Why Your New Years Resolution Sucks

It’s that time of year again when the regrets of eating too much yummy cake at Christmas start to kick in and plans are made for New Years resolutions are made.

But why not pick a resolution, so simple that you know you can keep?

No false promises, not something that will fade away with the hangover. A resolution that you can chip-away at every single day and know that by the end of August you can still achieve it.


2013 The Year of Failure

Last year I set myself the goal of failing in 2013.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
Winston S. Churchill

Failing? WTF? Yep seriously my new years resolution for 2013 was to fail and the reason for this was simple.

If I (or you) fail at something that means that we have actually been trying to do something. Anything! Success doesn’t happen overnight, other people look at the successful and think “wow they were lucky“. What a load of tripe, the people that you look up to that are successful didn’t get there by chance, accident or luck. They got there because they worked their pants off and part of that is failing.

In my mind, the more I failed, the more I was doing. I was learning, moving forwards each time something didn’t go to plan because I then knew that wasn’t the right way.

The resolution was so simple, I could literally not fail at it.

And for 2014?

However, this year needs a whole new tack to build upon the success at failing 2013, but it needed to be so simple, I could do it everyday.

ShareAnd the resolution for this year seemed to fit in so well with what I’ve been up to for the past 6 months with UnderstandingE and this year I am going to simply “share”.

It sounds so simple and it is on purpose. I need something that I know I can execute every single day, not only on the first few days of January, but for every month that follows.

  • Share my knowledge
  • Share what I’ve learnt
  • Share what I am working on
  • Share the successes
  • Share the failures (expect lots)

By standing up and saying “I think that this just might work“, sharing starts a conversation. Sharing starts the path to failure. Sharing starts the path to success and sharing is so simple, I know I cannot fail at doing it.

Think about it, what one thing can you do in 2014 that is so simple that by March you know you’ll be able to actually keep that resolution for the entire year?


PS. And if you’d like to hear all of the wins, failures & the funny parts of what I’ve been working on the past 6 months, I have already started to “share” and you can listen in here.

What to Expect in 2014


The last couple of weeks have probably been crazy for you with oodles of orders and hopefully with no major headaches along the way. yay!

Normally this time of the year is quiet for me, as soon as November hits, that’s it all major changes are in and we’re thinking about the next year. But this year has been quite different.

With the pending launch of the video guides for UnderstandingE on January 1st, things have gone from crazy to manic.

In this article I’m going to share with you an insight into UnderstandingE, share with you one of the guides that we have been working on and give you a glimpse of what to expect from the UnderstandingE project in 2014.


An insight to UnderstandingE

In the video guide below (it’s a little further down this page) you’re actually catching up with myself & Dave far into the training guides in a section we’ve called “Creating, Managing Products & Listing to eBay”.

You’ll be able to see first hand the format we’re following which is theory then practice and we’ve adopted a simple Crawl > Walk > Run approach to all the guides as the only one assumption we can make is that you have an existing eBay business.

Degree in Nerd Not RequiredNo prior knowledge of Magento or M2E Pro required

Together we learn to crawl by showing you how to install Magento (takes about 3 clicks!), use Magento and how to configure it correctly for your country.

Then how to use Magento, we’ll show you how to create your first product, show you how variation products are handled, then we move into the more fun topics, such as installing extensions such as a grids extension that makes managing inventory a lot easier, then M2E Pro which adds in the multichannel side for eBay, Amazon & Rakuten.

We’ve done our best to ensure that we’ve removed any requirement of a “Degree in Nerd” and to describe everything in “Plain English“, so that anyone teach themselves and their staff how to use Magento & M2E Pro for their business.

Listing Groups

One of the cool features in M2E Pro is the ability to create groups of listings. This may not sound very exciting, until you realise what they enable you to do.

With listing groups in you can:

  • Create groups of eBay listings so that you can manage large numbers of listings easily
  • Have standard policies or templates as you may know them that are applied to all listings in that group
  • Break out different eBay accounts & also listings to different eBay sites too

You can view this guide in the video below, hit the play button.

A Degree in Nerd Not Required

Degree in Nerd Not RequiredIn the guide above you’ll see that we’ve adopted a “conversational style” and we go off-topic at times on purpose.

One of my personal fears has always been is that we’re going to miss something really obvious and it’s the wider insights that we cover that can add the most value as you’re going through the guides.

This is why you’ll hear us discussing the naming conventions used in M2E Pro because if either of us sense that there may be any chance of confusion, we’ll point this out to you.

Just like we did with the poorly named “Listings” or “Listing Groups” as we call them and also have included a screenshot of the transformation of a user selecting a colour option on an eBay listing and why this looks better for your customers.

Also, the Magento administration panel that you can see in this guide is not the standard Magento admin screen.

Magento Edit Product ExampleOne of the areas we identified very early on was that Magento’s admin panels are, well, “a bit Nerdy”. And it doesn’t have to be this way, so after a few weeks of coding & design changes, the theme that you see in this guide is the pre-production version that we have been working on.

This theme makes using Magento on a daily basis a lot easier.

Dangerous buttons, like “Delete”, “Refund” or “Cancel” are clearly displayed in bright red, while action buttons are in brown (following the UnderstandingE site theme) and major action buttons, like “Add Listing”, “Create Order” & “Create Product” stand out clearly as they’re twice the size of the standard buttons. Making Magento usable by everyone, especially for users of differing skill levels (eg staff!).

Rock on January!

January 1st is now for us only a few days away and frankly I can’t believe how much we’ve been able to create over the past few months.

But January 1st is just the beginning, we’re humble enough to know that while we’re showing you how to “Crawl > Walk > Run” with Magento and how to build your own multi-channel software, we’re at the Crawl stages ourselves when it comes to the guides and UnderstandingE as a whole.

Essentially what we’re showing you in these guides is how to build the system I needed 10 years ago for myself, but this time around the vast majority is open source and build on a platform that can be extended by anyone. You can add the parts that you need and nothing that you don’t.

Quite a curious approach :)

If you’ve not registered yet, you can do so here and we’ll see you soon!

Matt & Dave


Embrace the Struggle


We’ve been super busy interviewing the “cool people”. The cool people are business owners just like you.

Hear their fantastic stories of how they started their businesses using the marketplaces and listening to the challenges they’ve had along the way.

Here is 6 to choose from or you can download them all via iTunes here.

Journalist Quits BBC to Sell on eBay

Hear from Jonathan (38,000 feedback on eBay) who quit the BBC after 14 years to turn Plan B into Plan A and the challenges he’s had along the way. Jono is also super-stoked about the 3rd Generation. Listen in right now here.

£2K in their Pockets & Only an Idea

Hear from John from Bamford Trading (+330,000 feedback on eBay) who left the corporate world to go to the NEC with two grand in their pockets and the determination to make it happen.

They have now made half a million orders on eBay & John shares his top tips for business owners just like you.

50% Growth this year?

You can also hear from Ian from Spirit Footwear (32,000 feedback on eBay) and how Ian & his wife turned a hobby into a successful business.

You’ll hear how he’s aiming for a 50% growth this year online, what Magento has meant to his business and how he tackled the warnings from Amazon to update all his pictures in 14 days or less.

Cross Border Trade in Plain English

Cross Border Trade is bounded about by everyone now, but you can hear what it actually means to Nigel from GamesQuest (+61,000 feedback on eBay) and how Nigel & his wife took a hobby of collecting books at carboot sales to a business turning over £1.5M a year.

You’ll also hear how Nigel looks at every phone call as an opportunity and where that can lead to.

Stop Making Support Tickets!

Alex is moving to the 3rd Generation as his current provider told him to stop raising support tickets for something that he paid for. Hear from Alex, how he went from a few pallets to containers and how he deals with a large number of products that vary in condition.

2,000 Orders a Week

And finally hear from Gurpreet who basically though paying software providers a “percentage of sale” was crazy, he processes 2000 orders a week using Magento & M2E Pro and is now expanding out into a trade/whole sale site using Magento.

These are REAL Business Owners Sharing their Story with You.

These are Entrepreneur’s at their finest, no matter what the challenge, they’ll chew it and spit it out and say bring it on.


Are you wired that way too?

Listen into the cool people using any of the links above or if you use iTunes, subscribe here and listen to them in the car, train or on the bus.

See you there,


Why is Content Marketing Like a Bicycle Wheel?

This very topic came up earlier as we recorded another Podcast for The Entrepreneur’s Corner with John Hayes and it’s the metaphor that was used to explain the step into email marketing with using a blog for your business as the hub of the activities.

You may remember John from two other Podcast’s we did together, “Social Marketing Is a Waste of Time” & also we discussed one of the books he published “Becoming THE Expert“, if you haven’t listened to these yet you can pick them up on iTunes here.

John is covering “Why is Content Marketing Like a Bicycle Wheel?” in a free Webinar next Wednesday at 2pm GMT how to leverage content and treat it as a bike wheel. And because it’s John we know it’ll be in plain English and you’ll have lots of actionable take-aways.

  • How to find the inspiration to create compelling content
  • How various content marketing channels work together to build a watertight strategy
  • How to use email to generate leads, sell more and maintain relationships while reducing your reliance on (high cost) paid advertising
  • How to engage your prospects with social media as well as win local, national and global media coverage with well-placed PR Campaigns
  • How to improve your rankings on the major search engines, shorten the sales cycle and reduce the need for cold calling techniques

When & Where?

This is taking place on Weds 27th November at 2pm GMT.

To register, click the monstrously huge button below:

[button size=large style=round color=blue align=left url=https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=registration.jsp&eventid=704413&sessionid=1&key=69B1E7EEE514DDBDC2DCB335F1A067EE&sourcepage=register]Register to Join the Free Webinar with John Hayes [/button]

We’ll see you there!



Podcast EIPE 001 – Descriptions That Sell

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to now tell you what I, or rather what we have been up to for the past two weeks. We have completed our very first podcast!

The intention is to make this a weekly event and we’ve now got a dedicated section on the UnderstandingE site called “The Entrepreneurs Corner“. Now you can chill out at work and say you’re working while listing to myself, Dave, Andy (whom you’ll both meet as soon as you press play below) and possibly some guests too!


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

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.

PS. While you’re listening to this Podcast, you’ll need the links to the items we discuss, scroll down to the bottom and they’re yours.


Descriptions That Sell

In this Podcast we cover “Descriptions that Sell” as not all descriptions are created equal and cover numerous examples and dig in deep to what makes a good description with multiple examples.

Together we have a stab at making a description better and aim to leave you with a set of tools that you can use immediately, to make your product descriptions better.

This isn’t intended to be a sit back and relax Podcast, we want you to take action from listening to us and we have a special request of you at the end of the Podcast and we’re here to help you if you need a hand.

So Why are Descriptions so Important to Online Selling?

We’ve got to remember that as as buyer, we cannot:

  • Pick up the goods, like we would in a shop
  • Touch, smell or fell the item
  • Walk around, read the back of the package or can
  • Check the weight of the item
  • Feel the weight of the product
  • Understand the size easily with no reference points

As Dave discusses in the Podcast, if a description is not clear, then buying the wrong item is easily done and neither the buyer nor the seller want that, so it’s in our interests to ensure that we have a description that not only conveys the product in a clear and concise manner, but to help the buyer:

  • Touch, feel and smell the products and look at the back of the packaging for them
  • Give them the information they need to make an informed decision that the item is the right item for them, especially when it comes to technical items
  • Understand the sizing, especially important with fashion items
  • Understand the size and weight of the item easily

And then with our marketers hat on we need to consider the other actions we may wish for a customer to perform, this could be to offer them accessories or related items, just like they’d see in a physical store. To help the buyer make an emotional attachment to the product, by helping them consider how they will use it and in what situation(s).

The 3 Easy-to-Use Tools

We have three easy to use tools for you to use to make your descriptions better and help convert buyers into customers. These are:

  1. Titles > Bullets > Description
  2. Use Benefits rather than Features
  3. The Criticism Sandwich

I’ll cover these in more depth with you below (and in the Podcast of course, have you pressed play yet?)

#1 The Description

We need to remember where the description actually sits in the larger scheme-of-things and surprisingly it is not at the beginning.

So what comes at the beginning?
That’s easy, it’s the product title. Almost every search for a product starts with a search, whether that be in Google, eBay, Amazon or anywhere for that matter, the buyer generally looks by title. So it does not matter if we have the best sales copy ever written that converts 100% of the time, because the conversion ration of zero sales is, errr zero.

So that’s why we’re starting with the most important tool you can have. “Priority”.

Titles come first, if your buyers cannot find you then they cannot find the bullets, if they cannot find the bullets to read then they cannot read your description. You see my point. So once you have got titles that help your products be found then we can consider the mini description.

Scroll back up this page for a moment, do you notice something? I’ve used three sets of bullet points, two with bullets and one numbered. That is no accident, look through my other articles and you’ll generally see something similar, bullet points.

Bullets allow you to give the customer bite-sized information. Think of it as dating the customer. Give them enough information to figure out quickly if they like you or not.

Don’t bore them with hard-core stats, give them lines that they can speed read.  Make them idiot proof, AKA “Matt Proof”.

With no more than 5 bullet points to describe the item, give them the overview to the product with a product image nearby. Buyers scan read pages and we should leverage this and help them read faster. After all 100 tyre kickers are useless, what we want are buyers.

When it comes to the main description, a huge tip is to use the bullet points you’ve created as queues to extend the description, make them elaborated bullets. If you say that the product’s lead extends to 1.8 metres, in the main description is the perfect time to tell them that this is brilliant if you have a TV mounted on a wall and your game console is quite far away.

#2 The Difference between Features & Benefits

Sit your sleeping cap on and read this (try not to go to sleep!)

1080p is a set of HDTV high-definition video modes that are characterized by 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution[1] and progressive scan, meaning the image is not interlaced as is the case with the 1080i display standard. The term assumes a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, thus implying a resolution of 1920 × 1080 (2.1 megapixels).

While technically correct, it is boring as hell. We can do better than that and this is what we knocked up in 2 minutes:

1080P means that you have a full  high definition picture, so that the quality of the picture far superior to normal TV.

1080p means 1080 line on the screens, normal TV resolution is 480i so the detail with 1080 is at least twice as better, making fast moving programs like sports or action  movies appear clearer to the eye.

You see how it retains most of the factual information, but relates it back to real life and interprets what the features mean into what the benefits are?

“A product feature has no value until you explain its relevance to the buyer.”

That’s a line as a fellow marketer you should never forget, features are worthless, if no one cares about them. Make them relevant to your buyers.

With this in mind, read through the description of the Hairy Dieters book from Amazon, I’ve highlighted the truly sweet parts:

Si King and Dave Myers are self-confessed food lovers. Food isn’t just fuel to them, it’s their life. But, like many of us, they’ve found that the weight has crept on over the years. So they’ve made a big decision to act before it’s too late and lose some pounds. In this groundbreaking diet book, Si and Dave have come up with tasty recipes that are low in calories and big on flavour.

This is real food for real people, not skinny minnies. There are ideas for family meals, hearty lunches and dinners, even a few knock-out bakes and snacking options. The Hairy Bikers will always love their food – pies and curries won’t be off the menu for long! – but using these recipes, and following their clever tips and heartfelt advice, you can bake your cake, eat it, and lose the pounds.

Also it helps if we can label a benefit and a feature on this Bananagrams Game on Amazon.co.uk the product has 5 bullet points, these are:

  • Bananagrams is a word game without the need for a board, pencil or paper
  • Perfect gift for crossword and word game lovers
  • The Bananagram pouch measures approx 6 cm x 21 cm x 6 cm and has a zip
  • The plastic tiles measure approx 2 cm x 2 cm each
  • One hand can be played in as little as five minutes

Or more simply put:

  • Benefit
  • Benefit
  • Feature
  • Feature
  • Benefit

In the Podcast we also look at a dress on Amazon and a RCA lead that is in the links section. I’ve known about the dress for quite sometime, it’s the example I give to people wanting to know how to write compelling descriptions.

We laugh about this item in the discussion, as this product has no description, but it has a bloody good review though!

#3 Less Than Perfect Products

Not everyone sells brand new items and we consider sellers that do in this Podcast and we can use the “criticism sandwich” to get a negative point across and it works with almost anything else too.

This is really just like a sandwich, two slices of bread and filling, but we’re putting the bad part in the middle.

Let’s explain this with an example, it was a tent that was live on eBay here.

Here we have my ‘childhood’ tent which is no longer required.  It’s got a large sleeping area sleeping 3-4 with a large 1M deep porch area at the front. The tent measures approx 3.8M at its longest, 2.4M wide (internally) and 1.7M tall which is tall enough for someone 5ft 8ins to stand up in!!

Sadly time has taken its toll and there is a small rip in one of the corners (see pics), which could easily be repaired.  Some of the pegs seem to have disappeared over the years too so you’ll need some of these.

It rolls up quite nicely and will easily go into most car boots.

So we have a description that starts with the good point, size and usgage, it’s negative point with a rip and a lack of pegs and ends up on a benefit that it’s easy to load into the car. A sandwich, yummy!

We make reference to an oversized sandwich in the Podcast, if that middle filling is huge, there is a lot wrong with it and no matter how you package it and if it’s a common theme on your products it might be time to move on and choose another niche (well unless they are like that for a reason and there is adequate demand of course!)

Description Layouts

Putting the title to one side for now as we’re saving that for another Podcast focused on “creating titles that sell”. When creating a listing, no matter where it’s to be displayed on the internet or even in the real world, we have three core description elements that can help us, help the customer, digest them faster.

These are:

  • Bullet points
  • The main description block
  • Tables

The three types of laying out descriptions very different as they perform different tasks and are read at different paces by the customer.

PC World Description LayoutBullets
With bullet points, these need to punchy and short, but get the benefits across so the buyer can qualify themselves in or out as the case maybe (more on the qualifying out in future articles).

We’ve seen from the examples above where the bullet points lead the customer onto the main description or in the case of that dress on Amazon, there is no description, just reviews and reviews are the holy grail of descriptions, again noted for later Podcast.

Main Description
Only after the bullets have been read and the rest of the listing “scanned” will the customer move on to the main description if they are interested in reading further.

If you’re anything like me then I struggle writing descriptions for products, however because you’ve been and written some short bullet points, these are actually descriptions so to write a bigger, longer version for the main description actually becomes a lot easier, you just beef out the bullet points!

These are exceptionally important for when it comes to products where we have lots and lots of attributes. Most electronics products have descriptions like these.

Andy mentions in the Podcast, while choosing the radio desk, he was actually carrying a few token keywords like “Wifi” and “DAB”, these are keywords that need to be in both the description and bullet points, but there would be no point in overloading the customer with technical details such as “Compliant Standards: IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED, IEEE 802.11n“, we’d have scared them away!

Help your customers by using a top-down approach, in the screen shot above to the right, we can see than in the blue circle that the bullet points are first, then the description area in red and finally the table if specifics.

“customers would bail out of it quickly as we would have overwhelmed them”

If this was upside down and we had the technical details in the beginning, then the description and then the bullets. I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of customers would bail out of it quickly as we would have overwhelmed them.

Using Video in Descriptions

We couldn’t cover the topic of descriptions and especially descriptions that sell without including a special mention of video content.

Now before you kick in with the excuse of “I have a face for Radio“, let us point out straight away that might be very lucky and may not have to make video’s yourself at all! And we’ll get to that shortly.

Video content is very powerful because:

  1. The buyer can see the item in the flesh
  2. Any key features can be explained and also shown easily
  3. It keeps the buyer on the product page for longer
  4. The buyer gets to meet you and your business
  5. The video doesn’t need to be made by you to use it,
  6. YouTube is full of unboxing videos, reviews and demonstrations.

Before we delve into these a little deeper there are several statistics we’d like to share with you on product based video content, hold on to your seat as some of these are SICK!

“A whopping 77,316 website visits each month are attributed to Zappos’ video listings in search engines.”

 “If you want to translate those increased website visits into dollars–in terms of the value of the traffic compared against search ads or other ads–it calculates to a $551,731 increase in revenues due to its video SEO efforts. Yikes.”

YouTube doesn’t just have 48 hours of video uploaded every minute, it’s 72 hours every minute

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world

More than 50% of videos on YouTube have been rated or include comments from the community

Sources: Here and Here

I was wrong in the Podcast, YouTube doesn’t just have 48 hours of video uploaded every minute, it’s 72 hours every minute, even still that’s an astronomical amount of video content being uploaded and being consumed every day and the user interaction is sick with over 50% of all the video’s uploaded having some form if user interaction.

That means you have a 50/50 chance of having feedback on the video you create and you use it almost every where, on your website, on eBay and even promote it through snail mail. Customers can meet you and your team and it doesn’t have to be expensive as we’re cover next.

We included an extract from the Outwell demonstration of a tent in the Podcast and that video is here. Hit play and listen to this up to 2 minutes 19 seconds.

Notice how the presenter keeps the tech garbage down to a minimum and focuses almost entirely on how the features of the tent a benefit you as a customer, with this being your tent.

A powerful visual demonstration of how to word your descriptions!

While it would be the most beneficial to you (if applicable) to create a video for each of your core products, we were wary of delving into video production and decided that it would be far easier to give you a quick win by letting you know that the chances of finding your product being shown on YouTube is very high.

“manufacturers may have already done the hard work for you”

Obviously this only works for mainstream products and if you’re really lucky the manufacturers may have already done the hard work for you. For example if you’re selling Outwell tents, putting that video in your product detail pages means that your customer is going to be able to interact with the product and check the key points we need to fulfil when a buyer is looking at a product online (the ones at the top of this article).

If you find a video that you’d like to embed into your website or eBay listings, I’ve already made two articles especially for you.

In Summary

When selling online, it’s out job to help customers do the things that they would do instinctively in a retail environment. That is pretty hard considering that they cannot actually touch the product, so we need to get as close to that experience as possible.

We all know customers do not read descriptions, so again it is our job to be aware that buyers don’t and to structure our pages to allow the customer to speed read the information. It’s why we’ve included the 3 tools to remember:

  1. Titles > Bullets > Description
    After the customer has found the item with the keywords in the title of the product, let them find out about the product quickly with bullet points and then the description (if needed at all).
  2. Use Benefits rather than Features
    You buyers want to know how a product is going to help them and what difference it will make to them. So tell them how it is going to do so, don;t just state facts.
  3. The Criticism Sandwich
    Sometimes we have less than perfect points to get across, package them up in a  tasty sandwich to lessen the impact.

And finally we should not underestimate the impact and power of video content. With video customers have a reason to stay on the page,  the longer a buyer stays on a  page, the higher the chances of them converting to a buyer.

Best of all you might be lucky and find that in the 4 billion hours of video that are watched each month on YouTube that there might be one video that can help you sell your products and if there is not, then we have it noted to discuss in a Podcast soon.

Take Action Now

You’ve just read through approximately 3,000 words and listened to the Podcast for an hour. Don’t waste the time you have just invested and we need you take action right now.

Visit your top performing product on eBay, Amazon, your website or where-ever. The one that sells the most or the product that is worth the most to you.

Using the tips you’ve been shown here, how can you make it better?

If you need help or suggestions, help is a click away in the forums at … Lastdropofink.co.uk/forums

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

The Presenters

This is the first time I’ve done a Podcast, the same for Andy and Dave too and we think it’s pretty good for a first run. If you have any comments or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you and you can let us know by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page.

Here is the chance to put the faces to the voices you’ve just heard and a bio for each of us.

Matthew Ogborne Matthew OgborneYou know me already, I hope! I’m the primary author here at LastDropofInk
Dave Furness Dave FurnessDave Furness is an eCommerce expert with several years with an electronics refurbishment company and now expanding into ladies fashion in his new role as an eCommerce Manager.
Andy Hamilton Andy HamiltonAndy Hamilton is a Broadcaster and best Selling Author of Booze for Free his light-hearted approach amusing approach to life has seen him pop up on TV and Radio across all corners of Europe.


Hear from a Business that is Moving to the 3rd Generation

Last week we shared with you an interview with a business owner called Gurpreet that processes 2,000 orders a week and pays no commissions.

While we’ve not got another story like this to share with you right now (3 more coming very soon!), what we can do is share with you the story of Alex’s business, how & why he’s moving to the 3rd Generation right now.

Hear how he started selling a few items on eBay, turned it into a full time business where he is buying containers and his struggle with multi-channel software. Alex is now in the process of moving to the 3rd Generation of multi-channel software.

Oh and you can hear how his current provider phoned him up and well, you’re not going to believe what they said, that’s at about 10 minutes into the interview…  You can listen to the interview here.

The 3rd Generation is REAL

This is where we can tell you outright, we are helping business move to this new generation.

We might not have all the answers and that’s ok, we’re learning and if there is one thing to take away from this podcast, the 3rd generation is REAL. It’s been around for years, the thing is the business owners that are using it are keeping quiet because they’re saving oodles every month and the other software companies out there don’t want you to know about it either.

I’ve been accused of being a used-car-salesman and one cheeky-minx implied I have “really annoying west country drawl” in the past few days after the Podcast we published last week. But the thing is, I don’t work for a software provider any more, I have no involvement with any of them and I am not here to please everyone either.


The person I am here to please is you, the multi-channel business owner in my world, you are the “cool people”.

But please understand I’m smart enough to know how certain businesses work, I know how they tick, remember I’ve been around for over 10 years in this industry as a seller like you and with two software providers and I can’t share with you everything just yet.

Some of these companies have shown their true colours and I have wised-up to know when to shut-up (trust me that is really hard) and I can’t share everything that we’re up to right now. In this interim period between now & January, it’s going to be dribs & drabs of information and to some people I’m going to look bad and that’s ok, I know, we know what is on the other side.

Meet the Cool People

Next week you’re going to start hearing from more “cool people”, businesses owners like you, entrepreneurs, how they started, what challenges they have had from all over the world, the UK, Australia, Germany, Vietnam & the United States.

And if that sounds like something you’d like to be involved in too, you can get in contact with me directly here.

Oh and of course don’t forget to listen into Alex’s story, click the monstrously huge button below to tune in right now:

See you soon,


Do You Like Being Called “an Entrepreneur”?

  • Have you had to struggle to get your business where it is today?
  • Do you like being called an Entrepreneur?

If you’ve answered yes to either or both of these, I would love to hear from you and for you to join myself & Dave on the UnderstandingE Podcast we’re calling “The Entrepreneur’s Corner”.

It’s so that we can share the challenges that marketplace business owners like you have experienced, how they’re handled and for you to listen to like-minded entrepreneurs.


Share Your Story

It’s the story behind the never-ending challenge of running your own business is what we’re looking for.

We know how tough it is to start a marketplace business, rules changing every 5 minutes, sometimes with no warning at all. Once you’ve got past your first years trading, then the years that follow are tougher than the first.

And it’s this story we’re looking to you to help share with other like-minded entrepreneurs. How people just like you suck-up the challenges that you’re thrown, spit them out and say “bring it on”.

Some examples of the questions we would ask you:

  • Can you tell a little more about what you business does?
  • How did you start selling online?
  • What challenges have you had along the way?
  • What one tip would you give someone listening to this who wanted to start selling online right now?

And of course:

  • No hidden or sly questions
  • You don’t need to share your turnover
  • You don’t even need to share your business’s identity (but you can shamelessly plug it if you wish)
  • Just be you

Contact Us!

If this is something you would like to be involved in use the contact form below and myself or Dave will be in touch shortly:

4 + 4 = ?

Credits: Image

2,000 Orders a Week With NO Software Commissions

Would you like to hear from a UK business owner on how he manages 2,000 orders a week using the 3rd Generation?

Meet Gurpreet in the Podcast we just published over at http://understandinge.com/2000-orders-a-week/.

His business sells on eBay, Amazon, his own Magento website and he’s in the process of creating a trade website as well and he pays diddly-squat in commissions to software providers.


If it Can do Complex… What Could it do for You?

The first business we setup using Magento & M2E Pro was in the Clothes, Shoes & Accessories category on eBay. We couldn’t use the current providers because they were too expensive, it was a start up and no sales and the one we did try, didn’t do what we needed it to do. That’s how we found the 3rd Generation, backs-to-the wall, entrepreneurs fight through, because we had no other option.

Gurpreet was recommended this approach as you’ll hear in the Podcast and here is a brief summary to what he’s up to:

  • Runs a fashion based business which is the most complicated categories to manage on the Marketplaces
  • Has complex products with size, colour & multi-variation based products
  • Pays no-one any commissions on sales for software usage
  • He uses Magento & M2E Pro
  • A true multi-channel business
  • Sells on eBay
  • Sells on Amazon
  • Their own Magento website
  • Working on a wholesale / Trade only site
  • Royal Mail DMO integrated into their system
  • What they need, they buy off the shelf or have developed for their own use. They’re completely free of restrictions & able to innovate.

And Finally

You can only take a horse to water and say drink, the rest is up to the horse.

I’ll leave you with one question and one link.

The Question:
“If Gurpreet is using the 3rd Generation and it works for him in the most complicated category, Fashion and processes ~2,000 orders a week. How much would you save?”

The Link:
http://understandinge.com/2000-orders-a-week/ <= Listen to the Podcast on this page ( IT’S A LAKE! )

30 Seconds of Silence as the Penny Dropped

We were on a call yesterday with what you could say is your “typical” multi-channel business owner, in many ways he’s probably just like you.

Business is doing well, it’s been a slog this year and literally this weekend has just started to show signs of picking up. One eBay account, one Amazon account, a website that could do better and nothing really that complex to put high demands on pretty much any of the 2nd generation multi-channel software providers.

But why on earth did he go completely silent on us, for what felt like hours?

Read on and you’ll find out why.


Typical Business As Usual?

Being in the most demanding categories for the marketplaces, fashion, he has to deal with complex inventory, sizes, colours, mixed sizing, demanding buyers, demanding marketplaces and most of all, the challenge of seasonality.

Fashion has to be the #1 toughest category to do well in online and this chap is rocking it & is set for his highest turnover Christmas ever.

On the other hand, in many ways it’s not a complicated setup they have, we’re only talking one eBay account with a couple of thousand listings, Amazon does really well for them now they’re settled in and from an operational standpoint, the team is experienced.

The booking in system for new lines is fast as they use excel & a couple of macros to create the variations & the order processing system is simple, no real warehouse control per-say, but a simple system that works and can manage 200-400 orders a day with ease.


As the conversation progressed he brought up the project me & Dave have been working on. He had seen a couple of the emails, read some of the articles and was wondering what was keeping us so busy. So we told him.

For the sake of this article and because he’s switching providers in January to the 3rd Generation we’re going to call him “Mohammed”, plus the numbers quoted are vague to protect his business.

The conversation went something like this:

Dave: “We’re building the training guides for the 3rd Generation of multi-channel software”

Mohammed: “So what does that mean exactly?”

Dave: “Well you know you’re using <removed> right now to manage, eBay, Amazon & your website?”

Mohammed: “Yes”

Dave: “Matt found a way of using Magento for exactly the same thing. You’ve heard of Magento?”

Mohammed: “Yea, I want to move our website to that after Christmas. We’ve been frustrated not being able to add anything to our current site”

Matt: “If you’ve looked at Magento, you’ll have seen it can handle fashion products just like yours, sizes, colours, shoe sizes etc… It has basic stock control and does pretty much everything you’re used to right now on your website.”

Mohammed: “Yes, my cousin uses it for his site and it does well”

Dave: “Matt was asked earlier this year to set up an eBay/Amazon & website business for a friend, he couldn’t use the software you were using as it’s too expensive so we had to look alternatives. He had already been working on Magento for a connector for eSellerPro, so knew it well. What he ended up realising was that Magento & an extension called M2E Pro could do pretty-much the same as the software you’re using”

Matt: “That’s right. They aren’t too dissimilar to your setup, but they had more products. Well 61,152 to be precise and roughly 2,400 variations. We were quoted £500 a month + 1% from one of the providers, it was a new business and there was no way that the business could afford that. So we have to look at other options

What I found was as Dave said, pretty much exactly what you have set up right now and we automated the supplier feeds in and the orders go off to the suppliers directly. We downloaded Magento for free and M2E Pro is also free because eBay subsidise it. He’s only just added his website now, as we’re using Magento not for the website part, but for the inventory & order management capabilities”

Mohammed: “Free & Free, I like the sound of this already”

Dave: “Yea we thought you would. The thing is besides the work the that Matt & the client put in, they’re only paying £114 a month for a server”

Mohammed: “What no commissions?”

Matt: “No commissions and the only reason he using such a ludicrously expensive server is because he complained about speed of one of my small servers. They’re not built for Magento, plus I didn’t want the hassle, so I got him a pair of xenon quad core processors, 16Gb of RAM and two SSD disks with hardware RAID 0 and dared him to complain about speed again. After that he never did, probably was a little over-kill if I’m honest”

Mohammed: “So he runs his business using Magento & M2E Pro, the same channels, has more inventory than us and pays £114 a month?”

Dave: “How much did you pay <removed> last month?”

Mohammed: “I’ll get the invoice, it’s here somewhere”

Mohammed: “Got it”


We heard the chair creak in the background, the sound of paper shuffling and then a deeply exhaled breath.

It must have only been 30 seconds or so.

But it felt like hours.


Dave finally asked, “did you find it?”

Indeed Mohammed has found his invoice, it had £1,500 on it  (approx $2,400 USD).

What I had set up for a client earlier this year can scale and for Mohammed came in at a tenth each month of what he’s paying right now and is set to save him around £17,000 – £19,000 next year.

UnderstandingE goes live on January 1st, what do you think he’ll be doing that day?

The Pieces are Almost a Picture

We’ll be open with you, the pieces of the puzzle are not all there yet, but we’re getting close, very close.

For Mohammed’s business, he’s going to need a couple of extensions to get all the backend features into place, two order extensions & two courier integrations (Royal Mail DMO was one of them) and a couple of the extensions we’ve been building to get him going. Plus we should never forget the training of the staff (which is where UnderstandingE comes in) and the time to migrate products between systems.

And on that note.

Say Hello to the 3rd Generation

We silently put the UnderstandingE site live a week or so ago. The reason why is simple, it doesn’t matter what you do for a launch party, it’s what you do for the next 6 years that truly matters.

While the guides are not published yet, they’re being released on January 1st, the forums are open and we are listening.

We’re listening to business owners like Mohammed and business owners like you.

Tell us what you need
Tell us what you cannot live without
Tell us how you want to innovate in your business once again
Rid your business of bills costing tens of thousands each year

And the best thing is…. We will show you how for free.

The 3rd Generation, everything you’ll need to know. It’s a click away (click here!!!!)

Come over & say hello to the 3rd Generation.

And we’ll see you there.

Matt & Dave

What’s The One Thing Missing from the 3rd Generation?

We’ve been working hard in the background trying to fill in as many blanks as we can so that when we go live in January we have all the bases covered for both new businesses, but established businesses as well.

However there is one thing this is missing and we need your help.



If you’ve used any of the current multi-channel software providers, most, if not all of these offer keywords (also known as macro’s or variables) that help you create informative & comprehensive eBay listings.

Even simple keywords like the image URL’s help you make great looking image galleries in your listings or maybe a keyword to bring through your domestic shipping cost, so you can add a simple line of text saying something like this:

“Our UK Delivery is just £1.99”.

The uses are almost endless.

How Big Sellers Manage Their eBay Listings

This is how the really big sellers on eBay make fantastic looking listings that look like they have uniquely made each listing, but they separated their data out in the management tool so that only the small bits of information, like a product title or bullet points need to be added.

This saves them countless hours each month when adding new products and when it comes to redesigning an eBay listing template, because the product data is removed and keywords are left in their place, upgrading or tweaking designs is made sooo much easier.

Note: If you have never come across this idea of keywords before, I’ve written two articles on this to show you exactly how they could work and reverse engineer a live eBay listing, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. And if you’d like a glimpse at what you can potentially do with such keywords, see this article.

We Need Your Help

help-imageM2E Pro, one of the core components of the 3rd generation supports all the common Magento attribute values and you can even in add in an image gallery within a few clicks that looks great. But we’re missing some vital keywords and that’s where we need your help.

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of keywords that I know that you will need for the 3rd Generation (huh? 3rd generation, see here for that that is).

This is using my experience from the past 10 years, as a business owner that used eBay, two multi-channel software companies and hundreds of business I have  had the pleasure working with. We need these extra keywords and we need your help making the point to the development team over at M2E Pro that you need these too.

So… Myself & Dave need your help.

This is How You Can Help

Note this is not only for yourself for when you migrate to the 3rd generation, this will help every business owner that also moves to the 3rd generation, globally.

M2E Pro Vote for Keywords to be Added

  1. Go to this page: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi
  2. Check over the specification I have written and add a comment you feel appropriate to the bottom
    (something like “OMG we need this” would be appropriate)
  3. In the top left-hand corner there is a “Vote” button
  4. Press the “vote” button
  5. Enter your email address
  6. And press “3 Votes”

This shouldn’t take more than 1 minute of your time and in doing so, you can help make the world a better place with new functionality for everyone to use.

Again the direct link to this feature request is here: http://support.m2epro.com/forums/137040-m2e-pro-ebay-magento-integration/suggestions/4720248-m2epro-system-keywords-variables-for-ebay-listi

Make your contribution to the 3rd generation today, and for that myself & Dave, thank you.

Matt & Dave

Amazon Upping the Stakes on Image Requirements

If you thought that the new eBay image requirements were a challenge, then wait until you see the emails from Amazon.co.uk being sent to UK Fashion sellers.

What follows are is an email sent by the same Analyst in Amazon.co.uk to at least 3 sellers on Amazon.co.uk. Pull your chair closer, if this is actively going on for the fashion categories on Amazon UK, expect it for the other categories at some point in the future too.


In Violation of Amazon Style Guidelines

Note: I’ve highlighted the key sections in bold for you.


Your listings currently have product pages that are in violation of Amazon style guidelines. This negatively affects the customer experience and therefore may result in your seller account suspension. Good images, clear titles, and accurate product detail pages are key to ensuring our customers enjoy their browsing experience and can increase conversion. We would like to work with you to help fix your defects so that you can maximize your selling potential on Amazon. 

Please find attached a sample of the ASINs that were audited; please note that both compliant and non-compliant images may be included. This is only a sample and may not be inclusive of all your listings, so please take the time to review and update all non-compliant images. We have found the following errors with your images:

Main image not angled to left hand side,

Main image contains multiple items,

Images containing labels/tags/packaging,

Images containing props/mannequins/models 

To open attachment: 
– Save or drag attached file onto your Desktop 
– Right-click and extract file 
– Extract within your preferred folder 
– View images (note ASINS are displayed as image titles) 

Please take the time to review our guidelines (for style guide – Click Here) and your whole inventory and either remove (by setting the inventory to 0) or update the non-compliant images within 14 days.

Remember that customers at Amazon cannot touch and feel your products, but they can still have a great shopping experience if your listings correspond to our style guide and have clear and detailed information. Please confirm that you have received this email and let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Kind Regards,

[Name removed]


A Break Down

Firstly, let’s be fair here, Amazon are absolutely right, not just for Amazon, but anywhere online with “customers at Amazon cannot touch and feel your products” so it’s our job as business owners to help buyers feel 100% comfortable with the product they are buying by providing outstanding product data, of which images are a key part of this.

But on the other hand, this was emailed to a seller with over 50,000 products on Amazon and given to the end of the month for their account to be reviewed. It was suggested that they can find their images from software tool (eSellerPro), download them to their desktop and edit them. Sure I’ll edit 50,000 images for you, hell I’ll even re-take all the images, it’ll only take 2 minutes by hand, not…

Let’s look to see what they’re picking sellers up on, as it’s boiling down to just 4 key areas:

  • Main image not angled to left hand side,
  • Main image contains multiple items,
  • Images containing labels/tags/packaging,
  • Images containing props/mannequins/models

Point 1 – Main image not angled to left hand side

We’re all fair people here, we know that Amazon has high standards and rightly so, they’re focusing on the customer just like eBay has done with their image requirements. And maybe angling the product in the image to a specific viewpoint across the board would help make pages of products look a lot better. But going back and editing even a dozen images, let alone tens of thousands of images, especially if they need to be retaken is verging on an impossible task.

Maybe, just maybe, a common-sense approach would have been to mentor the business owners so that the new products that they are adding are checked for conformity.

If there is just one thing I have learnt over the past 10 years, past data is past data, it’s old….. 80% of the products listed are likely not to sell any time soon and only 20% of them will do, so would it have made more sense that instead of dumping an impossible task on a merchant at this time of the year (if you’re reading this in 2014, it’s October) and instead identified the sellers top 20% of products and suggested that they re-edit those.

Am I being realistic here? Let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Main image contains multiple items

amazon_B00CG6G3PCYea I’ve known about this one for a while. It was an interesting conversation with one of the UK’s largest fashion retailers on Amazon earlier this year, the call went something like this:

Client: “Matt, Amazon have told us to stop putting multiple colour images on items that come in different colours, but they don’t swap the images like eBay do, what do you suggest?

Matt: “It’s Amazon, just nod & agree and sort it out. Just clarify exactly what they are looking for and do it.

Remember Amazon is like marriage to a super model, she wants everything, kids, fast cars (your stock), credit cards (that’s sitting on your money for 2.5 weeks) and a ring, but the nano-second you annoy her, she’ll kick you in the nuts and turf you out (suspend your account for 30 days or worse)

But the thing is, that conversation was months & months ago and doing a quick search on Amazon today (see here) we can see that Amazon still have yet to get it to work like eBay have done. A specific example is the listing in the image to the right. We can see the preview image is showing all the colours, but in the listing (see here) we can see that there is a blue image for the blue dress, Amazon have elected not to show it. Facepalm.

This is also a reasoning point in their “Style Guide” which follows in a few moments, “This will result in increased traffic to product listings”, but actually right now this is not the case as shown above.

Oh and for a comparison, nip over to eBay, at least they have got it working properly now. Take a look here on eBay (screenshot below). Notice all the blue dress images being shown for the multi-variation listings?


Images containing labels/tags/packaging

We understand why this is, as unlike eBay on Amazon a product regardless of condition (new, used, refurb etc..) all share the same page.

But Amazon is swinging for quality here, to me this is a compromise. If you’re shelling out for a product, say a pair of shoes and see it comes in a stunning box so you know it’s protected on the way to you, how is this a negative thing?

Again, am I being realistic here? Let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Images containing props/mannequins/models

I agree with this to a point. Professionally cut out images look a lot better than images on a tatty mannequin. But….. models sell products.

Exceptionally important in women’s fashion, when a product is being viewed, that customer is believing (to a degree) that they are that model and they will look as great as she does in that dress, handbag or item of footwear.

Amazon Specifications (Style Guide)

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Amazon do this to sellers, with little to no warning, but this time dropping a bombshell with 14 days notice in October is frankly nuts. This time around they have put together a “Style Guide” for sellers in the UK Shoes, Handbags & Shoe Accessories categories. you can download it using the link below, but maybe it’s too little, too late and too close to Christmas?


Have a read of the PDF above. It’s probably the best guide I have ever seen from Amazon, they’ve gone to great lengths to include plenty of visual images and even went as far to suggest using http://www.google.co.uk/trends/ (although it’s a bit old now as Google insights is mentioned, but that’s now Google trends).

If you’re selling in the Shoes, Handbags & Shoe Accessories categories on Amazon.co.uk and your images are not up to scratch, you’ll be receiving the email above shortly. If you’re not selling in these specific categories, expect this to be rolled out to the other categories too in the future.