Podcast 004 – Sell More with the Same Products

Sell more products and make more money with almost the same products… That’s the theme for our fourth Podcast.

No we haven’t gone mad, this is perfectly do-able and we are going to tell you, with examples how you too can use this to give your business a competitive advantage.

In this Podcast with Myself and Dave Furness we are going to discuss how you can use this to your advantage of this but MOST importantly we want you to TAKE ACTION.


Because this is may be new to you, above is a green play button. Press play and you’re listening!

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.


Sell More with the Same Products

This Podcast is all about action, we want you to listen to us and then look at the products you sell and think about how you could sell more with the same products.

We’re laying down the challenge. 
If you don’t think that there are any natural items that you could bundle together with your existing products then let us know, and we will do our best to give you a couple of ideas.

The key here is to sell more with the same.  This is something that you will of seen many sellers doing on the marketplaces over the years and if you’re not doing it, we are going to show you why you should be.

Customers on the marketplaces want one thing over any other, and that is Convenience.  It’s why they use eBay & Amazon after all. They are going to these marketplaces rather than trawling the internet to find the products they want.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention choice here, it’s because in the marketplaces there is an overwhelming choice of products to look at, but in the end, generally they are only ever going to buy one product. (hopefully yours).

A common question that I get asked through is: “Why don’t people buy from me?”  The answer is simple, they’re either not finding you or when they are, they’re overlooking you because you’re not making a compelling argument for them to choose you.

As we mention in the Podcast these will probably be one of the following:

  • A better offer elsewhere, from your Competitors?
  • Lacking key details in description (As we mentioned here in our first Podcast)
  • Poorer image?
  • Are they getting something for Free?

And that’s what we’re suggesting you do, take the customer to the tipping point of making the sell. In the Podcast we take you through the four standard physical product business models which consist of

  • Stocked
  • Manufacture
  • Virtual / Just in time
  • Asset recovery

Read more about the four business models here with some handy embedded video walk-throughs too.

The 5th one that we mention is the Hybrid model, which is a combination of all four of the product models combined, taking as many strengths and leaving out as many weaknesses.

In this instance we’re going to be making an edit to the Manufacture model and creating our own products from what we already have, but the manufacture model can easily be a Hybrid of the others combining different products to make a new product.

How to Make New Products?

Post it Notes

In Podcast Matt refers to using these Post it notes for book marks, imagine that your customer uses these as bookmarks and sees them every time they use that book. Neat eh?

So the key here is to make “Unique” products, set yourself apart from the competition and get people buying your product.

In the Podcast we use a lot of different terms for what we are describing.  These terms are Kits, Bundles, Packs and Sets which all mean the same thing.

Taking your item, putting a smaller/ inexpensive item with this product and selling them together.  Therefore setting yourself apart from your competition and hopefully taking the online shopper past the tipping point to buy your item.

We cover loads of examples in the Podcast of example products that can be bundled together and once you start trying to think of some we found more and more ideas came together, and we think the same will happen for you too.

This type of selling has been around for years and as I point out, one of my favourite TV Channels use it all the time to take their customers to the buying point. Best Direct TV Smart Pen

Here is a seller on eBay who has bundled a Free bottle holder with their nappy changing bags. See the listing here

A lot of easy examples can be found in consumer electronics and we talk extensively about iPads and bundling stylus’ or screen protectors with these items.  They are incredibly cheap to source and could be the only difference between you and your competitors.

Below are a quick list of other items that we touch on briefly in the podcast:

  • Books – With page holders and Markers
  • Laptops – Cases, Printers, Keyboards, Anti-Virus software
  • Handbag – Purses, Umbrellas
  • Photo equipment – Light boxes, White screen, Tripods, spare bulbs
  • Taking your item and selling multiples of them so packs of x5, x25, x50 etc

Whilst editing the Podcast we created a new kit of buying a stylus and getting a free screen protector and vice versa and in that space of 5 seconds we had created 2 new products!

Logistics of Selling Kits

There are a couple of issues that can crop up with selling kits and how the logistics of that will work internally with your business.  As long as you are aware of these

  • The logistics of stock control and order processing Maybe a shortened stock number to make them easily readable by humans (or your picking staff)
  • GS1 Barcodes –http://www.gs1uk.org/pages/default.aspx  For making unique SKU’s on Amazon and Google Product Base.
  • Don’t forget to tell your staff that you are selling kits, so when it comes to picking and re-ordering they know what is going on.

Our Challenge to You

We want you to take what we’ve covered today and put it into Action.

Think about what products you have already that you can bundle together to make it easier for customers to make a choice, they don;t have to be cheaper products and as we explain later on in the Podcast with the extra section is that you can easily bundle related items together, maybe from a range.

If you have any questions, get stuck for ideas or just need a hand, ask. We’re both here to support you with this and just leave a comment or a message in the forums.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dave & Matt

Amazon UK Release Seller Ratings – You’re Being Scored

Amazon UK is rolling out a new “Seller Ratings” that scores you bonus points for being good and slaps you hard for being bad.

At the time of writing, I’ve not seen this published elsewhere. I’ve also given the link to the dashboard to numerous people and it appears this is on a controlled roll out. It may not be in your Amazon Seller Central account yet, but it’s coming.

Update: This will be live in all accounts in approximately two weeks from today (26th Sept 2012).

Amazon Seller Ratings - Header I have always suspected that Amazon would have such a system in place similar to this, well it’s not hard to guess what else would power the buy box percentages? And now we can see the evidence that this is the case.

In this article I’ll be looking at the new Amazon Seller Ratings Dashboard, the details behind it and as a bonus, included are the Amazon videos on the new Seller Ratings and also I’ve transcribed them for you.

You can let me know your thoughts on how we’re being rated in the comments section at the bottom, but for now, lets dig in and see what this fuss is about.

Seller Ratings Widget

What Amazon have done is make their scoring system transparent and in the process revealed a few nice extras and cool interface to boot. You can track where you are succeeding and also where you need to focus upon. Amazon Seller Ratings Dashboard Widget If you have this enabled you’ll know. There is a whopping great big pop-up message that appears on the Amazon dashboard after signing in. You’re given a rating and on a sliding scale of Fair to Excellent and in this example we can see this account is “Very Good”.

Note that this rating is appearing above the standard “Account Health” that you find in a normal Amazon Seller Central account, I am assuming this is because this is going to become the new standard for sellers to keep an eye upon.

An Introduction to Amazon Seller Ratings

This is the first video that is being used to inform Amazon Seller Central users about the new “Seller Ratings” and I’ve included the transcription under the video.

Press Play

This is the transcription of the video above and I’ve put the key parts in bold.

On Amazon, buyers have a lot of choices. So, when they are ready to purchase, what makes you stand out? Customers tell us that a sellers rating plays a critical part in their buying decision.

Would it not be great then if there is a rating system that could accurately reflect the effort you put in to making customers happy? Better still, what if the system could help you pin point customer service improvements that will lead directly to better rating and happier buyers?

Introducing Amazon seller rating inspired by and built for sellers. This unbiased, data driven system automatically recognizes your performance on every order. So now, every order counts towards and excellent, very good, good, or fair rating. This rating is based on how quickly you respond to buyers and whether you ship on time, cancel orders, have credit card charge backs, A to Z guarantee claims or negative feedback.

With this new seller rating system, buyers can get a complete picture of who they are trusting with their purchase and you can reap the rewards of all your hard work.
Seller ratings is not just comprehensive and objective; it also gives you more control. The seller matrix clearly points you to areas of improvement. Concentrate your rating on those and watch your rating and customer satisfaction rise. Simple as that!

While we are very excited to release this new system to sellers, we have no immediate plans to make the ratings visible to buyers. This is because we really want your input first before we consider making it visible to buyers.

We also want to give you time to get familiar with your rating, understand how it is calculated and to make improvements.
At Amazon, we know how important building business is to you and we know how important happy customers are to your business. We are excited to introduce this new seller rating system that can help with both.

To check out your rating and learn more, go to the seller rating page or click on the performance tab on seller central.

Seller Ratings Dashboard

To go with this new seller ratings, there is a new dashboard that is easy to understand. Although I have a suspicion that we’ll see this page evolve over time and likely see what we have on the Account health tab (the standard tab for monitoring performance on Amazon) join together into a single tab.

This dashboard is broken down into four key sections and before I walk you through them, it should be noted that all values shown in these images have been edited and may not add up correctly.

My Rating

Amazon Seller Ratiings - Ratings Table Amazon Seller Ratings - Ratings Table FlyoverThis block shows how you’re fairing and where you sit on the scale of “Fair” to “Excellent”. I didn’t notice this until later, but each of these ratings has a score assigned:

  • Fair = 0 to 0.79
  • Good = 0.8 to 0.93
  • Very Good = 0.94-0.97
  • Excellent = 0.98 to 1

We’ll be looking at these ratings in the next section, but for now realise that you’re being rated on a scale of 0 to 1 and you are being expected to perform in the top 0.3 percentile. Well, just like eBay :)


There is a video on the rating system for which we’ll get to shortly, but for now we can see from the dashboard to the below that we (as sellers) are going to be given points. Seller Rating Score DashboardThese points are broken up into 4 sections and there is a bonus too.

  • No problems = 1 point
  • Minor Problems = 0 points
  • Moderate problems = -1 points
  • Severe problems = -5 points

order score +1+1 No problems
If you have no issues with the order being processed and the customer receiving it ok etc… Then happy days we get a point, sweet!

order score 00 Points for Minor Problems
But if you fail to answer an email within 24 hours, you wipe out the point you would have got for an order despatched on time and with no issues. The same goes if the order is late to be despatched.

order score -1-1 Points
If you have to cancel the order, then I’m afraid this is where it starts to hurt, you receive a negative point for a cancelled order.

order score -5– 5 Points for Being Bad
Let’s face it the following four reasons are all bad and Amazon are going to slap you for a 5 points if you achieve any of these. Receiving a charge-back, an A-Z claim, a negative feedback or allowing an order to expire are all not nice to experience as a buyer, let a lone as a seller.

While I’m writing this I am reminded of a Ted.com video I watched a few weeks back. While I’m not going to include it here as part of the article (as it’s worthy of its very own), the dynamics being used in this system absolutely wreak gaming. The video which I’m taking about is here and it’s 10 minutes well spent.

order score +1-10.1 Points as a Bonus
If you get everything right then you’ll be awarded a 10% bonus, well 0.1 of a point for fulfilling your part of the process well, by including a valid tracking number, met the minimum proposed delivery date, had no refund and were delivered within 3 working days. Amazon Seller Ratings - Time Weighted AverageAssuming that most businesses include these details anyway, this could be an easy win.

But it gets better, Amazon has also included a special note to a time weighted average. Something that we all know from eBay with Best Match and the value of recent sales.

Amazon’s calculation favours order history in the past 90 days but still keeps note of your past experience.

We’ll be looking0 at the points system next in a video from Amazon.

How are these Seller Ratings Calculated Video

Amazon’s gone the full hog with this and we’ve got a second video for the seller ratings. Again a full transcription of the video is included with the key points highlighted in bold.

Press Play

Video Transcription

At Amazon we know your rating is important to you and that it helps you build your business. So we want to help you understand how objective data is used to calculate your rating and how by focusing on specific improvement areas, you have the power to change it.

Here is how it works:

Every order is assigned a score. If an order is fulfilled without any problems, it gets one point. On the other hand, orders that have problems loose points.

These include orders that were canceled or expired, shipped late, had increased from buyers that took longer than 2 hours to respond to, had credit card charge backs, A to Z guarantee claims or negative feedback.

Some problems are more serious than others. So, for example, an order gets zero points if it’s shipped late but gets negative five points if it receives an A to Z guarantee claim. If an order has multiple problems, only the most serious one is counted.

You can also get bonus points. An order with truly exceptional service is awarded with an additional bonus of a 10th of a point for a total score of 1.1. Next, the score for all your orders within the last 12 months are totaled and an average is computed by dividing the total points by the number of orders.

Since performance on recent orders is more recent than those in the past, a time weighted average is applied to determine your final score.

Finally, depending on where your final score lies within the pre-determined range, you will be rated as a one of excellent, very good, good or fair. You can identify problem areas and then improve your rating by looking at the order quality report or by focusing on the suggestions on the seller rating page.

Some of you may discover that you do not have a rating. That just means you are a new seller or you have not had enough orders this year to calculate a rating. As your business grows and you have sufficient order history, the system will automatically calculate a rating for you. Meanwhile, you can still view your rating metrics to see how you are doing.

At Amazon, we are excited about a comprehensive and objective rating system that rewards you for all the effort you put in to your business and puts you in the driver seat.

How can I Improve My Rating

How can I improve my ratings This section shows the number of negative feedback, number of seller cancellations and late despatches, that in itself is useful, but what is sat behind this is even cooler and we’ll be looking at the new reporting tools in more depth shortly. Each of the suggestions, link to the same help page on Amazon here, but this may not work for you yet!

Rating Trend

Amazon Seller Ratings - Rating Trends ChartDecidedly un-remarkable currently, this chart over time will track your performance so you can see where your account is going. It gets better… honest.

New Reporting!

Amazon Seller Ratings - Report FilteringTransparency has been a big issues for sellers on eBay, especially for DSR ratings. Some sellers get reports and some do not. Finding out who has left you poor ratings is ni-on impossible for the masses and this is where Amazon have done really well. Their reporting for this new section is amazing.

Well… that is if you spot the hidden side menu that allows you to filter the search results. But that is a tiny niggle. That side bar that says “Search & Filters” is not clear that it exist when you first load the page and I only spotted it by accident.

On opening you can see in the screen shot, there are numerous search filters and also a date range filter that I’ve not included in the screen shot too. But thats just the filters, you wait till you see the report below!

The screen shot below shows an edited version of a orders report.
I’ve put a huge TICK next to the tick box you want to click on as again this is a hidden feature that shows all the good stuff in the report.
Seller Ratings Order Report ExampleIn the report above I have used a couple of colours to indicated the different scores in action. For orders where there has been a screw up, then -5 points have been applied, there are a few -1’s and a few 0’s as well.

What is shown is that there are two 1.1 transactions and while this report gives a good overview of the scores in action, the filters used were to show the the zero and negative values and the vast majority of your account should be +1 and +1.1’s.

Amazon Seller Ratings Summary

Technically we already get the stats for the products rankings on Amazon through the seller reports and sales rank scores. Amazon have now made the variables that they see as important to buyers, ensuring that the customer is happy is now rewarded.

But when the customer is not kept happy, then they’ll slap you & take points away from you. No one likes anything being removed, taken away or deducted and if they play the gaming dynamics on this well, this should see some interesting results given enough time.

Talking of gaming dynamics, here is one for Mr Bezos, making the seller stats public, as much as they’d hate you for it (I’m sure a few of you just gasped at that), would make a massive game that pitches product based businesses against each other on a open(ish) playing field other than just the price race to the bottom.

The video content included by Amazon is excellent and in the video for the how the ratings are calculated, it’s mentioned that the ratings are not going to be shown to the buyers just yet.

I’m not sure that 0.98 really means a lot to buyers. The general public understands percentages a lot more easily and my biggest comment to Amazon is to that convert this number to a percentage and show that to a buyer instead. 0.98 means what exactly? “Is that not even 1 out of a hundred?” You see my point?

Along with keeping it clear to buyers, Amazon has so far kept a clean interface, but even while I believe that the have included is very cool, looks fab and it’s been explained well, I do have my reservations that this may confuse business owners, especially new businesses to Amazon with new seller ratings, if they’re not combined with the existing options quickly.

What do you think?

Do you like the idea of a points mechanism, where you are rewarded for good behaviour and slapped for being bad? Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Podcast 003 – The 101 of eBay Variations + 7 Tips

They weld themselves to the top of eBay search results and now that eBay’s paid promotion tool for “Featured First” is going, using variations on eBay has never been so important.

In this Podcast with myself Matt (waves) and Dave Furness, we discuss eBay variations and why you should be using them, the benefits and the downsides and give you 7 tips to follow for success using variation listings.

We’ve listened to your feedback and today’s Podcast is a half the length of our previous Podcasts and comes in at a trim 30 minutes. If you think we’ve skimped on value, you’d be wrong, wait until the end :)


Because this is may be new to you, above is a green play button. Press play and you’re listening!

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.


What are eBay variations & Why do you want to use them?

Variations allow you to keep a product that has a range of options in a single listing. This makes selecting the right product as a customer much, much easier as they no longer have to go and find the variation they want, such as a shoe size, they can pick from a single listing.

eBay Variations Example

Several good examples of how these are used and are easier for both buyers and sellers are:

  • A pair of shoes that come in multiple sizes
  • A dress that comes in different sizes and colours
  • Rugs that come in different colours, styles and sizes.
  • Motorcycle helmets
  • A handbag that comes in multiple colours

Each of these products can come in different sizes, colours and styles. When linked together it makes it much easier for a buyer to make the right choice and also easier for you as a seller to track their inventory as instead of an individual listing for each colour/size/style, they are all contained in one listing.

Variation listings are now supported in 20 categories on eBay UK and you can see the full list and the exceptions here.

What other Benefits are there for sellers?

There are several key benefits to using variation listings and for best match rankings which is of special note and we cover that shortly too.

Key Benefits of using Variations

  • First picture is free so that if you have can extra free pictures on eBay, that swap when the buyer makes a selection
  • Saving money on listing fee’s as one insertion fee
  • The subtitle upgrade is better value as its £1.05 for a single listing
  • Increase of product visibility – every time a sub SKU sells the whole listing benefits
  • Stays clear of duplicate listing policy
  • Makes it easier for the buyer to find what they want which should make your listings stickier and increase conversion.

Note: You will hear us call them “multi variations” in the Podcast, even if you item has one variation, it’s the same thing. It’s just a term we use and it’s the same as variations, whether there is 1 variation or 5 variation options.

eBay Variation Tutorial Video

Earlier this year Dave Forest from the eBay UK seller team created a video to take you through the creation and use of eBay variations.

Dave takes you through a live listing on the eBay site, a Men’s T-Shirt that has colour and size variations and we can see how the price changes with his selection and also the how the image changes for each colour variation. Then how to create a variation listing in multiple colours and sizes like the example listing.

eBay Best Match & Variations

Listings that are variations become welded to the top of the search results. Even by eBay’s own admission in several categories you cannot compete unless you are using variation listings. They took hold fast and have completely changed the dynamics in every category they have been released in.

To make the point, we’ve made some searches on eBay below. Take a look for yourself and the listings that you see without “More Options” under them, you’ll find very few because for all the BIN listings, the single listings just don’t get a chance.

Example Searches of How Variations Weld to the Best Match Search Results

In the Podcast we refer to a rugs listing that has 17 colours and 10 sizes, you can view that item here http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/150669779518 at the time we looked at it, it had around 2216 items sold. Now it has 2255 at the time of writing!

Are there downsides to using eBay variations?

Although these are minor when compared to the benefits, unfortunately there are a couple of downsides to using variations.

  • Can’t rename the master variation SKU in eBay
  • Creating them can be slow
  • They are not supported by all 3rd party tools and even eBay’s own turbo Lister you cannot import or export them.
  • Cannot add separate EAN’s for Google search/shopping results for each variation

In the next updates we are seeing

eBay variations and Pricing UpdatedI’ve covered the eBay Autumn 2012 updates in huge detail, however the variations didn’t get much hype from eBay, but they were one of the biggest winners with numerous changes that will improve their performance.

  • We’ll be seeing “£9.99 – £129.99″ instead of the highest price only
  • Also seeing image swatches for colours, when common colours are used (shades)
  • Intelligent variation search – search for Pink shirt and eBay will show you the image of a pink shirt (Providing you have one uploaded).
  • Featured first is going, so your listings need to be as good as possible to get to the top spot…

Our Tips for Variations on eBay

Myself and Dave have put together 7 top tips for you on eBay variations and the last one is golden.

  1. Where-ever possible use them
    If your category supports them then you should be using them (we have the entire list on the website at… ) http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/sell/listing-variations.html#categories
  2. Keep the options to a minimum
    Think of your buyers! Try and keep the variations to a minimum, Size and colour.
  3. You can change prices if needed
    Remember you can change the pricing for each combination and if one variation goes out of stock, the listing remains.
  4. Take advantage of eBay’s Fast N Free Option
    Don’’t forget that eBay are going to be showing products as “Fast N Free” when you have an estimated delivery of 3 days or less. So that means if you have a handling time of 1 day and first class or a courier of 24hrs or 48hrs with the same handling time.
  5. Don’t force variations if your products don’t suit.
    Certain categories are so suited to having variations, such as fashion and certain home items.  If your item isn’t one of them, don’t force it or have complicated variations.
  6. Use images for each core variation
    Make sure you have pictures loaded for each variation…in place for when the latest update comes in, it’s going to be even more important
  7. Name the variation labels well
    Apparently it is OK to do this, you are able to Keyword stuff the variation names. As the variation names may only show 35 chars in the drop down box but you can add variation names that are up to 50 chars long. So thats your eBay title at 80 + 50 + 50 + etc… There is an article I created a while ago here that includes a video showing this in action. eBay declined to remove the listing.

Thank You!

We don’t really say it enough, thank for taking the time to listen in, because of you we’re out growing our current web hosting and are moving to a new server this weekend.

Your Feedback

You may have noticed that the sound quality has got better and we’d love to hear your feedback about this Podcast and your thoughts and experiences with eBay variations.

You can let us know in the comments box below.

A Good Problem. We’re Moving!


There are bad problems and there are good problems, I always prefer the latter and I’ve got an excellent one.

This is one of those amazing posts that I only dreamt about all that time ago when the LastDropofInk was first started.moving-home

For the past few weeks the sheer volume of traffic to the site has meant we’re coming to the end of what can be done on shared web hosting. It’s time we grow up and find a new home on a beastly dedicated server to allow this site and its services to grow even further.

This weekend the site will be moving to a new home and will be locked down to a holding page for a few hours which the data is transferred and DNS settings updated. Besides that you shouldn’t notice any visual difference to the site after the move and over the next 2-3 weeks I’ll start tuning the server to improve performance.

Two years ago I made the decision to not worry about web hosting and just get on a creating content,  the very first article was for Google TV. Since then with your help & support through all the conversations, emails, comments and support this site has grown & grown from a tens of hits each day  to thousands and for that I am eternally grateful.

I’ve got to run and edit today’s Podcast on eBay variation listings, the target time for the release is 2pm today, so I better get my rear-in-gear and get editing!

Thank you so much for your support.

Speak soon,


New eBay Logo, Your Thoughts?

The first time I saw the new eBay logo it did it no favours, with shadow and weird background, instead if this is the first time you have seen, look below in awe.

New eBay Logo

I liked the old logo a lot it’s done well, but let’s be honest, it’s old and it’s time has passed. Sooner or later we were going to get an updated version, thank goodness they have not strayed too far away from the original and frankly I think it looks ok and thank goodness it’s nothing like the Olympics 2012 logo, that would have been a disaster, but… What do you think? Let me know in the comments box below.

PS. It’s Podcast day! I’ve just started editing and should be ready for 2pm :)

5 Things You Could be Missing Out On In eSellerPro

eSellerPro LogoA little over three weeks ago I asked what you were struggling with and the larger topics I’m covering on the Podcasts we’re holding every Friday, but one of the smaller topics that you mentioned was that you’d like to know what you didn’t know for functionality in eSellerPro.

The following are relatively easy to set up and can save hundreds of man-hours each year. This gets deep really quickly and if you have any questions on these, just ask in the comments at the bottom or in the forums.

Note: For users of eSellerPro Lite who are in the ‘eBay Accelerated Growth Programme’, then you will still have access to the eBay templates, inventory details and also the custom fields sections, so you can use the conditional statements, but without the paragraphs. Also I’ve seen the courier rules set up with the shipping areas, so you may have access to these as well.


Using Keywords Inside Keywords & Conditional Keywords

When this first happened, it was deemed a bug. Really you should not put the keyword {{ItemDescription}} inside the description tab of a SKU and then preview or list it, what happens is that you get the description come out around 40 times.

Not ideal, but what it indicate is that you can put a keyword inside a keyword and with a little inspiration a few years ago, this turned into a really cool feature, which when used correctly can help structure your date very cleanly.

Let’s say you have a custom fields group called “Generic”, that group holds generic information about SKU’s, maybe 5 bullet points for Amazon and some other standard fields. If you add a new custom-field called “Description”, but make this custom field a list.

On the values tab for that custom fields group, you can then add values to it. If you were to add a value called “{{Insert:Description_Sofas}}” that just so happens to be a keyword, this keyword is an Insert command to bring in a paragraph block called “Description_Sofas”.

Thus if you assign this keyword in the dropdown box for the “Description” customfield on an inventory record then all you’d need to do is add {{CustomFields:Generic:Description}} to a listing template and wayhey! We now have the description contents being controlled in a custom field and completely separated from the listing template.

But that’s just simple use of custom fields, did you know you can logic test them too? I’ve written a couple of guides on these already and they should not be overlooked. You can make logic decisions if something is valid (that’s an IF clause), decide to do something if something is not valid (that’s an IFNOT) and there are other functions such as IFELSE and also a neat function to SPLIT the values in a data field.

If I’ve lost you with that last paragraph, don’t worry, read these three articles, they all have practical examples in them:

Courier Rules that use Postcode Ranges & Countries

Courier rules in eSellerPro are very powerful, but sadly sometimes they are heavily underused. These rules are business rules, that means that orders that come in with specific courier criteria may leave the warehouse with different information.

A really simple example of this is that a customer may pay for 2nd class on their order, that’s what they saw on eBay, however a business rule may be that because the order total was over £20 and in the United Kingdom then this order is automatically promoted to 1st class.

That is a simple example, but it’s because of what can be achieved through the courier rules, it has for a long, long time made me wonder why on earth people pay 12pence a pop to MetaPack, when obviously the tool you are using to process courier rules is not up to the job and MetaPack needs to step in a bridge that gap (albeit a little steep at that kind of price per package, although there is a compelling argument for redundancy in couriers and MetaPack does provide that).

Courier rules can get deep pretty quickly, so it’s always worth speaking with your implementer or support representative to work out exactly what you need, however the courier rules can be layered and you can create some complex rules that mean you can deliver your orders to customers faster and more cheaply than you ever thought possible, when you consider that you can factor in rules for the following conditions:

  • Order source
  • The method the buyer chose at checkout
  • The order weight
  • The seller ID
  • The order value
  • Quantity of items in the order
  • Shipping value paid
  • And finally the most powerful one of them all, the Shipping Area
eSellerPro Shipping Areas

You may be wondering why there are locations set for both United Kingdom and Great Britain and you’d be right that is a little odd, until you consider that eBay refers to the UK as “United Kingdom” and Amazon refers to the UK as “Great Britain”. Don’t let that one catch you out, I’ve already found that one out the hard way a long time ago.

You can easily create a logical process for your orders with “shipping areas” to filter through so that your orders go via the most cost and time effect paths and your staff don’t see any of the processing!

By setting up groups of locations, whether these be postcode ranges, such as BT for Northern Ireland or all the exceptions for your courier where you’re charged more. Maybe the core zones in Europe, so that your main courier say parcel Force is expensive to Euro 3 Zone, so instead you can easily switch to a different courier for that zone, or pick out a single country, such as Germany and have special rules just for that destination.

Packing Processes

This won’t suit all businesses, but the ones where it does this

will save you huge amounts of time through process control.

In short this is where orders are printed by one member of staff that manages the order queue and then using the document that is printed a special screen called the “Packing Screen” is used to process and despatch orders.

A barcode is scanned off the despatch document and that barcode is the order ID, this is then read in eSellerPro and the order contents are loaded up. Then for each line item the line item is scanned for it’s barcode and as each order line item is scanned it is removed from the order on the screen, until all the line items have been scanned.

Now we have a verified order and when this happens, with our courier rules above and assuming we have the couriers integrated in eSellerPro, you courier label will be printed. Pop the item’s in their package and slap the label on, job done, next.

Also as part of this process you can also scan barcodes, brilliant for refurbished or high value products that need the serial number recording for later verification.

Automatic Barcode Assignments

What is a barcode?If you have your own Barcode range from GS1, then it’s dead easy for this range to be added to your eSellerPro account and then when you send a new product to Amazon that does not have a EAN (or UPC) set, one will be automatically assigned for you.

If you’ve not got the foggy-est on what GS1, barcodes, EAN’s and UPC’s are, see this article, I explain them all.

Water-Marked Images

watermarked imageThe final topic that you probably didn’t know that eSellerPro could do is water mark your images automatically.

Before we go any further on this, it can be tricky to set up and it does mean that you do need to provide eSellerPro with standard sized images, so that the watermark that comes out in the final image is uniform.

This can also be done for multiple accounts too, but does require setting up by your implementer/support.

In Summary

So there we have them, five things you probably did not know that eSellerPro could do.

From stacking keywords inside of each other and then logic testing them, to making sure that your orders go using the most cost and time effect couriers and saving a fortune by not using MetaPack, packing them in a lean and mean despatch process with barcode scanners, the auto assignment of Barcode s from your range and finally, water marking your images automatically.

If you’re struggling with something, no matter how small or if you just have a question you think I or Dave can answer, ask us in the forums here.

How to Get Amazon Feedback Removed

Amazon Negative FeedbackReceiving a negative comment regardless if it’s on a marketplace or not is not fun, however with this simple to follow guide you can get some of your negative and neutral comments removed.

What Can be Removed from Amazon Feedback?

To set clear expectations this is not going to work for all comments that are left, however there is a certain type of comment that Amazon will remove that doesn’t include the normal reasons such as foul language or if they have left personally identifiable information, like a link, address or name (if you didn’t know those two, they’ve just scored two more).

“The type of feedback comment you can easily asked to be removed from Amazon is the type of feedback that includes a review of the product”

Amazon Neutral CommentAmazon has spent years building up their reviews database, from what started as staff adding their reviews to the vibrant feedback forum it has now turned into with products that receiving decent 4 & 5 star reviews outstripping their competition hands down. The type of feedback comment you can easily ask to be removed from Amazon is the type of feedback that includes a review of the product.  After all a product review should be in the correct section for others to see, not in a sellers feedback profile.

And it’s on those grounds you can ask (where apt of course) for Amazon to remove a product review from your feedback profile on Amazon and if that comment happens to be a neutral or negative comment, happy days.

Just before posting this article I thought I’d see if I could find an apt comment to use as an example, the very first seller I found on Amazon had one and I’ve included it as a screenshot to the right.

“Little disappointed as the adventures are quite short – one about 20-25 minutes and the other only 15 minutes. Perhaps I didn’t read the info section properly.”

That kind of feedback would be amazing in a product review, if you were buying the product that “AST” had bought and spotted in the customer reviews that they stories were rather short.

That to me is a product review, not a constructive comment for the services provided by the seller and as such is up for removal, Amazon see it that way too in their FAQ section.

Removing Neutral & Negative Amazon Comments

You have to ask Amazon to remove the comment(s) from your profile, they won’t pro-actively check your feedback cards. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Go to open a new ‘Support Case’ in Amazon Seller Central
  2. Select “Seller Account Settings” on the left
  3. The select “Orders > Customer feedback problems”
  4. And include the details about the comment and clearly state that it is a product review.
  5. Select your contact method at the bottom and press “Send Message”

To help you, I have written you a template you could use when contacting Amazon. If you have had previous feedback comments remove, it’s always a good idea to include the previous ticket number, as it’s unlikely to be the same member of the Amazon Seller Support team that is going to be answering you email


We have received a comment from <USERNAME> that reads as a product review in our feedback profile on our Amazon account.

The comment is:


As you can see this really is a product review and is more suited towards the product reviews section, can you remove this comment from our feedback profile?

Kind regards,


This is know to work well for comments that are reviews, let me know your experiences in the comments box below!

The One Box You Shouldn’t “Un-Tick” in eSellerPro

The HTML editor in eSellerPro is a menace. If you use it to edit your description blocks, it’ll add it’s own version of HTML it and if you’re trying to process any form of advanced logic past a simple IF/NOT statement then it’ll eat it for breakfast.

eSellerPro HTML EditorOur saviour is the checkbox that is found at the bottom of the HTML editor on almost all description/content entry points that stops the editor from being loaded. Thus you don’t end up with broken HTML descriptions and logic tests that no longer work.

You know when you’ve had your descriptions edited by the editor when you start noticing odd <p>,</p> and <br> tags all around your descriptions. Check your eBay templates, you didn’t put them there, the editor did and unpicking the mess can take a while.

My tip, never use the editor to begin with and turn it off. You’ll find this option in the following entry areas and if you ask support there is a user setting to disable the HTML editor system wide to stop staff from inadvertently turning the editor back on and it chewing your content blocks.

  • eBay templates
  • Paragraph builder
  • Postage template description
  • Customfield descriptions

Hopefully this little tip will save you ages trying to work out why a description is half way down a page when it should not be, then finding out that the editor has entered 30 <br> tags at the end of conditional statements.

Free Royal Mail Christmas 2012 Delivery Cut Off Calendar

In last Fridays Podcast, Preparing for Christmas, we weren’t sure when the last posting dates were for this Christmas. So we looked them up using the online Royal Mail version, but found it was hard to read, we felt we could do better, so we did!


Free Royal Mail Christmas 2012 Delivery Cut Off Calendar

We were surprised that the one of the last posting dates was at the end of this month and as Christmas gets closer, 5 key dates are in November, so knowing when they are is super important to not let customers down and being able to update your listings & website accordingly.

You can download a free, clear, simple to read Christmas Despatch Calendar for the last posting dates for 2012 and we’ve included a customisation section so that you can add notes and dates for your own couriers too.

 [Click here to download this free Guide to the last Posting Dates  for Christmas 2012]

Christmas 2012 Cut off Dates 2012 Guide

Print this out and stick it on your office wall, in your warehouse and if you fancy it (and want to live dangerously) for maximum effect stick it to your staff too.

If you have any suggestions on how we could make it better, just let us know in the comments box below.

How to Break Habits, Stop Pointless Tasks & Quit Smoking

Habits, we need them to survive, I’m also using several to type this article, to sip luke warm coffee at 6am on Sunday morning and you’ve most likely used one or more habits to find this article.

These are good habits, but smoking is bad and so is cleaning out the spam folder 19 times in one day, read on to see how I escaped both.


The Habit Routine

Andy lent me a book a few weeks back, it had just been published by one of his friends it was called “The Power of Habit“, it sounded pretty cool so I skimmed it and then sat down and read it back to back in a day. Turned out for me, it’s been one of the best books I’ve read yet.

As Charles Duhigg’s explains in the book, each habit has a queue, routine and a reward. Always in that path. Once you have this simple tool to work with, suddenly things become a lot easier to notice and then to change.

In the video below, Charles explains the process, with his addition to cookies and how he tackled it,

Email Spam & Smoking

At the beginning of last week, I found myself checking the spam folder every few hours and deleting the mail in there. Somehow it felt tidy to so and only once in the past say month I have found an email that I was not expecting in there, so generally in Gmail, spam really is spam.

It was curious, as I realised I was in a habit routine, I would notice the number next to the spam folder in the top left of Gmail and that number, was inviting, I had to click on it, sometimes even if it was just one, it was an untidy folder.

I kept score on Friday, NINETEEN times I emptied that folder in one day, a completely pointless exercise checking, spotting the number next to the folder skimming junk and then deleting it, with a reward that I now had a tidy spam box.

Cue -> Action -> Reward
See a Number -> Clean them out -> The feeling I accomplished something

We all know working for ourselves can be tough at times and that little win of empty the spam folder seems like a huge win at times. As Charles points out in his book, if we stop this cycle completely, the cue still exists and the desire for the reward also exists. So you can’t just get rid of them and expect cold-turkey to work.

With the emails, changing the cycle I was in was easy. I was avoiding answering the more important emails, so hiding the GMail spam folder (which you can do in Settings > Labels and then set to ‘hide’), so now the cue was gone, but the desire for the reward was there, so instead, I swapped my attention to the inbox, the folder I was avoiding and now I’ve happily replaced my spam folder addiction with the far better habit of answering the main email queue.

But that’s just one instance of a habit routine I’ve changed through using this simple process, I actually used it to quit smoking as well, by flipping Charles’ process on its head in a way I’m guessing he didn’t envisage.

As Charles explains in the book and in the video above we have a simple 3-step process:

The Habit Cycle

When it comes to smoking, the cue could be anything from a fag butt to a wiff of smoke from a neighbour, for anyone who has smoked and quit, you know all these queues all to well.

Breaking the Habit, with the Process itself!

It’s important to note that I had wanted to quit for some time and was preparing to go cold turkey. Even Charles explains that just stopping a habit won’t work alone, one necessary ingredient is required, that is “belief”. So I had the belief and now the tool to quit, but it wasn’t going to be a normal quit either.

What I decided to do was flip the entire idea of a habit on top of itself and I used Charles’s “habit cycle” process as a habit to replace a habit. Sounds odd? Actually it’s dead easy.

Every time I wanted a ciggy, I recognised that I was at the action stage, this was the previous action was to roll and smoke, now instead I had a process. And in this process I had sometimes missed the cue, but I my new action was that I had noticed that I wanted to smoke and there in lies the final key stage, the reward. I had recognised that I wanted to smoke, and that alone was my reward. I was using the new tool of a process to quit.

I don’t think the process was designed to be used like I use it, actually envisaging the process as a piece of paper to replace the habit process so literally, but the thing it is worked and continues to work. Yes I’ve lapsed in a few places, mainly due to alcohol, but when I did I could see my process falling apart and I hate broken processes so have rarely ventured past the first few drags and it’s been months now.

I use this simple process everyday, sometimes I know I’m in a habit loop, I like coffee and my little habit that I through several times a day, I indulge in and that’s OK. But other habits, they can be bad and now I have a simple tool that I use every day to either indulge in habits or to use them to stop smoking and stop wasting soo much time looking at spam.

You can buy “The Power of Habit: Why We do What we Do, and How to Change” on Amazon for around £8.50 and the Kindle version is around £8.00. For me, a complete bargain as I have my own copy now and I have a tool that I use daily.

I have quit smoking, stopped looking at spam emails and fully indulge in my habit loop that involves caffeine.

Podcast EIPE 002 – Preparing for Christmas

For big and small children it’s an amazing time of the year, however with our business owner hats on, Christmas time can make or break a business.

For us all, it’s what you’ve been working on the build up to for the past 9 months. Today is the day where you’ve got to take action.

The kids are back to school and that one means one thing, mums have moved into the present mode and they’re going to be hunting down the retail stores and bashing the left mouse button on line.

In this weeks Podcast with our special guest Pete Moran from Modetro.com where we discuss Pete’s concerns and questions as a small business owner going into his first Christmas trading period online.


Because this is may be new to you, above is a green play button. Press play and you’re listening!

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.

Preparing For Christmas

Christmas ballSelling unique products at any time of the year can be an up and down affair and this is Pete’s first Christmas trading online and with no reference point to work against, it’s going to be an interesting period of time for Pete and his team.

Pete had several questions that he asked us in the forums and we thought it would be a super idea to ask Pete to join us and to cover these questions in more detail during a Podcast.

Frankly the numbers last year are shocking, over 350 million hours were spent shopping online in the UK alone, which translates to an average 8 hours and 45 minutes spent by each person. I’m not sure of the numbers for eBay & Amazon, but you can bet that a huge percentage of this time was spent on either eBay or Amazon sites.

Looking at eBay for a few moments, eBay gets some 17 million unique visitors there each month and some 60 million items listed, which is bound the bulge heavily at this time of the year.

Your buyers are looking on eBay, they’re looking in Google, retail stores, and that yellow logo’d beast Amazon and your business needs to be there for them on them all.

Two words, right now. I know it’s stereo-typical, but the second the kids go back to school, it’s like a switch. The tasks of getting the children prepared and off are now over and parents can focus upon the build up to Christmas and if you wife is anything like mine, then that is right now.

What you’ve not bought already? I’ve already bought one!”

Pete’s Modetro, as almost every business can expect a build up to Christmas literally starting right now in discussion at the dinner table last week, I asked my family when were they planning and thinking about to start buying presents.

My sister suggested that now the Children had gone back, she would be focusing on looking for presents, especially as the two older children were going to school and she would have more free time. But that was half expected, what was not expected was my partner to jump in and state “What you’ve not bought already? I’ve already bought one!“For the men out there, I feel for you too.

September is the on-boarding ramp to Christmas, it’s now we start seeing the increase in sales (not all by my wife I hope!) and leads into October and November where we see the biggest volumes of sales. We take special notice of the period of December in the Podcast and we’ll cover that later in this supporting article.

But, you can’t miss the hype of two days that are always bounded around the internet at Christmas, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. Just like in the Podcast, I’ve asked Dave Furness to explain what these two days are:

What is Black Friday & Cyber Monday?

When talking about Christmas preparation, you really can’t ignore the Black Friday or Cyber Monday weekends.

Black Friday is an Americanism which has grown in popularity over the past few years gaining more and more attention both online and in the media.  Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving over in the USA and is traditionally the day when a lot of retail stores bomb the prices on the run up to Christmas.  Naturally as more and more businesses went online over the years these sales have been replicated online too.

Amazon Sales 2011

Amazon’s year-over-year sales growth is higher than it has been in ten years in July 2011. Those peaks are Decembers and yes that left column is in millions of dollars.

In the USA Cyber Monday is the Monday following Black Friday, whereas in the UK this is traditionally the first Monday in December.  The truth is, the exact science behind ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ is a bit of an unknown one.

But you shouldn’t underestimate it.  From the last week of November through to the first two weeks of December are likely to be the busiest weeks in e-commerce as in 2011, where Internet Retailing covered last year that UK sales online were up by a fifth on Cyber Monday as the first data started to drip out. In another article by The Daily Mail, they wrote last year about Amazon’s massive 3 million transactions on one day… that day being Cyber Monday.

eBay have their own special day too, they call it “Super Sunday”, take a few moments to try and comprehend the amount of visitors last year on eBay for a single day.

Britain will be buying and selling in during this year’s busiest online shopping day – ‘Super Sunday’, on December 4th, when 5.8million shoppers are expected to log onto eBay.co.uk alone. 

Matt’s comment: Can you even imagine what 5.8 million people looks like? I just can’t.

As we mention in the Podcast and as we’ll do here, if there is, then it tends to be quite sharp and we’re a little vague but it really depends on what business you’re in too.

Channeladvisor Christmas Sales 2011

This chart shows the “Same Store Sales” from ChannelAdvisor on the key dates last year. SSS (Same Store Sales) are where ChannelAdvisor watch numerous sales channels and aggregate them back to what they see through the businesses that use their software. This gives us a unique insight into what is really happening for medium and larger businesses that use Marketplaces, paid search and comparison shopping.

For Pete, we can only hazard a guess due to his product types, which are generally unique and rather kinda cool. It’s because of this that we’re expecting him to do rather well this Christmas online and while we point out that there is a limit to what he can actually sell, as his items are generally unique.

“A business is for life not just for Christmas”

If Pete is expecting a general rise in sales, we believe he’ll start seeing a decent jump by the end of this month and is set for a super Christmas trading period.

What we stress in the Podcast is that a “business is for life not just for Christmas” and while it might appear to be amazing to load up and sell everything (that is on the scale of excellent), but in relatively if you’ve not got the processes for Christmas prepared, then it could all easily go “Pete Tong” and end up with no business after Christmas.

eBay’s Top Rated Seller program is designed to keep businesses on their toes and while, they’ve worked hard over the past two years to help protect businesses that slight under-perform after obtaining the eTRS status and get themselves on track again, nothing is going to rescue a trashed eBay account.

Amazon Customer Metrics Screen Shot

If you’re not seeing Green ticks in your Amazon account, you’ll need to jump on these ASAP. There are no second chances with Amazon.

On Amazon with thier key metrics, if you move outside even by a tiny amount green turns to yellow and yellow can easily turn to red. We know by fact that Amazon has a long memory when it comes to account histories and now is not the right time to endanger next years selling by letting these go, even a tiny bit.

Looking at the processes you have to manage stock control, despatch and customer services right now is absolutely key as any later than the end of this month will be nothing more than a plaster on a wound.

DPD and Parcelforce for that matter (thank you Steve P for conversation yesterday on this), were pushing businesses hard to despatch right up to the cutoff and to use 24 hour services and they would deliver. That for me is cutting it too fine, there is too much to risk and for the very few extra sales that are likely to happen on that last day, I don’t feel it’s worth it.

We were going to put the key dates in a table from the Royal Mail website here, but we’ve done one better. We though that the Royal Mail guide was poor and confusing and instead we made out own.

Free Royal Mail Christmas 2012 Cut off Calendar

You can download a free, clear, simple to read Christmas Cut off guide for the last posting dates for 2012 and we’ve included a customisation section so that you can add notes and dates for your own couriers too.

Christmas 2012 Cut off Dates 2012 Guide

 [Click here to download this free Guide to the last Posting Dates  for Christmas 2012]

Print this out and stick it on your office wall, in your warehouse and if you fancy it, for maximum effect stick it to your staff too.

However if your name is Amazon, I will be doing what I did last year. That is buying a high risk item, minutes before the cut off time on a prime subscription and be expecting it to arrive. I did that last year on Christmas eve which was a Friday and it arrived on Saturday morning. It was a nervous occasion and you can read the full article here (and yes they did deliver).

Most couriers do their best to be prepared at Christmas.   They know it is their busiest time of year and do take on additional staff to help manage this peak time.

The key with Christmas shipping is to under promise and over deliver rather than the other way around.

Shoot self in the footAs a seller you need to make sure to check with your own couriers/postal company and make sure to update your listings and/or shop front to display up to date shipping information.  Especially with regards to last shipping days.  Give the buyers as much notice as possible and make it easy for them to see.

Daves experience – “I have had a few problems with couriers over Xmas, more items seem to go missing, as well as deliveries not being made on time.  My advice would be to make sure you have as much of a safety net as possible with your delivery times.  Don’t keep customers waiting, if item goes missing, send a replacement asap and follow up your claim with the courier for the missing item after all it is not the customers fault.

Perhaps one of the largest issues that get attributed to couriers is actually no fault of their own.  This is of course the weather.  Britain is famous of course for it’s inability to deal with severe weather but none more so than snow. The winter of 2010 being famous for grinding the countries logistics network to a halt for the first two weeks of December causing massive amounts of chaos and backlogs for the courier companies.

If this is to happen again this year don’t be surprised if Britain is as ill prepared as ever and chaos descends once more.  If this happens then communication with your customers is the difference between catastrophe and success.

Be sure to keep your listings and delivery pages up to date with any changes to expected delivery dates etc.  It is also critical to keep in touch with your courier for the latest news at their end and relay this back to your customers.  It will give them the added peace of mind to know that you are actively keeping them informed and this could be the difference between a positive buying experience from a tough situation, or a negative one.

As we discuss in the Podcast, remember the WOM Factor and how important that is at this time of year and keeping customers happy, as Matt says “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot“.

This really depends on your vertical, that is which product area you are in. It’s important to remember that Christmas can be busy, not because its’ Christmas, but instead because it’s dark and wet out side.

At this time of year the chances of a boiler breaking, the car lights going or a wiper blade splitting is very high and products like these peak for reasons not directly related to Christmas.

From my own expereinece, you can expect these kind of percentages for each product category as a make up of your over all year sales from eBay & Amazon.

  • Toys 80-90%
  • Fashion 60%
  • Electronics easily 50%
  • books 90%
  • Snow shovels 99% (the other 1% is australia in the summer)
  • Generally peak regardless of business type and products as people are in buying mood
  • Ebooks peak on boxing day

Andy commented in the Podcast that as an Author, you can expect that vast majority of yours sales to be made at Christmas and if you have an eBook, that it’s going to peak on Boxing day. That might have something to do with all those Kindles that were bough last year and I know this year, a Kindle is on my #1 cool list and I’l be buying the second it’s opened.

This is an interesting topic, coming from a background where staff processes are heavily automated through processes made by 3rd party management software, in a smaller business where software is only really playing a small part then manual processes can take a lot of time.

That doesn’t mean they’re bad by any-means, it just means that you need to be aware that the processes might not be spot on for double or treble the sales volume and seeing as we’re only in September now, you’ve got a month or so to get them right.

During the Podcast one tip that cannot be overlooked is to just sit down and watch staff in the despatch process. Pour a cuppa and just say you’re having a break, but watch closely. Consider small parts of the process such as:

  • Would it make more sense to print more and pick more in one go?
  • Do you really need so many documents?
  • Try moving cellotape to a more convenient location
  • Putting the celloptape on a spinal so it does not roll away
  • Putting pens in a tub
  • Having the packing bags under the table, not behind you
  • Having a post sack on a hook at the end of the table so you can slide the order off the end
  • If you put the packing bubbles above you on the the reel, would that be easier and quick to use?

Just look and observe and most importantly try changing things. If it doesn’t work, all you’ve lost is a cuppa on a chair and 10 minutes of tweaking. But make sure you tell your staff what you’re doing, they are going to have suggestions of their own and it’s important to listen to them.

“3am is nothing and you know that on Christmas morning when Santa has been, it’s all be worth it”

So should you take on additional staff? In Pete’s case, I think he’ll do just fine, the reason being as if push comes to shove, in a small business you make it work regardless. 3am is nothing and you know that on Christmas morning when Santa has been, it’s all be worth it. However for your business, you’ll need to make that call yourself.

As you will hear in the podcast and see from what Pete has wrote in the forums, he has asked some brilliant questions and ones which apply to many and in most cases all e-commerce businesses.

So for his final question on whether we had any other tip’s for selling through the Christmas period we got together and came up with a short list of points we believe will help you get the most out of the Christmas period.

  • Offer extended warranty to cover Christmas period

If you sell predominantly items that are to be sold as gifts then perhaps by offering a longer than usual warranty period to cover Christmas could be the difference between a buyer choosing you, or one of your competitors.

By offering an extended warranty period to say the beginning of January then you are giving your potential customers that added peace of mind and security about buying your product.

  • Don’t forget January!

It’s something I forgot to do once, and only once. Do not forget January!

As we mention in the Podcast (well, to be honest Matt does got a little bonkers here, you can tell he’s made this mistake and won’t let a soul repeat it) January should be treated with it’s own high level of importance. Too often businesses put all of their effort into Christmas preparation and totally forget about the second biggest selling period of the year.  A switch gets flicked as soon as Boxing Day arrives which switches buyer behaviour from ‘buying presents’ mode to ‘grab a bargain’ mode.

This means that it is the perfect time to liquidate older models in the Electronics business preparing for the new ranges due out in March/April, or to clear out the last of the current seasons lines in fashion to make way for the Spring/Summer collections.

But if for example you are selling in a vertical like Pete from Modetro then why not take the opportunity to buy stock in for the sheer purpose of selling on in the January bargain shopping window.  If you can find the right type of product at the right price then it is not unheard of to have a higher sales month in January than you would in December.

Matt wrote an article dedicated to this top last year, you can read about preparing your business for January  not Christmas here.

  • The risk of getting it wrong

Many businesses fall at the Christmas hurdle due to them not being prepared for it and all of the demans it brings with it.

Last year 17% of gifts failed to arrive before Christmas.  Don’t let that be you as the feedback and DSR’s that go with letting your customers down at this time of year can be fatal to a business.  Whats is crucial to remember is as I state in the podcast “A business is for life, not just for Christmas”  The difference between having a successful Christmas period or a catastrophic one could be the deciding factor in whether your business succeeds or not in the coming year.

With that in mind it is crucial that you have the infrastructure in place to deal with not just increased sales but also increased customer service queries and returns.  Losing eTRS (that’s eBay Top Rated Seller status if we’ve lost you) at this stage can be particularly dangerous on eBay as it will be 3 months before you win it back again.  So take this opportunity now in early September to put these processes and safe guards in place.

  • Consider free shipping

 “36% of survey respondents said they would spend more online this year if shipping is free”

If you update your listings to show Free Shipping your listing will get a boost in eBay’s best match algorithm and show higher up the listings.  The added traffic that this brings could potentially lead to a lot more sales if the shop.org survey mentioned above is anything to go by.

eBay Fast and Free Example

Something else to be aware of is the new feature ‘Fast N Free’ that eBay are introducing as part of their Autumn updates. Any listing which promises a free shipping charge and delivery within 3 working days will automatically get a nifty little green icon advertising ‘Fast N Free’ delivery.

Note: You can download the most comprehensive guide there is to the eBay UK updates at the bottom of this page for free.

  • 1st Nov STOP changing!

Stop - Take Action!By the time the 1st of November comes around we would really recommend you stop trying to change anything. Whether this be adopting new processes, software systems or adding fresh functionalities.

At this stage anything you change or introduce has the potential to go wrong, and this has the potential to affect your sales.  “Stop trying new stuff and work on what you have got” is the key message here.

Get everything in place before the 1st of November and after that focus all your attention to selling.

  • Be careful with Holiday Settings

To explain this properly, it needs a little story and we read this out in the podcast too:

“We went on holiday in July (Hooray!) and turned on eBay and Amazon holiday settings for 2 weeks.

Upon returning we restarted both and Amazon carried on almost without any change (actually, sales continue to rise).

However, eBay sales were painfully slow to recover. I have just checked the Omniture service for page views. August 2012 was around 10% of August 2012. (see attached)

Any idea why? Are we missing something? Any advice gratefully received.”

Holiday SettingsWe cover the differences between eBay & Amazon in the Podcast, but if you’re reading this just on the site, then Amazon listings will spring back to where they were before as soon as you re-enable them.

However with eBay, the “Best Match” filter is a nightmare at times, when we have times away from selling, as even though you can put your eBay Shop on holiday mode (see here for eBay’s guide) you listings are not taking sales, best match scores drop or it’s quite possible your competitors score rises and it’ll take quite some time to come back to where you were.

Our biggest tip here is not to panic and change everything. If your items were selling well before hand then you have the majority of things right and they will make their way back to where they were before, so keep changes to a minimum and hold your ground.

As a side note here it is has been observed that by disabling all your Amazon inventory for 12 hours and then re-enabling them, you’ll find items that you have not sold in months, sell. odd, but true, try it over night. You can do that by following these instructions.

Feedback from ChannelAdvisor

ChannelAdvisor LogoUp in question #2, I included a chart from the Blog of ChannelAdvisor, so who better to ask than Seamus Whittingham the Managing Director of ChannelAdvisor what advice he could give business owners who are preparing for Christmas.

Christmas is the vital time of year for retailers, but as e-commerce shopping trends and channels continue to evolve, many are left concerned about how they will perform this year.

In 2011, pre-Christmas online sales grew by 30% and as online evolves into omni-channel for many, this growth is set to continue at a pace. So how should retailers prepare to make hay whilst (hopefully) the snow, falls…..

History tells us that Christmas shopping ramps up significantly starting five weeks before the fateful day, for example last year online sales at John Lewis rose by 27.9% during that period, whilst Boxing day was the biggest UK online day ever, with 96 million visits going to retail websites.

Marketplaces continue to account for increasing volume in this critical period, where we found last year that our UK customers experienced a boost of 15% on Thankagiving Day alone.

With the key to successful ecommerce being largely about relevance,  peak sales trends amongst brands and retailers can differ slightly based on factors such as assortment type, demand and availability. We are urging retailers to identify when the busy period for them will begin, working back from that date building out promotions, assortment and fulfilment strategies that ride this oncoming wave.

Mobile and tablet shopping are set to heavily influence e-commerce this Christmas, and retailers should recognise that a potential purchase will almost certainly cross physical store, online and mobile touch points, with the purchase occuring at any one of those interactions. For example, mobile activity increases by up to 50% over the monthly average at this time. Those who have an omnichannel strategy will gain more traction than those that don’t, especially with high demand late purchase items as we move through December. Enabling interaction across platforms is a seamless and consistent experience is essential, bearing in mind that Christmas shopping on mobiles last year peaked at primetime TV times, so make sure your PPC campaigns are aligned to this trend. Ensure that detail is taken care of, product descriptions are deep and insightful, images clear and high quality.

As cross-border trade becomes more prevalent across the globe, competition for the UK customer is evolving and potentially growing. Domestic brands and retailers can differentiate through trust and use carriage as a differentiator. So free delivery and returns is applicable to many online strategies, maybe consider setting a timed promotion to create a compelling reason to buy now. Either way, offering excellent and transparent customer service inspires confidence and often tips that balance.

Extended cut off times are a key in capturing the late customer, where the reason to purchase is often acute. It this point margins may be preserved as demand potentially outstrips supply and consumers opportunity to compare and contrast is limited.

Finally, make sure you monitor your marketplaces metrics during busy periods. When volume and activity is high mistakes can happen, but a surge in negative feedback risks a penalty or impact to your sales during the busiest period of the year.

In Summary

The Christmas period is an unknown for new businesses and we’d like to thank Pete, without his questions, curiosity and involvement with this Podcast episode.

The Podcast covers a lot more than what we’ve covered here in this article, with many tips not making it to this article and will be left in verbal form for you to listen too. As always we all value your feedback and you can let us know in the comments box below.

Christmas can will be a manic time, our biggest take away for you, is to prepare right now for the next few months and for gods sake, don’t forget January.

About our Guest Pete Moran

Pete Moran

Pete is a technologist and entrepreneur, most recently selling funky vintage & retro homeware on his websitemodetro.com and his eBay store in partnership with his wife.

Pete also wrote an article here on a few weeks ago called “Improving eBay DSR’s – A Personal Account” it’s well worth a read and as always with this and any article Pete would welcome your feedback.

Sources used: Hitwise | Image | Image | eBay

Up to 43% More eBay Buyers In 5 Minutes

eBay Browser CompatibilitiesThis isn’t a joke, it’s certainly not a ruse, it’s a very serious point you cannot ignore and I’ve suffered from it for ages with this very site.

You could be losing out on up to 43% of your browsing buyers because your eBay listings are not being shown to your buyers in different browsers.

Browser compatibilities can be a nightmare and in this article there is a vivid demonstration what not checking your listings in the top four web browsers could mean.

At best you’re not showing off your products to their full potential and at worst, not showing them at all.

Let’s dig in and see what we can do in 5 minutes to identify if we need to take action or not.


The Browser Compatibility Nightmare

“What works in one web browser doesn’t mean it’ll work in another”

I sadly found the perfect example this morning of what a nightmare browser compatibility can be. It’s something that drives me nuts with this site, custom edits to listing templates for eBay and pretty much anything on the net. What works in one web browser doesn’t mean it’ll work in another.

To explain where this article came from and the background to why this is important you take notice involves a little story so let’s dive in.

I need a petrol strimmer to tackle the garden, the more I look at them, the more I convince myself that this need is real. I’ve been eyeing up both a normal petrol strimmer with a blade attachment and also looking at the 5 in 1 versions which come with an extension arm, hedge trimmer and chainsaw.

“I’ve got 4 narrowed down in My eBay and I’m almost ready to buy, but….”

Identifying branches and bushes that would look so much better with this multifunctional device, but it’s a considered purchase as they’re generally over £200, there is no way that’s sneaking past the wife like the last toy I bought and saying “it’s for the kids”.

I’ve got 4 narrowed down in My eBay and I’m almost ready to buy, but…. the web browser I use is Google Chrome. I use Chrome because it is sooo fast. FireFox used to be fast, but Chrome just wipes the floor with it now.

  • But what difference does my choice of web browser make to me buying an item online?
  • How can my choice of browser impact my final decision on which item I finally purchase?
  • Really it does not matter does it? 

Actually, it matters a lot.

Exactly the Same eBay Listing, but in Different Web Browsers

In the screen shots below you’ll see why checking your listings in different browsers is extremely important. This is exactly the same eBay listing, but in different web browsers I checked on this morning (and yes I’ve emailed them to let them know).

An eBay Listing Example in FireFox

The below screenshot is how the listing was originally intended to look. You’ll see that the images are showing and also the gallery function works as well when you click on the thumbnail images on the right.

eBay Listing in FireFox

An eBay Listing Example in Safari on the iPad

The screen shot below shows the same listing on the iPad. Surprisingly it displays fine as the Safari browser can be quite odd with templates at times too. All good so far, let’s move on to the next browser.

eBay Listing in Safari

An eBay Listing Example in Internet Explorer

Now this is where the compatibility issues start to show. The bulk of the template and product information is showing, however the main image is missing and the right gallery options don’t work in IE8. But it get’s worse, lets continue.

eBay Listing in Internet Explorer

An eBay Listing Example in Google Chrome

And we’ve hit worse case scenario here, in Chrome the entire description area is not showing and it was the same for all the other listings as well in Chrome too when viewing them this morning.

eBay Listing in Google Chrome

We’d love to think that because somethng works in one web browser, that it’ll work in another and generally that is true.

But each web browser has it’s own quirks and interpret the HTML standards in different ways, especially when it comes to what it should take notice of and what it should not with different versions and what to do when the HTML code it’s provided has errors in it.

I asked Mark Withers, a certified eBay Store designer who has completed over 750 eBay projects over 5 years what his views were on the topic of checking for compatibilities between web browsers on eBay were.

Mark Withers

“Just like any website, it’s important to ensure that your eBay listing is supported across media platforms, such as the iPad, iPhone and the five main web browsers.

A level of markup standardisation and compatibility checking should be demanded by any web designer, and ensuring that you aim to use no CSS hacks for your layouts.

You’ve got to keep checking your web presence, as browsers are updated frequently. In summary HTML and CSS compatibility checking ensure the future stability of your eBay listing templates.

Work with your web designer to understand the standardisation and to ensure all cross compatibility checking is carried out before you list on eBay.” 

Sometimes you’ll run into cross browser compatibility issues and what looks fine in one browser, can fail to appear in another and it’s because of these of the differences between web browsers, it could simply mean the difference between sales and no sales.

The Web Browser Usage Statistics You Cannot Ignore

Looking at the latest browser usage statistics from W3Schools in the image below, we can see that Google Chrome is commanding a whopping 43% of all browser hits now.

IE has taken a battering and is now as low as 16% and Firefox is a close contender at 34%.

web browser statistics July 2012

With the recent hype that eBay are expecting some obscene amount of increase in sales through mobile devices, looking at the overall picture we can see from the table below that mobile operating systems are only accounting for a tiny amount of the overall page views on the internet and that the desktop is still king.

Operating System statistics July 2012

Source: here

Check Your Listings Now

Download the four popular web browsers using the links below, they’re all free and won’t take a few minutes to install. Once you have them installed, pick one of your listings and view in it on all four of the web browsers.

Make sure that all the key features in your listings work, such as image galleries that work when you click on the thumbnails, links work and so on.

Generally the differences are only minor, but sometimes they can be major and major problems could mean that a large proportion of your potential buyers don’t see your product details in the full awe that they should be seen in.

For the sake of 5 minutes, do it now.

Your Browser Download Links


In the comments section below John suggested we just check that might be Adblock that is blocking your entire description.

Adblock PlusIn the case of the example listing above, that was the case, the innner division that contained the entire eBay listing description is called “ad_container”. If you were an “AdBlocking” piece of software, you’d block that division too!

To add to the testing above, it’ll take two more minutes to add the two common “Ad Blocking” extensions to Chrome (see here) and FireFox (see here). There are other blocking extensions, but these two are the largest ones around.

So in conclusion it could be as in the case as it was for this article, the entire description area was being hidden just because of a single division being named in-aptly or there really could have been another critical issue with the description causing it not to show. Or as we found in the Internet Explorer example above, the image gallery failing to load, which is not as bad as the description being hidden, but still hardly ideal.