ltd”.

This company started from one person and as the business model was proved, several members of staff were added and a team formed.

Widgets Ltd sells on multiple channels, they started with eBay, dabbled with Amazon and also have their own website, they also have a trade site and a trade counter with a simple till, with no real stock control over any of the platforms.

Approximately a year into the business, multi channel software was employed and while this took a few weeks to employ & for the staff to get up to speed, due to the forced efficiencies of the software, better stock control & they looked at Amazon more seriously, sales grew within a few months, compounded by a seasonal period, sales figures rose to levels they’ve only dreamt about and everything looks rosy.

Pitfalls, What Pitfalls?

On first glance, Widgets Ltd has done really well, mainly because they got past the one person stage and had a business model that worked at small scale, with efficiencies through the use of software,  the business was able to amplify the model worked and allowed them to add the important factor scale and grew.

As I suggested, everything looked rosy. More & more money going through the business, everyone looking busy, feedback rocketing & receiving some real kudos from their family, suppliers & friends.

To quickly clarify, automation especially when it comes to labour intensive tasks is a generally a “good thing”. By automating these tasks, it can allow the business owner(s) to work on their business and not always in it. Purely because of this, this is why most 3rd party tools are a positive to their business, to a point that is, which I’m making in this article.

The moment you add software to automate a process, you become removed from it and this is the stem of majority of the issues that 3rd party software creates.

However, I’m going to take the most basic of examples, probably the most highly desired automated process of them all, leaving feedback on marketplaces such as eBay.

Can you remember when you first started on eBay? You probably bought a few items and gained some feedback, you then started selling a few items and leaving feedback was a personalised affair, tailored to each customer, you were leaving them manually and keeping a keen eye on what buyers were telling you.

After all the rest of the selling process was probably all manual as well and you knew everything about the products, listings, questions, orders, customers etc… However the second you automate one of these processes, you become removed and tend to focus on the visually detrimental parts, such as neutral, negative feedback & DSR scores and forget about the positive comments that may hold the key to moving forwards with the business.

And that’s why it’s quite easy to identify the pitfalls, because the dangers are all around the business when automation is employed and this is what I have dedicated the rest of this article to.

The Eight Common Pitfalls

There are way more than just eight of them, however, these are the common occurrences.

  1. Not at ground level any more
    As I suggested in the simplest of examples above, when you automate processes, you can easily become removed from the ground level and only focus on the bad points, rather than the good points that become overshadowed. This happens throughout the business, as the decision makers become further removed the ground.
  2. Mistaking marketplace growth for business growth
    Focusing on eBay & Amazon, these sites have seen double digit growths over the years, however eBay has slowed down & Amazon has picked up pace (on a global scale), however we’re not seeing huge growths with eBay anymore and it can be misleading to assume that the 5-25% growth in your business has been to the effects that your actions have had, rather that the marketplaces have grown by these numbers and you’re riding the wave.
    Note: This is discussed in detail in two articles called The eBay “Best Match” Position Bias Modifier Hypothesis and Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?
  3. Unable to identify trends effectively
    This goes back to the ground level view again, when the business in the example above Widgets Ltd was only one or a few people, it was easy to identify which products were moving and which ones we not, because the staff knew them intimately. However as the owners moved up the ranks, they became further & further removed from the front lines and if the software that they’re using is able to report on data their business is generating, then can lead to the business hitting a plateau and no-one knowing why and in the next one the most lethal of them all is covered.
  4. Happy with the businesses performance
    Some business models have a natural plateau point in them due to the factors that make the business up and while adding automation to a business can remove most of the softer walls to a business to progressing, if we combine a spike of growth over a few months and the owners becoming complacent, the business becomes ‘happy’ with the current results and doesn’t take a serious look on how to expand further.
  5. Unhappy with the businesses performance
    And a complete inverse of the above is that the business owners may mistake the automation of their systems and growth of their business as a huge demand for their offerings, when in fact the automation part, just allowed them to work more effectively, focused on a few key issues like stock control, sourcing, customer service and order management, but continuously expect the same amount of growth of the business that the employment of automation first provided.
    I have one question for this, do you define success as a business that lasts 10 years with ever decreasing profitability or a business that lasts 10 years and keeps a competitive advantage and a decent profitability? Maybe both are right, but which one do you automatically get pulled towards?
  6. Unsupported or time lag to new features
    When working with multiple marketplaces, things are bound to move. This is especially true of eBay you release updates every few months, some of which can completely alter the way that the marketplace works, such as best match did or the introduction of multi-variations (see earlier article here for examples), the same goes for updates to other platforms & software products, take a courier integration, they shelve the older version and you’re forced to the new version.
    Now imagine that your current software provider, that was previously automating the courier process is unable to support the changes for 2-3 weeks. That’s a scary thought & while I’ve never experienced a courier software change that inflicted weeks of failure in automation, it can happen and crucially does happen.
  7. Owners are not always good managers
    Before you draw insult from this, I am the first to admit that I am not a very good manager. People that are brilliant technicians rarely make brilliant managers. While they are outstanding at ground level, maybe creating code or graphic design, they can lack core skills to be able to manage people & businesses effectively. Employing automation can blur this, but without a core understanding of the processes required to scale or adding members to the team that can manage such roles, then this as I know all too well, can cause issues.
  8. Tell others about their automation tools
    I’ve personally seen this a few times now, where business owners have seen obscene growths in turnover have spilled their tools to others (either knowing or unknowingly) and competitors and even suppliers have jumped in too and taken the advantages the automation provides.
    While I’m not going to name examples of the latter, I can note here that one of the first tasks I made when using MarketWorks (a tool to automate eBay processes), the first task that I took was putting a layer on top of the MarketWorks logo that was automatically inserted in the listings, so that competitors could not readily work out which tool I was using.


While the above was not exhaustive and that 3rd party software products can provide huge benefits to businesses through automation, there are downsides to using them.

Some are obvious, such as competitors or even suppliers picking up that the business is using certain tools to manage their business and then using them to compete more fairly with the business, while others less succinct issues like the owners not being competent managers, or time lags in changes to marketplaces or being unable to trend their business can all impact a businesses effectiveness.

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5 Questions for Dzine-Hub – A Professional eBay & Web Design Company


Following on from the two-part series “Why buy a professionally designed eBay listing template?” for which you can read part 1 here and part 2 here, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to interview a company that specialises in such designs and share with you first hand the experiences and feedback from such a provider.


I’ve got 5 brilliant questions for Abbas from DZine-Hub.com lined up, but first let me introduce Abbas to you.

I first met Abbas when we were given an exceptionally large quote for a revamp of one of my clients eBay shops and listing templates, to the point we had to find an alternative.

It turned out to be somewhat ironic, the company that we chose had been busy creating templates for other businesses in the same category as this client and it was almost full-circle for Abbas to end up re-designing the original eBay shop that had inspired so many other merchants to up-their-game with a professionally designed template.

I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Abbas face-to-face, Abbas came over to the UK from India where DZine-Hub is based in March 2001 for the Internet Retailing Conference. After the conference had finished, Abbas stayed in Bristol for the following week or so and we met up and took Abbas to my 3rd place, a cafe on the edge of Bristol docks.

Since then I’ve worked with Abbas & his team on numerous projects and its normally the first recommended design resource for all eBay related projects.

I’ve lined up five questions and over to Abbas!

Before we start, Abbas, can you tell us a little more about what your company does?

I originally started as a drop-ship business selling on eBay, building a team we cleared over 20,000 items in a 6 month period, but it was the designing that was my passion and we now use this understanding of how eBay works from a sellers perspective to help our clients set up businesses on eBay, through websites & the social platforms more efficiently.

My team now focus purely on eCommerce design projects, which includes eBay shop designs, eBay listing templates, eCommerce website design, Facebook fan pages and also customising clients Twitter pages.

When we first started Dzine-Hub, there were very few successful design companies, their turn around times were slow and the prices for services were highly impractical. We optimised our processes, focusing on quality and always aiming to remain small & nimble to keep the entire process as personal as possible, after all these are peoples businesses we are representing with the designs and impacts them greatly.

Why do you feel that people use services such as yours for eBay listing templates and eBay shops?

There are many many people selling on eBay and many using eBay shops. One of the best ways to get ahead of the rest of the sellers on eBay is to use a professional design for your eBay store and listings.

An eBay store design and listing template design is vital for three important reasons –


A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers on the eBay market increases by day. Time taken to create a brand, and then market that effectively is time well spent. Branding increases your credibility with the customer & concretes user loyalty. A unique high-quality design helps in effective branding.


A bad design interface can discourage a potential customer from making a purchase owing to the fact that the navigation is not too simple. A good interface can put the customer at ease, with navigation made easy between store pages and other information. Our store designs are not just good looking, we create a good navigation interface to make your eBay store more customer-centric.

[Matt’s comment: The basic eBay shop is fine to a degree, but after that they all look the same and 3rd party design companies can really add some flair to the eBay shops and add a superior user interface which ultimately helps buyers find items faster & more efficiently in both the eBay shop and the listings themselves ]


Another way of increasing sales / conversions is cross-promotion – let the customer know what you feel might be of interest to them apart from the primary area of focus. Creative banners and well-designed promotion category boxes can communicate with the customer more effectively.

Abbas, DZine-Hub is not based in the UK, while I personally have no issues with outsourcing activities such as design work that I am not specialised in, what 5 tips would give UK business owners when outsourcing their design work?

We have positioned ourselves as an Internet-based business, just like our clients, where the core competencies of our company are measured by the kind of services we offer and how we deliver them.

Beyond a point the location only matters little, it is about how we do what we do, to the best our abilities.

Here are 5 tips for UK business owners looking to outsource their design work:

  1. Look for experience
    Have a look at the portfolio, that would give you an idea on what they are capable of. Live links to eBay stores which showcase the work done.
  2. Genuine reviews
    Look at what people have spoken about their work (preferably on a third-party website).
  3. Service
    See the terms of service, after sales support and how easily contactable they are. Give them a call and/or an email and see what response you get back from them.
  4. Nature of their clientele
    See how big their clients are, their eBay feedback. If they’re attracting high volume, high value businesses, then they’re worth contacting.
  5. Expertise
    Many businesses use software tools to run their businesses on eBay. Its crucial that they have knowledge of the software system the company is working with.

[Matt’s comment: Just to add to the points above, never be afraid of picking up the phone and speaking to them. Look for a UK number or a Skype contact and call them. It’ll take no more than a few minutes and you’ll know first hand what the level of communication is going to be like. Maybe just like what your buyers do to your business ;-) ]

When we last spoke, you had exceeded the 600 designs mark, could you tell us how the journey has been this far?

The journey this far has been an exciting one to say the least. In the last couple of years of us being fully functional, we have learnt an amazing lot and grown from strength to strength.

We have launched 600 eBay stores and it’s not so much the volume that matters – but the fact that we have personally dealt with and successfully helped launch that many businesses on eBay. We’ve also designed a fashion outlet store in the UK along with the many others and have launched 50 eCommerce websites (and counting) based on the Magento platform.

Myself & my team are looking to an even more exciting time ahead – our next year should feature us venturing into Amazon web-stores, and launching more designs for other eCommerce websites that function on different shopping carts other than Magento, like OpenCart, Volusion, BigCommerce, Prestashop to name a few.

First impressions are huge, how do you work with your clients to ensure theirs are first-rate?

My1stWish Design ExampleHaving been in the business of eBay selling for quite a while, we’ve identified how critical it is for the designed templates to have the right balance of design and cross-promotion, suited to each individual business model.

We have been designing templates for varied set of clients, selling products & services across a very wide range of categories. A lot of our time is spent on deciding with our clients, what to do and how for each small / medium / large business, which we plan to have an impact on.

We understand how important it is for our clients to instill trust and confidence in their prospective buyers minds and all this is achieved with well designed professional templates.

First impressions count everywhere – we do our best to ensure that our clients make a very good first impression on their customers.

Some examples of our work are below:

Thank You

Abbas, thank you for taking the time answer those questions for us.

You can find out more about DZine-Hub.com here, the link goes straight to the gallery page of over 100 eBay design examples.

When Was The Last Time You Bought From A Competitor?

Seeing what your competition are up to is always an enlightening experience. You’re able to reverse engineer what their processes are and what the product quality & service is like and to gauge how you compare.


Real Example

One of the businesses that I’m working with as part of ProjectE had an action last week, which was to investigate a potential competitor on a new marketplace. What was found is that they were lacking badly and there is potential in them exploring this marketplace further.

I have removed some details from the email so that it remains anonymous and replaced the sections with [comments] as applicable.

Hi Matt! Hope you’re having a good week.

My [product] has just arrived from [marketplace] in a crappy cardboard box (which I’m sure is supposed to have some reference to [marketplace] on the outside?). No invoice in the box. Just a badly cut slip of paper with more bad puntuation and grammar which is in keeping with the email they sent!

And the [product] .

The quality is appalling – none of the [key attributes] in places and poor [person’s] face is the weirdest colour I’ve ever seen!  We know that these issues are caused by either using [a tool incorrectly]. Very amateurish to say the least.

So we know we can wipe the floor with these guys – they say they are the cheapest on [marketplace] , well in this case you get what you pay for! As soon as I get our new [something] back we’re on there!

Just thought I’d share that with you. Just toying with the idea of leaving feedback now.

Sometimes you hit gold like this, where competitors have no sense of standards and quality processes in place. Do you think that they’ll now be investigating this marketplace further? I think so.

A quick note around the feedback either formal feedback on the marketplaces or personally to them is that I’d not suggest you do this and refrain from leaving any, especially if it’s going to be negative. Also, I frankly see no reason except for a high-ground-moral-reason to tell them if you can get over that. I’d keep quiet and let them fail in peace.

Stop - Take Action!When was the last time you bought from a competitor?
You can learn so much from buying items from not only competitors, but also companies in other areas. It only takes a few minutes, the cost can be exceptionally low, however, the insights can be enlightening.

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Why Buy a Professionally Designed eBay Listing Template? Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series and if you’ve missed the first part you can read it here ‘Why buy a professionally designed eBay listing template?‘.

In this second part, I’ll be covering the following topics:

  1. Standardisation of common components
  2. The ability to try new layouts easily
  3. Professionally designed eBay template examples
  4. The conclusion

Standardisation of Common Components

Yes, you can achieve this without a paid-for design and I’m really looking forward to creating some basic layout templates that you can use as part of forthcoming articles (try searching for eBay template in the search box on this site as I may have added them by now).

However, with a professional designed eBay listing template, you’ll find that the elements are typically styled a lot better than what a novice can do with limited to no HTML & design skills.

To clarify what I mean by ‘Standardise data input’, these are the typical sections that you might have included in your listing template layout:

  1. Title
  2. Image(s)
  3. A short description of the product
  4. Any technical details
  5. Your standard postage option
  6. Your returns policy
  7. Your payment methods

So taking point 7, you can have your accepted payment methods prewritten and if they design company is a really good one, they’ll help you out formatting such sections, so each time you list, you don’t have to repetitively input this information or even in worst case scenario leave it out!

Note: With some software providers you can also provide logic testing alter what is and what is not shown in eBay listings. I’ll not be covering these in this article but is noted for a future one.

The Ability to Try New Layouts Easily

If you have a designed or even a basic template layout, then you’re able to then “play with” altering the placement of the sections in the template.

For example, you may include the images to the left in one layout and in another the images to the right. My point here is, that as soon as you have broken the product/service details & common elements away from the design itself, then you can alter the design and layout as you wish.

Note: Again noting that this is much easier when using most of the 3rd party software for eBay listings. The eBay listing template is normally broken away from the actual product data, then keywords are left behind in the template, as placeholders for the product data and that in itself allows the easy manipulation of the template layout. However even just altering the template for any new listings you may have is also applicable to this example.

Professionally Designed eBay Template Examples

Here are some examples I’ve picked at random from eBay, I’ve included a screenshot for each, a link so you can find the sellers items and view their eBay listing templates.

Note: I’ve linked directly to the eBay shops as listings is not a good idea as they may expire):

eBay-template-UniQ Clothing

UniQ Clothing

eBay-template-Funky Clubwear eBay-template-EFX Digital
eBay-template-vinyl_zoso eBay-template-ocean tree trading

Example Breakdown

If you take a look through each of the eBay shops above and delve into the listings, you’ll find a variety of different designs and layouts. It’s important to note they’re all doing the same thing, presenting product information to you as a potential buyer. Some do it better than others and it’s for you to take what works well for your products and then make it better.

Picking on Uniq Clothing, the actual product data they have in their listings is actually very, very low. In fact it’s so light on data, I will be dissecting one of their eBay listings in a future article to show you how light they are on the data as I reverse engineer the listing data.

If you pick any one of their eBay listings, you’ll note that if you visually exclude the outer contents of the template, what’s documented for the product, is minimal. A listing title, barely any eBay item specifics, great images and a six line description consisting of no more than 20 words and guess what? It looks fab! A testament to what a decent template structure & design can do to make really, really poor data.


Any listing template is a good idea (I think I’ve said that 4 times now), as they allow you to include the common sections in each time, such as postage details and product attributes to gain uniformity across your eBay listings.

Then by ‘branding’ yourself, you are able to portray yourself as a more professional seller and also allow the porting of customers from one platform to another more easily.

If your eBay activities look like your website and the customer has previously converted, then moving them to another trading place is far easier as they “recognise your business” (the point I was making with Tesco in part 1).

Do you use an eBay listing template for your eBay listings? What improvements did you find?

Use the comment box below to let me know!