Amazon Just Made it REALLY Difficult for 99.9% of UK Businesses

First there was the price parity warnings, then there was the policy warnings for buyer response times, then Amazon started to get aggressive with 3rd party businesses by throwing them off and now… They’re bulking in all the really expensive places in the UK to ship to as mainland UK.

I’m going to start this article with a direct and open message to Amazon.

Open Message to Amazon

Dear “Amazon”,

It’s crystal clear that you care deeply about your customers, this also happens to be the same people we, as 3rd party merchants, care very much about too.

As much as this will be distasteful to you, on behalf of every business that uses the Amazon UK marketplace, please… take a lesson from eBay on communicating messages to your 3rd party merchants.

eBay just released a set of updates for their their marketplaces in a structured, well considered approach, taking the time to bundle several changes together into a single update and added excellent communications around this, this included a dedicated section of their website to the updates, video content and 3rd parties were informed.

We, [plural, as I am speaking for the businesses that I work with and the 11 frantic emails I received so far this evening from other concerned business owners (I’m sure more will follow tomorrow)] would like it very much if you could try and bulk up changes that are going to come out very close to each other, so that as multi-channel business owners we can react to them in one go.

Sometimes we may not like the updates you make, but we also understand that you are looking out for the best interests of our customers too.

While we may not like that the new change to the shipping, because it’s going to cost us an absolute fortune for certain product verticals, we do understand why you would like to make such a change, as it has the best interests for those customers in the outskirts of the UK mainland.

However, this is the 3rd update in as many weeks and it would not take much effort you bundle these together into a single update.

We’re not asking for the level of communication that eBay provides, just to slow down and give us chance to digest and react to the changes, rather than hitting us with three consecutive blows.

Thank you

Take a read of this, if you haven’t seen your’s yet, it’ll be in the email spam folder:

Subject: Important information about the UK Shipping Settings in your seller account

Dear Seller,

We are writing to let you know about a change to the UK shipping regions in your seller account. As of 21st March 2012, deliveries to the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, as well as other off-mainland locations, will be included in the main “UK Street” shipping region.

We are making this change in order to ensure a consistent delivery experience for buyers on our site. Customers can now shop in confidence knowing that they will be charged the same rates for delivery to addresses throughout the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Your “UK Mainland Street” delivery rates will be automatically applied to the new “UK Street” region. If you wish to modify your current pricing, click the “Shipping Settings” link on the Settings tab in your Seller Central account, and then click the Edit button at the top of the Shipping Model section.

To find out more about changing your shipping settings, enter “Shipping Settings” in the Search box in the upper-right corner of the main seller Help page, or click “Configure My Shipping Settings” under the Configure Account Settings heading.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.

Amazon Services Europe

What Do You Think?

You can’t even block these locations now, if you start refunding orders from these locations, you’ll get policy warnings and jeopardise your account, if you make no changes then we’ll take a hit to your margins and not all our products are suitable for FBA.

So the only thing that gives, is to increase the shipping values used to even out the excessive courier & shipping rates to these locations.

Am I wrong? Was the message fair? What do you think?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Making Sense of the Pending eBay UK Updates in May 2012

This quarter, eBay UK updates are a real mixed bag, on one hand there appears to be a lot taken away and the other little given back.

I’m going to be using a scoring system for each update, +1 if it I feel it’s a positive change for businesses and -1 if I don’t. I wonder what the total is going to be at the end of this article?

I’d love to hear from you, let me know if I have graded each change fairly (or not) and how you would have graded each change. You can let me know in the comments box at the bottom.


eBay Video Overview of the Changes

Below is the official video from eBay UK on the May 2012 updates with Angus McCarey

eBay UK Fee Increases x3

No one likes fee increases & there are three punches to the pockets of businesses in the pending update.

In last year’s update the Tech category fees were reduced from 6% and businesses enjoyed a 50% reduction in fees to 3%, this advantage is now gone. The first is the increase in FVF in the technology categories from 3 to 5%.

This now brings eBay UK in-line with Amazon UK electronics category at 7% (as 5% FVF + 1.9% = 6.9%) and make help businesses that are tech-heavy decide that price parity across the channels might be attractive as it was confirmed that Amazon do include eBay as a sales channel (no surprise really) as part of their price parity checks (see earlier article here & here).

Matt’s Rating: -1 as no one likes fee changes.

The second is the eTRS  discounts are being reduced by 10%. eBay are quick to add that the eTRS status does promote businesses in the Best Match, their value of 15% is obviously a site-wide figure, as I know from experience the gain (or loss) of the eTRS status to actually account for a difference of 30-40%.

eBay eTRS Fee Changes
Currently Discounts New Discounts
20% 10%
25% 15%
30% 20%

This one is really going to hurt and I really mean hurt. If you’re fees are £10,000 a month, this is a cool £1,000 extra that you’re going to be paying and even at a medium sized business with £5K of eBay fees each month, this is £500 which at any business size will make owners re-evaluate current overheads, which include staff.

You can quickly work out what impact this will have by checking your billing section of eBay here, if you’re a high volume business then you’ll have to download the transactions or use the drop down box at the right to see the history of invoices and look for the “New Fees” value in the report summary and your current discounts are shown as “Discounts”.

Matt’s Rating: -1 as again no one likes fee changes.

eBay Motor Fees Increasing

Also for Business sellers in the Motors category, the insertion fees are changing from £8.00 to £10.00, although you are getting the listing upgrade “Gallery Plus” as part of the update, just like the C2C did in November (see this announcement). The motor fees for business sellers in Ireland they’re seeing the fees increase from 9 to 12 Euros. But they get free gallery plus too.

I’m not sure why eBay aren’t just blunt with the motor fee changes, its a proven fact that listings with images sell more effectively and for a higher sales value than listings with no images. Just a simple inclusion of that fact that “eBay listings with images in the motor category sell for X % more, so we’re making the use of gallery featured compulsory” would have been quite effective.

Matt’s Rating: +1. Yes it’s a fee change, but for the buyers this has to be a positive change.

We’re at -1 for the updates so far. Let’s start digging into the others. Remember if you feel that I have graded one or more of these incorrectly, let me know in the comments box at the bottom.

Note: I’ve used a couple of acronyms in this article, these are explained below

  • eTRS = eBay Top Rated Seller
  • Best Match  = A biasing search mechanism to promote or demote search results
  • FVF = Final Value Fees, which is the fee that you pay when the listing is successful.
  • C2C = Consumer to Consumer or private sales in plain English.

Say Hello to Adverts & Other Sellers Items In Your Listings

Adverts have been in private seller listings for some time now, however in this release business sellers are going to be seeing adverts below their seller credentials on the listing pages and potentially other sellers items above their listings too.

Now if you’ve not seen the bundles functionality a screenshot of this below, expect eBay to be split testing options showing other sellers items, above this, below this and also at the bottom of the listings and if it was me split testing, instead of showing the bundle options too.

An eBay Bundles Example

I’ll be blunt here, if I was a business trading on eBay, then I would see this as a step too far (let me know your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom). The insertion (or via eBay Shop subscription) fees are paid to display my businesses products, not anyone else’s and you could say I’m not a fan of this sacred area being played with when it does not immediate benefit the business directly, like the bundles.

Yes, this is going to be an opt-in and if you allow your listings to show other sellers items, then yours will be shown, that’s nice, but frankly I’d turn it off.

A screenshot of this in action is below:

new merchandising placement

Considering that buyers have already got to scroll a mile downwards to get to the actual product details, this puts extra emphasis on what you do above the fold (this is the top of the page before you scroll down), titles, subtitles, images and multi-variation attributes have never been so important to motivate the buyer to scroll down and get at your product details.

Matt’s Rating: -1 as I feel this is a step too far for business sellers

eBay Buyer Protection Extended

In April the number of categories covered by the eBay Buyer Protection are being extended to:

  • Custom made products
  • Airline flight tickets
  • Licences
  • Anything equivalent to cash
  • Gift certificates

Any process that fits in with the current processes such as the eBay Buyer Protection to help buyers feel more protected has to be a good thing in my book.

Matt’s Rating: +1 Helps buyers feel more comfortable.

KCode Updates

I don’t believe that this in the formal update, but the next update for the KCodes is in April. If you’re in the parts category, look out for these changes.

There is no rating for this, as its not part of the release. If you were wondering, it would get a +1 for keeping them updated.

Category Updates

There are a number of eBay category and item specifics changes in this update. Businesses dislike category and item specific changes, however I see them as an opportunity to adapt quickly and gain a temporary edge over other businesses.

The current list I have of these are below.

  • Baby
  • Clothes, Shoes & Accessories
  • Computing
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Crafts
  • Health & Beauty
  • Home & Garden
  • Jewellery & Watches
  • Musical Instruments
  • Toys & Games

The full list of category changes is in PDF format and you can view them here 

Matt’s Rating: +1 This will cause some fun for businesses with products for these categories, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this section, this could give you a temporary edge.

The eBay Catalogue Extended

Its curious that eBay sport the inclusion that “On average, sellers who use the catalogue sell 50% more than sellers who do not use the catalogue” which indicates how effective the new catalogue system as been.

The following product groups have been extended:

DVD & Blu-Ray:

  • Region Free DVD Players
  • Portable DVD Players
  • DVD Players
  • Region 2 DVD Players
  • DVD & VCR Combo Players
  • DVD Recorders
  • Region 2 DVD Recorders
  • Region Free DVD Recorders
  • Other DVD & Home Cinema
  • Blu-Ray Players & Recorders

Home receivers:

  • Tuners
  • Analogue
  • Digital

Multimedia Projectors:

  • Projectors

Home Theatre systems:

  • Home Cinema Systems

Home Theatre Speakers & Subwoofers:

  • Subwoofers
  • Other Speakers
  • HiFi Speakers
  • Bookshelf/ Wall Mount Speakers
  • Floor Standing Speakers
  • Surround/ Home Cinema Speakers
  • Standmount Speakers
  • Speaker Components
  • Portable Speakers

The help file for the eBay catalogue is here and the catalogue adoption tool is covered in a video from eBay here.

Matt’s Rating: +1 I’m not saying its flawless, however this has to help buyers find items more quickly & efficiently. For businesses, adding the EAN or manufacturers part number (MPN) is strongly suggested as it will also help your eBay items be found in Google product search.

Manufacturer Warranties to Item Specifics

Item specifics are going to support manufacturer warranties. I’ve seen this in certain listings where the business has added it as a custom item specific, however by the very nature of it being a custom item specific, that lacks uniformity across the eBay site and by eBay setting a standard field for the inclusion of the warranty period has to be a good thing.

Plus if its used heavily then it’ll appear in the left navigation bar when in search or browse screens and an option to indicate if the current warranty is transferable is a nice addition.

Matt’s Rating: +1 Definitely a change for the better, for both sellers and buyers.

Handling Time Changes – Show Same Day Despatch

This is welcomed addition as many businesses work exceptionally hard at ensuring that their orders are despatched the same day, with the larger ones working with couriers to extend the collection times past 6pm to add efficiency.

Its curious that you’re unable to change the despatch time at a seller level, with eBay’s cut off being midday nor will you be able to change this on a per listing basis just yet (which sucks for pretty much all businesses using a hybrid business model which have a “Just In Time” slice).

Its going to be an account wide setting in your site preferences which once live you can find here.

An interesting addition is the ability to give a reason why a businesses despatch/handling time is longer than normal, this is exceptionally well received because if your business is selling custom made items that take 1-2 weeks to be designed and built, you can let your buyers know in advance.

Matt’s Rating: +1 Definitely a welcome addition. Just hoping that this will be expanded upon at a per listing level.

Automatic 5 Star Rating for Communications

There are a couple of conditions for this to happen which are below:

  1. Tracking is uploaded or the item is marked as dispatched within 1 working day after payment has been received
  2. Stated handling time is 1 working day or same day
  3. The payment method is PayPal, making the payment date visible to eBay.
  4. No communication took place between the buyer and seller from 14 days before the transaction up until the point that Feedback was left. This includes messages within My eBay and any opened cases

If these conditions are met, then when feedback is left you’ll be automatically awarded 5 stars for communication.

Points 1 to 3 are do-able, point 4 is one that will annoy businesses, as we know that eBay buyers are the most vocal of all the sales channels and certain verticals of businesses will rarely meet this fourth condition.

Matt’s Rating: +1 We’re going to have to see how this pans-out. Some businesses will benefit greatly from this, while others won’t notice any difference. Let me know what you think of this change in the comments box at the bottom.

Clarity on Customs

I only work with one business that will benefit greatly from this addition, however as a whole it’s not a bad update, its just extra wording to help the buyer realise that marking goods as gifts is bad practice (oh come on we all know what its referring too!) and there could be delays with the delivery due to customs issues.

Clarity for international buyers on customs

Matt’s Rating: +1 Any extra clarity for buyers has to be a good thing (although that doesn’t mean that buyers will notice it).

Automatic Removal of Non Paying Buyers

Finally, the removal of eBay feedback from buyers that did not pay, if they haven’t left feedback yet then they’re going to be blocked from leaving feedback as well.

The caveat to this is this statement:

This applies whether or not you are using Unpaid Item Assistant as long as you are only offering PayPal and no local pick up is offered.

Matt’s Rating: +1 YAY!

Business Polices

This is going to get another +1, anything that simplifies the policies for businesses and buyers is a good thing. These polices are taken for granted in advanced selling tools such as ChannelAdvisor, ChannelGrabber or eSellerPro, however for businesses without these tools, then they can be a pain.

I’m not going to cover these in any great depth, as the video with Dave Forest below explains them really well.

Matt’s Rating: +1 While this will be helpful for smaller sellers who have a variety of different product types, the extra awareness around return laws has to be a good thing.

eBay As a Payment Processor in Germany

This also applies to eBay Austria as well, but you need to be fully aware of what the implications of this mean to us in the UK. eBay UK is not the second largest eBay site, eBay Germany is and for such a fundamental change to be made on that site, means that we’re likely to be seeing this change in either the next update or the one following.

Currently for eBay UK sales, you can opt to choose a different payment method other than PayPal, say bank transfer or cheque, however in Germany where bank transfers are the norm, eBay are now stepping in as a the payment processor. The customer pays eBay for the order and then eBay pays the seller.

I’m sure the intentions are good, if its been identified that eBay need to step in as the trusted party between the seller & buyer to ensure a smooth transaction, then this can be easily understood, however does this not sound familiar? *coff* Amazon.

There are a couple of topics that we didn’t see in this update.

The first is that there was no mention of the pilot bundles facility being release site wide for all businesses to use. This feature is still in pilot mode with several larger businesses on eBay and allows sellers to create “special offers” at the top of their listings.

I checked the eBay API documentation this morning and there is still no sign of this being added to the core trading API, which means that to use these, sellers need to manually upload their bundles via CSV files. Once this hits the API documentation, I suspect we’ll be seeing in the following update, assuming that it does leave the pilot scheme (which it should do).

No eBay Shop Updates
In a previous article I found that there are 400,000 eBay shops currently on eBay UK. While the enterprise businesses have a new structure to the eBay shops (that’s why the outlet stores look and act differently differently to normal eBay shops) the tools & features that are included have not changed for years.

I’ve been waiting for an update for the eBay shops for the past two years, because if you look in the HTML of eBay shops there are three very interesting additions, these are are below:

Meta Tags for search engines

The only way these tags work is that if the domain where they are being served from is in the control of the business, with it being on a eBay domain its clearly not. So will we be seeing CNAME aliases for eBay shops soon or maybe eBay is working with Google & Microsoft just for eBay Shops? I just don’t know. But from the code snippet above, its clear there is something going on with them.

Mobile Optimised descriptions
As an observation, if eBay is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of transactions made via mobile devices (one pound in every ten), would it not be a good idea to ask sellers for a duplicate description that is optimised for mobile devices?

Have you tried viewing an item on eBay on a phone? It looks awful and I personally always end up going to the main site to view the item. I know what I am suggesting, two descriptions for eBay listings, but larger sellers with tools in the background will be easily cope with this and would be easily added to most eBay platform specific tools.

The Final Score

So… Quite a few changes to digest, that’s why I have been keeping track of them using a scoring system, the total count comes in at +7.

There were 3 negatives around the eTRS fees being reduced, the insertion fees going up for Tech and the addition of adverts & other sellers items in item detail pages. I’ve spoken to a couple of businesses already and I asked them what they thought, universally the reply was “fee changes”.

However generally, as shown by the 10 positive scores in this article show that while it may frankly suck that its going to become more expensive to sell on eBay for most, the updates included in the pending release are generally positive overall.

What do You Make of the Changes?

  • Would you have scored eBay at just minus one for the fee increases?
  • Do you agree with the ratings I have given each of the changes?
  • How are the fee increase going to affect your business?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Do You Tell Your Buyers What to Do?

I’m writing a chapter for my book on this very topic at the moment, however, I feel is important to raise the question with you before it’s published.

Telling people what to do can be seen as impolite, but guiding the user to complete an action that you’d like them to complete is something quite different, specially if you conduct it nicely, you’re just leading them to complete an action you’d like them to complete, that’s all.


So, do you tell your buyers what to do?

That’s a serious question and ports not only from eCommerce, but into almost every application of the Internet. It could be asking for the sale, a newsletter sign up, a like or a subscribe, it doesn’t matter, you’re helping lead the visitor to complete an action that you’d like them to complete.

There are parts on this site that I’m working on to make the process of asking the user (that’s you) to complete and also tracking this with tools to track conversion. This will be in an another article in the next few days as I had some fun in setting this up and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the results with you.

However for now, I’d like for you to watch a video and count the number of times that you are asked to perform an action. Ignore the content of the video, its 2 minutes long, just press play on the video below:


  • Did at any time did I appear rude or impolite?
  • Did I ask for anything unreasonable?

Think about that for a while, what could you ask (AKA “tell”) your customers to do which would be so easy it wouldn’t take them a few moments to complete?

I would like you to complete an action for me.

In the comments box below, how many actions did I ask you in the video above?
(Browny points to anyone who spots the other 3!)

The True Cost of Adding Social Buttons

AddThis Button SelectorA cost, for adding social buttons to your website? Matt you’ve lost the plot…. or have I?

I wrote an article last year because I was horrified that the Facebook Like buttons are actually adding 84Kb, or in time 1.340 seconds to the page load time of this site. In this article, I look at the social sharing buttons again, but in more depth and identify the weight behind them.

By adding the Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Google +1, Facebook Like buttons and so on… you’re adding download weight to your pages and while they might look great and you might put a tick in your mind that you’ve got the social side licked, however… What is the true cost of adding the social buttons to your website?

It’s also worth noting that very shortly you should expect new Facebook buttons to be appearing, called “Want one” and “Own”, the Facebook Like button never really ported to well eCommerce and we’ll soon be seeing these plastered everywhere.


Tools Used

For this exercise, I am going to be using the following tools:

    I freely admit I’m a data freak and a website like this, really does it for me. For the purpose of this article I’ll be using it to identify the resources pulled on page loads. You’ll also find this site exceptionally useful for checking your page loading times as a whole.The data used for the majority of this article comes from this test: 
  • Excel
    The reports that the WebPageTest site creates can be copy/pasted to excel, this is what I’ll be using to filter the results.

Your mileage with these figures will vary upon many factors, such as location and server load. I’ve tried to keep as many aspects that I can consistent across the tests, but obviously things will vary. Felt I should point this out early on.

The use of the IFRAME tag for the majority of these sharing buttons does mean that your website page will continue to load while the external resources are being loaded, sometimes long after the website page has rendered. But my point is, they’re still being downloaded!

Let’s dig in and see what they’re like.

Facebook Social Button

In the previous article, I found that the Like button I was using was accounting for 84.4Kb to the page weight and taking over a second to the final page load time. A screen shot of this is below.

Facebook Download Data

Since then I swapped the button to a different one using a the ShareBar extension to WordPress and its this button set I’ll be looking at in this article and you’ll see them either on the left or at the top of this article (feel use them, if you’re finding this article helpful).

While the button itself is now in an IFRAME tag, which means it’ll load outside the main page and is not classed as page weight, the initial inclusion of the Facebook like button on the site is 6.9Kb and is loaded twice, for a total of 0.142 seconds.

So this is a vast improvement on the earlier article where I found it was pulling in a huge amount of overhead, however we must not forget that even though, this is in an IFRAME, it’s still being downloaded by the user.

So looking at this for the actual button in question in a separate test reveals that the browser is actually downloading a further 61Kb of data and takes around 1.229 seconds to fully load. This is shown in the screenshot below.

The full test results are here:

Interesting results so far as we’re getting close to the original 84Kb that I found last year. Lets see how the other buttons fair.

Twitter Social Button

The large twitter button is also not without a fair amount of page weight as well. Using the filters in excel from the previous test, we can see that its accounting for 52.5Kb of bytes downloaded and takes 0.431 seconds to load.


The Twitter sharing button also uses an iframe and we look at this as a separate resource at this page test  we can see that the iframe contents are 16Kb and take 0.720 seconds to load. So that’s an extra 16Kb for the browser to download, on top of the original 52.5Kb, yikes!

Still amazed that these buttons are so top heavy? Keep reading, it gets better!

Google Plus Social Buttons

The social buttons for Google Plus One are now becoming very popular and as they work on integrating businesses, we’ll start seeing a lot more of these. The bytes downloaded for the Google Plus button in the test is 22.3Kb and the time take is just 0.31 seconds.


Don’t get too excited just yet… Again the Google plus button is in an IFRAME, but the contents of the IFRAME still need to be downloaded and guess what… this one is at 69Kb and takes 1.607s seconds to load! Test results are in a screen shot and the test results are here

Google plus one button iFrame Test

Yea, that was deceptive, the Google Plus button has the lightest include so far, but looking at the total weight of Kb downloaded, 69Kb is monstrous and again I’d like to point out that the browser is having to download this content even after the main page has loaded.

Digg Social Buttons

Now it’s time to look at the very popular Digg social buttons for sharing. I might be techy, but I am frankly unsure why its being reported that it took 0.07 seconds to load just one file and the others have no time. If you know why, let me know in the comments box below!

However, this button is coming in at 9.9Kb to load the shell of the button and apparently 0.07 seconds to load it. Although I feel this value is incorrect.

Digg social button size

Not too bad so far, so let’s take a look at what it loads. This one was a little tricky to nail down, as unlike the other buttons so far they’re using iframes, this one is using a javascript include to bring the other elements in and to test this I have take the chunk of HTML & JavaScript that is used to load the button, put it on its own page and then page speed tested that by itself (I WILL find the weight of this button!).

Digg social button speed test

The page test & results are here and as this is a separate page, the results are slightly different as we need to remove the TTFB and the page from the sum of the components. The button resources come in at a total 9.4Kb of assets, with the png image taking up the majority of this weight at 5.3Kb.

Again I don’t know why the time taken to download the resources is not appearing in the test, but out of all the social buttons tested by far, at a total of 9.4Kb this is by far the lightest button!

Stumbleupon Social Button

This button is back to using a script file that weights just 0.7Kb, a fraction of a second to load and an IFRAME.

Stumbleupon share button File Size

Again lets look at the iframe weight by itself in its own test and we find that this button comes in at a very palatable 5Kb, however sucks at a load time of 0.812 seconds.

Stumbleupon Sharing Button speed test

AddThis Social Buttons

AddThis Button SelectorThe last button that I am going to test as part of this article is the “AddThis” button. I’ve chosen this button on top of the other ones I use because this tool can be seen as a quick fix for websites.

I’ve chosen the middle set of 3 options for icon size and also the generic code for “A Website”, obviously if you’re using smaller or larger buttons and for a different platform, your actual results will differ, but for a ball park figure this will be adequate.

On the first page load for the test file I made, I can already tell this one is going to lag badly. I’m on 50Mb broadband and the page lagged for ~1 second, thats not a good sign!

And… I was right. Again I need to remove the TTFB (Time To First Byte) from the equation, but on first impressions 124Kb is a whopping amount of data to be downloading.

AddThis Social Buttons Test

I’ve pulled the results out into excel as shown in the screen shot below:

AddThis Social Buttons Speed Test

The time take is incorrect again, however its interesting to see that when we sum the bytes downloaded, that we’re coming in over the original page weight at 125.2Kb. Eitherway this social set of buttons is the largest so far.


I’ve delved into the truer weights of loading these social buttons to help you understand that adding these buttons do come with a cost attached to them. While many of these use iframes to pull in the data from the external sites and don’t count towards to page load time to get the page loaded in the clients browser, they are still being downloaded and add to the true total weight of the page.

I feel its also worth pointing out that with the majority of the buttons tested, they are using content delivery networks, which will help with the delivery speed of the data across the globe. Also the scores from the testing sites were indicating clearly that the providers of these buttons have highly optimised systems to deliver the content, with most of them scoring A’s for each mark and of course, browsers do cache these data files, so if a user has been to another site and downloaded the sharing buttons, the weight is much less as the browser as the files in its cache.

The AddThis set of social sharing buttons might be the largest of them all in this test, however to be fair here, you’re unlikely to have both the AddThis buttons AND the other buttons separated on your pages.

So looking at the results as a whole, an aggregated tool such as AddThis (which is free) could offer a huge benefit to your website visitors when compared to loading each social sharing button separately.

Questions for You

For me personally, I’m dropping the stumble upon sharing button, but keeping the others on this site until I have the spare time to look at adding an aggregated option in combination with the ShareBar features as I’d need to style it heavily to get it to appear how I would like it to appear (vertically and horizontally).

So my questions for you are:

  • Did you know these buttons add considerable page weight to your website pages?
  • How many sharing buttons do you use?

Amazon Gets Aggressive With Price Parity

This is a follow-up article from the original posted a few days ago regarding Have You Received a Price Parity Policy Warning from Amazon? and it’s not pleasant.

If you’ve not read the earlier article yet or the comments, then this won’t make much sense to you just yet and obviously key parts of the email have been removed. This is the first sign that Amazon really means business with its sellers when it comes to Price Parity and makes for sick reading

Greetings From Amazon

Greetings from Amazon,

We are writing to let you know that we have suspended your selling privileges and placed a temporary hold on any funds in your Amazon seller account.

As stated in our earlier warnings, we generally require that sellers do not charge customers higher prices on Amazon than they charge elsewhere through their other online sales channels. This is critical to preserve fairness for Amazon customers.

It has come to our attention that some of your listings, such as those listed below still do not 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 encourage you to take appropriate steps to resolve any pending orders.

Before we can consider reinstating your selling privileges, you must provide us with a detailed plan to ensure compliance with our policies. We will then review your plan and determine whether to reinstate your privileges.

For information on creating and submitting your plan of action, search for “Appeals for Suspended or Blocked Accounts” in seller Help.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Seller Performance Team

Appeals for Suspended or Blocked Accounts

I did find it odd that there was no link to the help section in this email, which is at

What I am curious about is whether this page is updated to include a new example around the price parity topic…

Not pleasant reading and thankfully (for the businesses I work with) this came in from a 3rd party earlier this morning. Even still it wasn’t nice reading and I really do feel for this business as Amazon can account for a huge majority of sales volume for some eCommerce businesses.

Amazon, if it was a human, it would be a woman and she would be a ……….. (But I love her none the less).

So those parity emails, ignore them at your peril!

eSellerPro Banks Another £1m Investment What Do you Think?

I’ve received the release below this morning from eSellerPro. They’ve taken in another £1M in funding as the first round of funding of £2M was around two years ago.

I have two questions for you at the bottom of this article, I’d love to hear your feedback on this.

Press Release

eSellerPro receives a further £1m in funding from Notion Capital
Funding follows a record year with £233m in sales processed

London, 16th February 2012: eSellerPro, the leading eCommerce software provider for multi-channel sellers, today announces a follow-on investment of £1m from Notion Capital. The funding follows Notion’s initial investment of £1.8 million in 2010 and will support the company’s ambitious growth plans over the coming years, which include accelerating momentum in its core business together with entry into new markets and further investment in the product.

In just 2 years since the last round of funding, eSellerPro has become one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in the UK, having tripled both its revenues and its customer base which now includes well-known names such as: Tesco Outlet, Dixons, Royal Mail, BMW, JJB Sports, Maplins, Whirlpool and BT Outlet. eSellerPro’s multichannel ecommerce platform processed £233m in sales on behalf of its customers in 2011 and will soon move through the £1m per day threshold.

Following the appointment of Keith Bird as the CEO early last year, the business has also further strengthened its management team adding a CTO, Director of Sales, Director of Product Management and Director of Global Partnerships & Alliances.

The new funding will go towards expanding the business both technically and geographically, ensuring the company maximises on the opportunities in markets beyond the UK, including the US market, worth more than $300bn.

Keith Bird, CEO at eSellerPro, commented, “Since the first funding round in 2010, eSellerPro has both accelerated our growth and laid the foundations for further expansion into new markets including the all-important US. Our vision is to be a key part of the ecommerce ecosystem, ultimately helping retailers to sell more through seamless integration with multiple online channels. The market is expected to continue to grow rapidly over the coming years and this new funding will help us to accelerate our growth in the UK, US and beyond, while continuing to improve the experience for our existing customers”.

Ben White, Partner at Notion Capital, added: “eSellerPro helps customers respond to the changing retail environment and maximise the value of their online presence through integration with third party channels like eBay and Amazon. The ecommerce market is expected to grow to $1tr by 2016 and online marketplaces is one of its fastest growing segments – as such we are very excited about the company’s future prospects and believe they have what it takes to build a very big business.”

eSellerPro’s technology helps retailers integrate their entire online sales process, simplifying and automating tasks and maximising sales opportunities across multiple channels such as eBay and Amazon. eSellerPro currently has customers across the UK, US and Europe.

What Do You Think?

An observation of what is included in the release is the statement “Funding follows a record year with £233m in sales processed“. Taking a guess at the revenue generated from this at 1.5%, allowing for variations on the fee taken as part of the SaaS application, that figure comes in at around £3,495,000.

Obviously this is likely to be out by miles, with anything up or down of this by a value by 40%. So with the extra investment in mind announced today and ongoing revenue stream, this appears to be a bridging loan, to keep the wheels turning (maybe we’ll see a poke at the US marketplace?) while not being restricted by revenue.

As such I have two questions for you:

  • What’s been your experience with eSellerPro over the past few months and do you think that the extra funding will make a difference to the service you receive?
  • Do you believe that eSellerPro is going to follow the route of ChannelAdvisor with numerous funding rounds?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times

This is the one I know you’ve been waiting for… Looks like Amazon are about to start enforcing the Buyer-Seller Response times to buyers as a measured metric on your Amazon dashboards.

If you missed the Amazon Price Parity article a few days, you can find it here, as Amazon appear to be focusing on 3rd party sellers this quarter.

Amazon Policy Warning Email

Below is the email being sent out from Amazon, you might have one of these too this morning:

Dear Seller,

Buyers tell us that receiving timely responses from sellers to their enquiries is an important contributor to their overall satisfaction with an order. Our research has shown that sellers who respond to 90% or more of their messages within 24 hours have nearly 24% less negative feedback than sellers who take longer to respond.

To help make your Amazon Marketplace transactions successful, we recommend that you respond to buyer enquiries within 24 hours. You can access buyer enquiries by clicking the “Messages” link in the upper-right corner of your seller account home page. Copies of messages are also sent to the e-mail address associated with your account.

You can monitor your average response times on the Customer Metrics page of your seller account. Your Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time metrics are located at the bottom of the page.

For more information on how response time metrics are calculated, search on “Contact Response Time Metrics” in our online seller Help.

The following are some best practices for achieving a great response time metric:

– Regularly monitor your response time metrics.
– Check your seller account for messages every day, including at the weekend.
– Mark messages you have read but not responded to as “unread” in your e-mail client.
– Use a Contact Response Management (CRM) system to track enquiries.
– Let buyers know if a question or issue will require additional time to research.
– If you receive the same questions on a regular basis, consider creating a document with prepared answers.


Amazon Services Europe

Account Screenshot

I’ve included a screenshot from an account that has had this policy warning. You’ll notice that the account is in really good standing except for the communications rate, which appears to be an ongoing issue.

Note: No apologies for the blurred areas. You don’t need to know these values & Amazon employees read this site (hola!).

Amazon Policy Warning Buyer Communication Time

What is an Issue Is…

While I’m not going to argue with the statement that sellers who respond quickly to emails are more likely to have less negative feedback, that makes sense and the business in question could work on decreasing the response times, as it will have a wider benefit other than not having policy warnings from Amazon.

What is an issue is:

  1. Weekends are included in this rating
  2. Even if a customer says “Thanks”, the message needs to be marked as “not needing a response”

These two issues are real problems for businesses that are closed on the weekends and even just one day, they could easily score a closed response for a buyer just saying “thanks” if they were there, but if they’re not and have some form of life-work balance, it’s being missed.

An obvious idea is to set up an auto responder to reply to Amazon questions quickly, but I’m sure it won’t take Amazon long to start blocking such responses or to add that as a violation too.

I’ve had a couple of these forwarded to me this morning (it appears to be a mass mailer from Amazon)  and have checked a couple of Amazon Seller Central accounts, they ALL have yellow values for response times and found another one that was showing red as well. I’ll work with the businesses that have sent this to see what underlying processes can be altered to tackle this on a long term basis.

In the comments area I have added a note around the policy page for “Customer Response Time metrics”, you can view the page here and an interesting quote is:

Will response-time metrics be used in seller performance evaluations?
Response-time metrics are not normally reviewed during seller performance evaluations, but we may review these metrics if a Seller Account shows extremely poor performance in other areas. Note, however, that customers who do not receive timely responses are more likely to leave negative feedback or to file claims, which will affect your performance metrics directly. It is therefore important to review these response-time metrics regularly.

I do wonder if this is going to change in the next few weeks…

Check Your Amazon Account Now

You can check your Amazon Seller Central account here:

What do You Make of This Warning?

  • Have you had a policy violation as well this morning?
  • How do you you cope responses at weekends, when there is no-one in the office?
  • Is your account Red or Yellow for the Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time?

Let me know in the comments box below.

eBay’s SellerSphere Featured Seller BamfordTrading Out-takes Video

John & Gill from BamfordTrading passed on solid advice in their recent article that was featured by eBay SellerSphere in January, you can see the article and the three videos they included in the full article here.

However… Those polished videos were not without a few slips and with John & Gills permission here are the out-takes.

Your Feedback

I’m also working on persuading John add more video content, you can do me a huge favour by subscribing to BamFordTrading’s YouTube channel.

Let us know what you think of the video in the comments box below :)

A Question For You!

Well it’s about time really! It’s why I have been quite quiet here for past week or so. I’m about 9,000 words in and half way through the table of contents I first wrote a few weeks back. Yep that’s right I’m writing a book, well two actually.

No one section of the first book is complete enough to share properly and I’ve not hammered down what I am going to call the book, but to give you a synopsis of what the is intended to be:

Help optimise multi channel businesses by sharing advice and guidance, that takes no more than 10 minutes per day.

It’s why I added an out of place article earlier last week around Google Calendar and major part to this book is going to be your ability to set up reminds to just spend 10 minutes working on your business and for me to show you exactly where you should be spending those 10 minutes each day to really maximise what you’re up to.

A Question For You

I’ve got a lot of unanswered questions currently, most are to do with how deep do I push certain subjects, which I’m sure I’ll find an answer to as I work on them more over the next few weeks.

However…. As helpful as I feel such a book would be to you, what I am considering is moulding the written book to a video diary that you can follow.

For example on day three I may take you through registering social accounts to protect your business trading names, having this in a written format might be suitable for some, but a video sessions of a few minutes with me explain why and then taking you off to go and register the top 5 or so accounts.

So that question…

Would you find the combination of a well written book that guides you through tasks that are designed to take no more than 10 minutes each day with a video series that also literally talks you through each stage, help you to commit to making the actions needed? Or would the book alone be enough?

I’m trying to gauge what would be most effective for you, to take the critical step into taking action for a couple of mornings a week over a cuppa?

Let me know in the comments box below.

LastDropofInk Mobile Site Launched

LastDropofInk Mobile Site

Well, it’s about time I re-launched the mobile version, after all 10-20% of the traffic here during the weekdays can come from mobile devices.

Yesterday I altered one of the standard themes, wrote a customised mobile site and after testing on numerous devices, it’s been launched.

It’s been set up so that if you’re on a mobile decide (other than an iPad) that you’ll be redirected to the heavily cut down version which includes the basic functionality.

  • Home link
  • Search
  • Finger-friendly links
  • Image optimisation
  • A method to get back to the main site if desired

Being a speed freak, I’ve also ripped out (blocked) the really large overhead files as well, so that instead of the total page weight being around 183Kb, that it comes in at a tenth of this at 18Kb. You can test mobile sites here

I’d like to also pass on an excellent tip I found to block the extra styles and JavaScript files in WordPress from here. My example is below and blocks the tubepress extension from loading css and js files in the header on the mobile site, by blocking them in the functions.php file.

add_action( ‘wp_print_styles’, ‘my_deregister_styles’, 100 );
function my_deregister_styles()
wp_deregister_style( ‘tubepress’ );
wp_deregister_script( ‘tubepress’ );

Using the Mobile Site?

Use the comments box below and let me how it feels!

An Introduction to Google Calendar & How To Guide

Since its launch in April 2006, Google Calendar has become a very simple, yet effective tool and also sports some exceptionally powerful features included.

If you’re reading this article in February 2011, this articles inclusion may not make any sense (yet), however if you’re reading this in March or later then I’ve put this video guide together for you so that you’re able to schedule those 10 minute windows in Google Calendar which will drive results for your business.

Google Calendar Introduction & How To Guide

In this video I discuss and show you:

  • Why use Google Calendar in the first place
  • How to create an event
  • How to move an event
  • How to create a recurring event
  • And how to share calendars between staff members (this is pretty cool!)

This video is almost exactly 10 minutes long, grab a cuppa &amp sit back knowing that you’ve taken action today!

Why Use Google Calendar?

  • It’s Free
  • As you’ve seen its ‘Matt Proof’ (really easy to use)
  • You can share calendars with staff by just adding an email address
  • You can set up email and pop-up reminders in seconds
  • Tasks can be colour-coded and repeated if necessary
  • It works on mobile devices, like the iPad, iPhone or Android
  • It just works!!!

Are there Alternatives?

Yes, in Microsoft Outlook you can schedule recurring events, however for most of you, you’ll be using the standalone version without MS Exchange and the scheduling features don’t run without the actual application being open. The same goes (I believe) for the iMac equivalent, iCal. The application needs to be running (and the device needs to be on in the first place) for notifications to be sent.

If you’re anything like me, then I don’t have the desktop or laptop on all the time, instead I have a combination of devices and that’s why a service like Google Calendar a simple, versatile choice because you can be notified of the events via email, its integrated on the Android devices, can be sync’d on the iPhone/iPad and also to remember the ease of use for calendar sharing between members of your team.

Quickly Dealing with Website Spam Bots

website-spammers-1If you look in the image to the right, one of the community based sites I’m involved with was seeing a higher than normal user count for this time of the morning, which probably meant that it was being attacked by users or most likely spam bots.

Looking through the IP addresses, there was a common theme the IP ranges 180.76.6.* and 180.76.5.* which are located in China (we have no users in China see here for a lookup tool)

Now that’s pretty easy to crudely solve using a .htaccess file, regex and apache rerewrite rules.

Because I want to cover two subnets, I’ve written two rules, they are simply:

#180.76.6.* and .5
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^180\.76\.5\.
RewriteRule .* [R,L]

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^180\.76\.6\.
RewriteRule .* [R,L]

If you desired to just block a single address then you would need a slightly different rule, which would be:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^180\.76\.6\.183$
RewriteRule .* [R,L]

This won’t stop their current connection, but as soon as the user agent goes to reload or navigate to another page, then in this example they’ll be sent to instead (although I can assure you they are not being redirected to google in the live example of this).

Coping with a siege such as this example speed is of the essence and this is a quick and dirty way of dealing with them and also highly amusing as you chose where they are redirected to (but for goodness sake, make sure you check this works with your IP or IP range first!)

Ideally configuring a firewall wall before they even hit the site would be more suitable along with a few other methods of identifying them without being altered to the attack in the first place.