Helping you achieve your business aspirations. No BS. Real changes & fresh ideas that can take you to where you want to be, from someone who understands and has been there himself.

Sometimes trying to achieve your business goals can be clouded by the day to day operations or technical difficulties. Matthew can help you with mentoring or one-on-one business consulting. Matthew is extremely skilled in both eBay and Amazon marketplaces and has worked for two auction management companies.

Matthew has a Business Consultation page and you can contact him on his dedicated Contact Matthew page.

How To: Selling on eBay with more than one eBay ID

This is another article where its contents I would have kept to myself, but inline with Project Matthew Ogborne, I am going to use one word a lot in this article, its called ‘leverage’. Lets dive in and find out why you need more than one eBay ID for your business.

Underlying Principles

Before we continue, you need to understand the following basic fact of eBay and selling on-line or anywhere for that matter, which forms the base of this concept:

For the vast majority of manufactured goods, you are not the only company selling them, thus every single day, customers choose your competitors over you. There are an infinite number of reasons for this, timing, colour scheme, layout, description, title are a few factors.

Which leads on to this pivotal statement:

So if you’re selling widgets, there are lots of other widget sellers for customers to choose from, so why not be one of the other widget sellers?

Soak that up for a moment, instead of bitching about your competitors, why not be your own competitor and drive more sales to you and drive your so-called competitors nuts instead?

In a Perfect World

Say there are three sellers of a widget, working on averages alone and assuming the playing field is fair, you have a 1 in 3 chance of selling to a customer.

Now lets add a new seller identity, so there are now four sellers, but this new seller is you. That means that you have a 2 in 4 chance or a 50% chance of selling to a customer.

I like 50% odds much more than 33% odds. I am sure you do too.

Who is leveraging this?

Here is something for you to chew on. I have been doing this since I was a seller over 9 years ago, but don’t think this idea is unique one by any means, there are a lot of reasons for doing this, I’ll cover some of these shortly, but for now, here are some did-you knows:

brand-littlewoods

Did you know that LittleWoods is known also by these names?

  1. Very
  2. Marshal Ward
  3. Woolworths
  4. Additions
  5. Kays
  6. Great Universal
  7. Empire Stores
  8. Choice

brands-barratts

Did you know that Barrats Shoes are also known as these names?

  1. Love Your Shoes
  2. Discount Shoe Store
  3. Big Shoe Boutique
  4. Petit Feet
  5. Priceless Shoes

I am sure there are more identities for both companies mentioned, but these two I can rattle off the top of my head, there are more companies that leverage this idea too, there is not enough virtual ink to cover them all!

I’m not going to mention any specific eBay’s sellers in this article, I do not feel its appropriate that I do so, but let me word it this way:

While working for eSellerPro, it was not uncommon for companies to have more than one eBay ID and more than 10 eBay ID’s is not unknown off and I know of at least two companies that leverage this to amazing effect.

Stop thinking small and start thinking big.
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. T. Harv Eker

Other Reasons for Multiple eBay IDs

Not sold on the idea? Here are some more reasons why you need more than one eBay ID

Risk

This for me is the #1 reason besides market share. By having more than one eBay ID you are diluting your risks, the maths for me are simple:

(Risk / Number of eBay ID’s)
* Static Risk Modifer
= Overall Risk

Any number greater than one for eBay ID’s is a way to lower the risk in the business. Imagine if you sole eBay ID was trashed by a scurry of hundreds of negatives. You’d cry, I know I would.

Note: I added the ‘Static Risk Modifier’ to indicate that there is always risk of a certain level, its a factor of being in business.

Multiple Price Points

Instead of starting your second eBay ID on a cheaper price point, make it more expensive. Why? You’ve got yourself into the mindset that you are the best seller of widgets, BS, sorry to break it to you, you are not (neither am I!!!).

You need to break your mould and realise that there are niches within niches and if you are starting with your first additional eBay ID, the rule of thumb is that you go up in price. As you grow, then you can leverage the now multiple selling ID’s to try differing price points for the same products.

Matt’ s Tip:
In Excel you can use this formula to make random prices:

RANDBETWEEN(1,100)/100)

It makes a number between 1 and 100, you could do (1,49) and it would make…

Unique Selling Points

With multiple eBay ID’s you can try out different selling angles of the same products. Using Barratts above, you’ll notice two very interesting names, ‘Petit Feet’ and ‘Big Shoe Boutique’. Oversized or undersized footwear is a problem for buyers with flippers or stumps, this way Barratts, can leverage two different customer groups, rather than trying to marketing them broadly within their normal confines.

See what they’re doing? Instead of trying to be one-for-all they are helping the buyer find the product group they are looking for, as I said, niches in niches, they exist everywhere and virtually limitless.

Designs & Layouts

Ever wondered what effect a full blown creative deisgn would have on a business? Ever wondered if you wound things back to and made what I consider a ‘crap id’?

Matt what is a ‘crap id’?
That’s a great question madam, let me define this as:

An eBay ID that purposefully looks shockingly bad, you know the ones, just like your very first listing you made with colourful H1 and H2 fonts (if its bigger they’ll read it right? *cries with laughter*), but employs killer conversion tools.

With multiple eBay ID’s you can and you can very easily, leading me on to the next key point.

Time to Create Inventory is a Fraction of the Original

Think about it, you exerted a lot of effort to make the first inventory item, to prepare it for another eBay ID is only altering the elements that need to be changed to make it different. If you’re using software tools such as eSellerPro, Channel Advisor** or similar, then this is childs play.

This process as an equation would look something like this:

Original Time To Create the Record
+  (Original Time To Create the Record / Number of eBay ID’s + Time to make edits)
= Overall time to create inventory

The biggest exertion was to document the first record, all the rest are simple edits and in the right circumstances can be done in an external tool such as Excel to manipulate the data in a organised fashion.

**Channel Advisor: They solved this in a update about a year ago. Before you had to have two or more sets of inventory for the same inventory item to sell using two or more eBay ID’s. It was a joke and rendered this tool virtually un-usable for use with Multiple seller IDs. But that’s resolved now I hasten to add (Thanks for the clarification James)

Summary

There is more to be covered on this topic and I will add further articles to expand on what are concepts covered in this first section.

I hope I have opened your eyes to the fact that this is commonplace, especially in well known brands. It makes perfect sense to do this, when you consider that adding a new second, third, forth etc… business to your first business as it only requires a fraction of the original effort and as a bonus, the more you add, the smaller this fraction.

Maybe I didn’t the term ‘Leverage’ that much in this article as I expected, lets close this article with final statement.

When adding a second, third etc… eBay ID to your existing business you are leveraging existing processes and the same platform in your favour.

Now, go get busy!

A New Unique Selling Point with a Feel-Good Factor?

Last week I was reading an interesting white paper from UKFast, a hosting provider on ‘What Customers Want’, you can read the paper for yourself here. Within the paper they quote Sir Richard Branson as saying:

“Companies that fail to change won’t have a business in 5 years time”

While I expect that businesses that don’t change will still be trading, I do suspect that businesses that promote this as a unique selling point (USP) will have an added advantage over their competitors, especially considering the governments have committed so heavily, we are bound to be battered with PR on this from all angles in the forth coming years.

green-earth

Head Start?

Jumping in early could see some early learning picked up and give yourself an edge. Thinking about it, would it be miss-leading if you promoted that parts of your business were 100% carbon neutral, using the web hosting as an example, for what is peanuts, you could claim the 100% carbon neutral card, although just not playing with a full pack.

In the paper mentioned above, they’re suggesting that 64% of UK customers prefer to purchase products that are environmentally friendly are willing to pay up to 10% more for products that are better to the environment.

Hosting is a nice simple one, there are probably unlimited other ways too, such as:

  1. Allowing staff to work from home
  2. Setting up car share schemes
  3. Using carbon neutral energy suppliers
  4. And so on…

Further Reading

You may want to see http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/ and http://online.businesslink.gov.uk/ for more information and suggestions for businesses.

As Big as Big Boys – How Appear to be Big on a Shoe String

Looking BigLooking big is really quite easy on the internet, all it takes is some time, some cunning and a nudge in the right direction. Follow this step by step guide and you’re look like an established or corporate business in next to no time.

Here are some key page names you need to create and add to your site, ideally linked from your footer area on all pages (except the checkout if possible):

  • Press Office
  • Affiliates
  • Meet the Team
  • Careers, Recruitment or Join the Team at Company Ltd
  • Partners
  • Store Locator (if you have a trade or customer collections site)

Even if you do not have a press office, affiliate network set up, a team (other than the parents & pet cat), partners or a store. Get these pages up.

Get the Email Addresses Sorted
First off, with any decent hosting account you get a load of email boxes or forwarders, create a selection of email addresses, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and forward them all to your main email address. It doesn’t matter that these go to the same email address, its the message they convey.

Press Office
For the press office, write a little blurb, here is a great example, minus the link to the PR company, make the contacts name up or even copy Donna’s name.  70% of that page is one fat image, do the same.

Affiliate Network
Even if you don’t have an affiliate network set up, lob a page up offering 2.5-8% of sales to affiliates, you never know you might be approached before you go looking to join an affiliate network.

Meet the Team
A personal favourite of mine, get some half decent pictures taken, I didn’t say pay for them, you’d be amazed what  you can do with a phone and the grey scale setting in photoshop, just check my about me page. That was me taking the pee in Tesco’s sporting a pack of ‘spam slices’.

Talk you friend, mum and dad to get in as well, a short bio, although if you don’t want to go the ‘family’ route you may want to alter their surnames.

If you’ve got any accreditations, lob them on. I used my MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) logos for my eBay stuff, although for the best part it was pretty much unrelated, but looked FAB!

Careers, Recruitment or Join the Team at Company Ltd
More of a personal preference here, if the company you wish to create has a more relaxed feel, go for the ‘Join the Team @ Company Ltd’ , otherwise name it careers or recruitment.

You know the drill, we’ve all looked at sites we’d like to work for, google them and copy/paste and edit a few lines.

Partners
Always a firm favourite, if you shift, sorry I mean market branded goods, then include a few logos and make the impression that you work with these companies, even if there is someone in the middle (a few times probably). If they’re unbranded, brand them and knock up a logo in paint.

Store Locator
If you have premises, then this is a shocker for both the website and any marketing materials, if the buyer has no intention of visiting, a picture of a shop, office, warehouse or tent will reassure the customer, you’re real. Oh and include a google map, they’re free or just screen shot and paste the image in.

A big tip here is include the phone number and email address in clear sight, customers will normally always phone or email rather getting off their butts to come in.

So your website should have a cracking footer line up now, the above should take no more than 15 minutes per page (thats 5 min’s googling, 5 min’s pasting, 5 min’s editing).

Press | Affiliates | Meet the Team | Careers | Partners | Store Locator

It looks swish doesn’t, almost a ‘real’ professional company that you always were. You’ve now paved the way to these departments in you business structure, all in an hour or two. What its says to the customer, ‘is these people are real’. Get over that hurdle, the rest is easy.

Show Our Age
Talking of easy, thats not the end yet, here is a quality chestnut, under you logo, do just have some cheesy by line, include the date the business was established.

Ask yourself, which sounds better?

  • I Love My Feet
  • I Love My Feet | Trading Since 2006

Thought so, do it. It adds an immediate age to the company and puts the browser at ease, this is a defo a tick if using right under the logo placed in the top right hand corner, no fancy text, just plain Arial or similar font face.

Facebook & Twitter
Include these pages ONLY and ONLY after you beefed it up, spoken to the entire pub and got Aunt Bessie to hit the like button too, get at least 100 likes before trying to promote it to people you do not know.

You’ve seen the pages & invites, ‘come see my Facebook page’, its got 1 fan and some ‘hello’ post, watch the dust balls ride on by, they’re clicking the back button. You want something to model for this, see MyProtein’s facebook page, its got some FB guru company beefing that one.

Warehouse or Store Picture
Take a look here on Google for some ‘warehouse‘ pictures, pick one and include it in your listing, about pages or on the site footer. If you actually have a warehouse and even a team of staff, ike em out and take a picture. Only takes a few mins and the staff get to see daylight.

I’ll stop here, I hope you’ve taken on board the point of this blog post, if you are to be big in business, then you need to give the impression that you are big in business, even if you’re not.

Part 6 : SuperDryStore Listings – Lets Start to Make You a eBay Listing Template

Welcome to part 6, if you’ve missed the previous parts, see here to catch up and from the last post regarding SuperDryStore, read this article ‘11 Reasons Why People Don’t Buy From YOU & How to SMASH Them‘ before continuing.

The Listing Template

We’ve now got as far as the listing template and from Part 5, I indicated that we need to rearrange the information that is being presented to the buyers to make their lives easier on the most critical decision that they face when viewing an item online:

Is this item the right item for me?

You must remember that its your business role to convey the project or service information in a manner that the customer can instantly answer this fundamental question. If they are unable to do this then you are failing.

Quick Layout Update

From Part 5 I suggested a format as follows, although I have added the images section to the top left, silly me ;-):

ImagesPostage
Item DescriptionReturns
SizingPayment
Related Items

Let Me Explain My Reasoning for this Layout

Remember that customers are thinking this primary question:

Is this item the right item for me?

And that its our job as a business to answer it effectively (a set of exit strategies is something for another day).

I’m not a fan of tabbed sections in templates, yes they save space, but I read somewhere and logic also dictates that the % of those who actually click on them is minute and if its no important information, then why include it clearly in the first place?

Image Layout

Now I did hint that I was going to share some code with you and I am going to share the entire template with you as a complete project at the end of this section, but for now we’re going to use HTML snippets.

Now using a little bit of javascript, we can make a simple thumbs gallery and as a bonus I am going to include the keywords you need to make this work in a eSellerPro account. You could make this work in a Channel Advisor account, but last time I checked they did not support conditional keywords like IF or IFNOT, so you’d have to do this manually or set to a number of given images (yes they have a keyword for a gallery, but conditional formatting is far superior).

Enough virtual ink, lets get to the preview and I have uploaded a version so that you can play with it for real here: http://lastdropofink.co.uk/blog-examples/SuperDryStore-Images-Example.html

SuperDryStore Images Example

SuperDryStore Images Example

If you’ve had a play with the real example here, then you’ll see that this works in almost all browsers and if you’ve checked the code its extremely simple.

I have also set the image width to be 500 pixels wide, yes if I was doing this where time was not a constraint (I’m writing this on a Sunday and have real-life commitments in 40 mins) . I may juggle around with the image sizes over numerous products to work out the best size for this type of layout when factoring in descriptions, sizing tables and other information.

The same for the thumbs, they’re at 90 pixels, 120pix might have been better 500/4 = 125 -5 each side as a buffer, I hate crowed images), but for the purpose of example is to show how and what it looks when done. Saying that, I’ll start to tweak this image layout as we move on, so blah :P

The HTML

As promised, here is the HTML for this section, my only note is that I have left the tags {{Image 1}} etc in the places where the image URL’s need to be entered.

Your Title
Your Title Your Title Your Title Your Title

The Description

The Description isn’t that bad, it just needs rewording and adding to, so it looks like a human wrote it, here is a before and after:

Before:

Superdry

New Superdry Haversack Bag – new with tags.

Superdry retro vintage Tires Haversack canvas bag with vintage faded Superdry Tires and Tubes logo print, single inner compartment, buckle fastening and adjustable shoulder strap.

Colour: Mid Grey with yellow, white and blue logo.

The RRP on this item is £29.99.

This item is brand new, in perfect condition.

After:

This is a Brand New Authentic SuperDry canvas haversack bag. This bag has a really good quality feel to it as you would expect from any SuperDry article, its vintage ‘faded’ and has Superdry Tires and Tubes logo printed on the front.

With a single large compartment of around 17″ wide, by 12″ deep and 4″ thick, you’ll fit in most books and small articles and have room to spare. The main compartment is buckle fastening and has an adjustable strap of N length.

This is just one of an entire range of haversack bags that we offer, you can see out entire range here.

Now I have to admit, I have cheated. On Saturday[Bristol, Cabot Circus] I saw these in store, a key point that has been missed is the ‘really good quality feel’ part, there are several of these bags in range that get their own waist height stand. Its crucial to remember that your buyer cannot do that, so it its YOUR job to do it for them and an inform them of the best features and if needed, the worse features.

Its also blatantly obvious knowing that there is a range of these, an exit strategy is absolutely needed, as the browser may have entered this product, but decided the item was too dark etc.. and we need to give the browser a set of exit options. It may have been worth including something like ‘You could easily for most netbooks in this bag’ as for me I am looking at netbooks and do not want to carry an obvious netbook styled bag (although the ‘eBay’ branded messenger bag I use is a give-way’).

Where I have added “you can see out entire range here.” the ‘here’ part would link to the eBay shop category or shop search page.

An explicit note to SEO junkies: “Using ‘here’, ‘there’ etc to you is a slaughter of keyword linkage, I would like to remind you that this is eBay. By using ‘Here’ as the link keyword commands a higher click through rate that a more descriptive link. Can’t remember the study I read on this now, but from what i can remember it was a clear 2% increase between the two call-to-actions. But listen to nothing I say, A-B test it, work on facts.

We could have gone for a bullet pointed based system for descriptions, as we are looking at just one bag and not the rest of the inventory base, its difficult to make any recommendations on data structure. Although if SuperDryStore were intending to use the same data for Amazon or other marketplaces, this would be a strong contender to data layout.

Summary

Time is against me again, so to summarise the above, we now have an image gallery that we can work from and that you can work from for any of your projects; And we have a description that actually details the key features in a human readable format and I have indicated that an at least one exit strategy must be used as part of the description. I have noted to cover exit strategies another time in lot more detail.

Part 7 will include the sizing table, postage, returns and payment, Part 8 is going to give you some code I found recently and adapted for the auto-insertion of related items on multiple criteria. Part 9 will probably join everything together.

I have had the most insane business service offering ever, but I cannot tell you what is!

Forest of TreesOpening Comment: I’ve been in torment for the past few weeks whether I should release this post or not, but hey, lets let it rip.

I cannot believe what I have come up with, I am soooo eager to deploy this in the real world, but its something I just cannot freely speak of, in short it frightens me.

I’ve lost endless nights sleep over this and have been brain storming relentlessly for its deployment, its now at a level that its awaiting its sole real-life exposure.

I’ve literally filled an entire notepad, I’ve cried with laughter and cringed with fright at it. This service really is not for the faint hearted and quite frankly I am scared of offering it to anyone, its remifications are frankly ‘severe’ and this is an understatement to those on the receiving end.

Testing is key to any service and I been training members of my team to see what the outcome could be for some time now. I’m supprised how efficent it can be made with the right management. Its not resource light either, to do this is literally going to take hundreds, if not thousands of man hours, but for any service to be successful, it needs key performance targets and oh-boy does it have those, with the absolute pinnacle at the end of it.

I’ve told no-one, I have only hinted in the above at the sheer scale of what this ‘service’ is to entail, its not for the faint of heart, it breaks all known rules, quite frankly I have scared myself.

This has to be a one off service. If you have serious business ‘issues’ and have a minimum of £10,000 to hand over with a bonus of £5000 on completion, don’t even bother asking me. Its a lot of things, its unique for sure, it will make the ‘right’ business tens if not hundrends of thousands of pounds, it will make you cry with laughter, it will plainly make you cry.

I’m saying no more, I had to share this, if only am extremely sketchy outline. £10K on the desk now and £5K in mediation account and I’ll spill it all, I guarantee you, you will cry at me in complete disbelief.

Part 5 : SuperDryStore More Wastefulness – Learn How to Think Like a Professional Seller

Hmmm… didn’t think that they were going to be this bad and take so long to point out the areas where improvements are needed so everyone could learn from them, but hey we’re on part 5 now! Lets crack on.

Item Specifics, Get as Many as You Can!

ebay-item-specifics-barIn part 4 I had indicated to look at the category where you are listing in three views, these were:

  1. As a signed-in user
  2. As a signed out user
  3. As a user with no history, eg use a proxy like http://hidemyass.com/

This is really important as eBay frequently run A-B testing on most pages, which means that the page you’re looking at can differ numerous times for different users (pretty sure my old selling ID is in the control group so I miss most things).

Now looking at the original listing here we can see that for the first three options for shipping, we’re going to score 2/3, once for Free P&P, once for ‘Completed Listings’ (as its sold an item) and the biggest, silliest mistake is….

There is no Express Shipping Option!

WHAT!!??? I don’t want to get into the argument over free shipping currently, but for this example lets assume you’re ‘loading’ the shipping price into the buying price, that means you could offer an upgraded, expedited shipping option for a much more attractive figure.

Couriers, Royal Mail Tracked and even special delivery is not excessively expensive and remember there was a shipping price already loaded into the item price, say £2.00, this makes the expedited options £2.00 cheaper or if you’re cheeky, £2.00 more for the same service level.

In fact while you are at it, add another too, you can have up to three domestic shipping methods and three international ones (come to that in a moment) and it costs nothing to add these extra options and you only gain from offering them.

So if this is you, Add MORE Shipping Options!

The next set of attributes are regarding ‘Condition’, now this is where I am going to stray in to the grey area, I say grey, as I am going to argue with this:

eBay Duplicate Listing Policy
Sell genuinely unique items with fundamental differences in their characteristics (e.g. memory size of USB sticks). Differences must be reflected in the listing title, price, photo and item description.
http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/listing-multi.html

Now an items condition is a ‘fundamental difference in the items characteristics’ in my book.

What am I suggesting? I’m suggesting you list you items twice, once as a new and as used and then if pulled on it, argue that condition is a fundamental difference. I cannot see any customer phoning up (although I do not put it past the eBay buying numpties) saying that their item is not used, but in perfect brand new condition do you? Think about it…

33% chance turned into 66% chance of being shown in the results, with a heavily spiked advantage with double listings?

Go on admit it, thats god damn sexy and no-one has mentioned that chestnut to you before eh?

*Coff* If you do it, change the titles *Coff* Wow did I get some strange looks yesterday when I suggested this to a client.

Moving on to the ‘Sellers’ options in the menu, well SuperDryStore got their 100% hit here with both options being available to them (note back to part 3, this shop should be called SuperDry eBay Outlet in my book).

And finally I am going to stop with ‘Buying Formats’, they’re scoring 50% here as they only have BIN listings, its exactly why you should be running auctions along side the fixed price listings to gain maximum exposure for your goods (although go bloody careful on fees, measure,measure, measure!!!!!).

Item Specific Keeners

Yep, for those keeners out there, yes this category does support custom items specifics and yes there is quite a few of them too. Bag style, material, brand blah blah, but lets face it, these chaps are using Auctiva, its pants (yes I did look at it).

If you’re using the likes of eSellerPro, set them up as combo boxes in item specifics, if you’re using Channel Advisor, good luck their system of item specifics is *****ed up. But they[SuperDryStore] have brand and style filled out, so lets score them 2/12 for item specifics and 1/10 for using Auctiva.

Finally The Listing!

Before I start nit picking, lets get to the good point, it actually looks like their eBay shop, so a customer going from one to the other is not going to be altered and isn’t going to freak out because they are very different. This in itself is a massive advantage.

The listing is also broken up in to specific sections, I’ll comment on centre aligned text in a minute, but for now, any eBay buying muppet can work out wtf (remember what this stands for?) is going on and we have four images.

Nit Picking The Listing

In no order of importance, lets hit the rocks.

Listing Template Width

The listing template width is too small, yes its contained in a iframe, even better, get that width at 960 pixels wide, not 855 pixels that it is now. That gives us 11% extra real estate width-wise.

Why 960 pixels? Simple http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_display.asp says that 96% of all browsers are at 1024×768 or bigger, 960 fits in wonderful well into a 1024 wide screen still leaves edges either side for styling.

Header Confusion

As indicated in part 3 there is what I feel confusion going on and a the second largest unique selling point (besides brand) is not being pushed, “Where does it say eBay Outlet?”.

If you have a similar header, ensure that you brand logo has pride of place and is aligned to the left, not right in the Superdry listings, then add a clear unique selling point below it, again refer to part 3 on this.

The page links are ‘OK’, but the pages themselves are not particularly good. I would actually be suggesting that you answer these answers in the listing.

I’m skipping the title, in part 4 we already decided it was extremely poor and a better version was given.

Images

10/10 for including more than one image here. But… you can get image editing done for 30p (or less) an image or even two seconds in photoshop would make these look better, the key bind is Ctrl+Alt+Shift+L, lets see the difference:

Before & After Editing in 2 Seconds

Now if you were going to this properly (as all I did was change the tones to deal with the darkened image, plus I am pants in PS), then you could end up with an image that looks as clean as the one to the right, noting that this image probably looked worse than both the images above combined, but was edited by a professional, thus looks ‘professional’.

While on the topic of images, I am not a fan where the buyer has to leave the page to view a image gallery, where possible everything should be done on the page itself. There are several ways of doing this, but for now, consider buyer leaving the page = bad.

I have left myself a note on this as I have some HTML I can share with you that makes a simple image gallery and works with almost all browsers.

Scrub the Rest of the Sections, lets Start from Scratch

There are a million different ways of displaying descriptions to buyers, but lets keep to a single layout remembering that it is our job to give the buyers clear information in a format they can ready quickly before they scat away to do something else.

So keeping it simple, lets for a 50/50 format, 50% item details, 50% peripheral information. I’ve made a little table below to show this:

Item DescriptionPostage
SizingReturns
Payment
Related Items

Before we go further, I suggest we review one of my earlier posts entitled ‘11 Reasons Why People Don’t Buy From YOU & How to SMASH Them‘. We need to keep all these things & more in mind when designing the layout of a listing. As I said before, its OUR job to give clear and concise information FOR scatty buyers.

Part 6 Soon!

While you’re reading that, I can get on with drinking coffee. Yep this is ending here, looks like we may even make it to part 10 soon.

Click here to view the final part 6 of this series.

Email Marketing, Why & How you Can Set up Your List In Minutes with MailChimp

Don’t have a email marketing list yet? Need a easy to use sign up box to integrate into your shopping cart or your website? Need a solution that is completely ‘Matt Proof’? Simples, MailChimp.

There are several basic options you have when it comes to gaining subscribers, while not exhaustive, these are some common ones to get you thinking:

  • Sign up from your website
  • Sign up as part of the checkout process
  • Adding signup info to outgoing emails (eg eBay & website despatch emails)
  • Information provided in documentation (invoices or flyers)
  • Sign up as part of your companies blog (not got a blog yet? I have a 101 session on this coming shortly)
  • Buying an a ‘list’ of subscribers (not recommended due to cost)

And all bar the last one, can be done using MailChimp, for free. Did I mention FREE? Sign up here, its one of the most painless email marketing forms I’ve ever filled out.

Why Email Marketing?

Wow, this is a stellar one and I could talk all-day, but I will keep it to one line, brace yourselves, its a big one:

They have Opted-In. They have chosen to hear from you, specifically.

Your Options

Mr Mail ChimpThere are other companies out there. I thought Constant Contact was good, they have a decent library of templates but hits the sweet spot here is that MailChimp allow you to make as many sub mailing lists as you want. Meaning you can have a mailing list for different parts of your business and market them differently (eg blog and checkout subscribers).

The other company worth mentioning is AWebber, but and its a big ‘but’, you have to pay a subscription for even a tiny list. Maybe when you have thousands of subscribers, AWebber should be considered, but I’m assuming you’re just starting out and have a grand total of 1 (thats you).

By the way, here are two big-hitter names to drop, Magento & Mozilla; They both use MailChimp.

Registering & Making Your First MailChimp List

As part of the registration process (takes a few minutes, its super easy), you create your first ‘list’, a big tip when doing this is to use this text as a base of your ‘Permissons Reminder’, just swap the domain bit for yours:

You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website http://websitename.ext/ , you may opt out at any time.

Then once done, along the top hit ‘Lists’ and then the sub link ‘For Your Wesbite’ and if you did make more than one list, select the list you want to embed from the drop down box as show below:

MailChimp Code for Your Website

MailChimp Code for Your Website

Now that you have the right list selected hit the link called ‘Signup Form Embed Code’, this gives you a simple sign up box where you can alter the boxes attributes to your own needs.

Copy the code at the bottom and paste into place on your website where you want a sign up box to be added. Simples? Yep.

For advanced users, you can take the form elements and alter at will; Also I suggest you drop the jQuery includes and put them in the header if you ‘really‘ need them.

Pricing

This is exactly why I am suggesting you use MailChimp, until you get 1,000 subscribers (and yes you will get this and more given enough time), its free.

AWebber is paid for from the start, Constant-Contact gives 90 days, but that still does not match ‘free’. You can of course move to another provider when you topple the 1K mark, but hey, we have only 1 so far (you).

Got WordPress or Another Web Software App, Like Magento?

Even simpler, create your list in MailChimp and then use their ‘plugins’ to integrate directly into your systems back end. I’ve used this on both Magento and WordPress and its soooo easy, set the API key and its pretty much done.

Mail Marketing for Monkeys

MailChimp knows how to cater for email marketing beginners, that’s why they have a fantastic video guide section and weekly 101 sessions. Here is an example:

See I said it was easy.

If you don’t have a mail list started yet, you now have no excuses to set one up, register for free here and get started today.

Need Help?

Still unsure? Already started by getting nowhere? Not sent your first email marketing campaign? That’s what I’m here for, I can help you. We can break your email marketing virginity together and then turn you into a ’email-marketing-campaigns-freak’.

Dear eBuyer.com, You Could Be Doing So Much Better on eBay UK. Here is How!

eBuyer LogoeBuyer has a personal favourite of mine for technology based products; Since the day I discovered their returns process was simple & effective. After being burned by utterly dire customer support at dabs.com. I’ve sworn my allegiance (well, for some things) to them ever since.

But sadly they are making me go nuts about their eBay operations. I’ll explain why.

I am a Clean data Freak

I am the biggest data-freak ever, in my conversations with new clients, besides the formalities of hello and getting a coffee in (note if you want to bribe me, coffee works exceptionally well) I am interested in what their data is like.

This is for the simple reason, if you have great, clean data you can do anything and I mean anything with it. If you don’t, its going to get messy.

Data Freak

Lets take a Wander

Now with this little preface over, lets see why eBuyer would make me nuts…

Lets take a look at an item from their site http://www.ebuyer.com/product/173804 and a screen shot of this item is below:

eBuyer Item Details Page

eBuyer Item Details Page

Now lets make a bullet point list of the features and crucially the data they have on their item details page for this product:

  1. Item Title
  2. Item Image
  3. Description
  4. Specification
  5. Related Products
  6. 104 Customer Reviews
  7. 114 Discussion Topics
  8. A  ‘urgency-generator’ in the header. Order up to 11 for next day’

* takes a deep breath*

eBuyer HD103SJ on eBay

eBuyer HD103SJ on eBay

Now lets look at their eBay Listing for the very same product  http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Samsung-HD103SJ-Spinpoint-F3-1TB-Hard-Drive-SATAII-7200-/ and again a screen shot is to the right. Click on the image to see the full version as its rather long.

Now the key points they have are:

  1. Item Title
  2. Product Image (but not in the listing area)
  3. Product Description
  4. An added bonus of a ‘Storage Calculator’
  5. A not very well formatted specifications section
  6. Some related items

Now can you guess what I am going to talking about next? Yep you guessed it, poor usage of product ‘data’, in this case how they’re making two mistakes that with the right tools (and will) could be easily joined.

Suggested Changes to eBuyers Listings & Why + Tips For You!

Here are my suggested alterations, if you have similar data then I strongly suggest you follow suit to aid conversion of your listings.

  1. Add a Listing Template with ‘Branding’
  2. Add the product image to the description area
  3. Add a ‘Urgency Generator’
  4. Format the description into its own container
  5. Format the specifications in its own container
  6. Add dynamic related items
  7. Add related product groups
  8. Add the top rated customer reviews to the listing
  9. Quote the answers from the forums

Now, lets work these out in some more detail:

Add a Listing Template with ‘Branding’

What do I mean by this? Image is everything and currently it looks pants.

In the case of eBuyer, get your in-house design department to make a listing template, if they are incapable, outsource it for £500 (and tidy the shop at the same time).

If you are not fortunate to have an ‘in-house design team like the rest of us, outsource it. You can get simple templates for free and quality customised ones for £500 (contact me for details, I’ll post information about this in a later post).

Add the product image to the Description Area

Not hard at all, eBay images are OK, but you can gain more flexibility in the eBay listings themselves. There are countless examples of this, just search eBay for a few top rated sellers, most have got the idea. Again this would be part of the formatting in the listing template mentioned above.

Add a ‘Urgency Generator’

This one-gets-my-goat big style, where the * hell is the urgency in this listing? Take the logo in the header area of eBuyer.com, chop it up and slap it in the listing.

If this is for you, then a strong call to action is always needed. This could be the re-confirmation your USP (Unique Selling Point(s)) or a time deadline for ordering. If you’re stuck for ideas, write ‘Order Today, it’ll be with you in a maximum of 3 days’ (at least its a start…).

Format the description into its own container

We are dealing with great data here, so format it just as ‘great’. Give it a container (visual area) of its own and then do the same for the next part too.

Make the description stand out by darkening the outside of it, so the eyes are drawn to it. Customers are sheep, herd them.

Format the specifications in its own container

Arrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

We are selling a highly technical product here, just like on the website, make the specifications clearly readable.

If this you and have a product that requires a ‘product specification’, make the table that is formatting the data, clean, clear and alternate colouring on lines and highlight key specifics.

Add dynamic related items

Ok, this is  9/10 for effort, as its better than what is being shown on the eBuyer.com website. But it hard-coded, go for dynamic tool to display items automatically, there are a few out there, check the eBay solutions directory (again noted for a future post).

Add the top rated customer reviews to the listing

Ok, here is the ground breaker… I should be charging for this stuff I tell ya. Lets spell this out:

I am eBuyer, I sell this product, this product has 104 customer reviews

Pillow screams x 10

So you have the data in the eBuyer.com data base, so why not spill the top 10 rated reviews onto eBay? Surely this is a no-brainer? 104 people have left reviews or questions, does it not make you think that out of these 104 reviews or questions your new eBay customers might ask the same? (insert pillow scream).

Two databases, common key, join them, deliver quality content, format it, sell loads.

(ignore that top bit, thats my mind working it out in simple terms)

Quote the answers from the forums

Now this one is a ‘grey one’. If I was eBuyer, I’d push this and bring in the form posts and also link back to the forums, as its helpful info to the product buying decision. Kinda grey due to the eBay links policy, but I’d personally argue this one for quite some time.

Summary

If you have great data, then get it in and use it. This is why the eBuyer listings on eBay drive me nuts, we know they got great data, its on display on thier website, so where is it on their eBay listings?

If you are having similar issues or need some guidance on how best to implement your data as effectively as possible, see the top right of the page, the number is there…

Update

I just spotted this on YouTube, I’m not posting a video reply with fear I’d pillow scream to much, even they know they’ve got a serious issue, branding boys, its all branding!!!!

PS. ebuyerdotcom you got mail on YouTube :)

Why I’m feeling Rather Smug – 65% Website Speed Increase

I can’t remember the exact facts this, although I am sure Google will easily spill the beans on them, but for something like for a 100ms speed lag in page load times, you loose a 1% conversion on a website (believe this was a Amazon quote).

The point is simple, slow sites suck (and cost viewers) and fast sites rule.

This has been amplified by Google now taking page load speeds into account when ranking websites, see here an idol of mine, Matt Cutt’s blog post on this and also in the Google Webmasters Blog, I strongly suggest you read both of these articles before continuing here.

So why am I feeling smug?

I went from a whopping +7 seconds page load time, to a mere 2.5 seconds. Yup thats a 65% increase in speed. I was most impressed and the beautiful thing is, I could get more out of this as well!

Lets look at the tests before and after, to drool at the results in all their glory.

Before Optimising

Website Speed Starting at 7 Seconds

Website Speed Starting at 7 Seconds

The full report can be seen here: http://www.webpagetest.org/result/101105_AQ18/

After Optimising

Website Speed Under 5 Seconds

Here are two links, just to show there is a decrease http://www.webpagetest.org/result/101105_AQ28/http://www.webpagetest.org/result/101105_AQ2Z/

What Do I do?

Well, I ditched the wp-cache plugin and chose something a little ‘meater’, W3 Total Cache. I chose this plugin because of the excellent reviews from industry guru’s and because I am intending to add a true CDN (Content Delivery Network) shortly (rather than using a cheat subdomain).

But this was only half the story, when looking at the details the testing site gave, it was horrifying to spot that the wp-polls plugin was adding a massive 2 second lag on one of the tests, so that really had to go, adding in several other tweaks, setting in the cdn on a subdomain, totalled a heafty page speed saving.

The biggest bonus of all, I can still improve, even after just 20 minutes of work, the images used are not optimised fully and I am sure I could squeeze a 0.5 second saving at least from focusing on them, let alone minimising css usage, code and so on… But to save time, I’m only going to focus on the new images I add and do my best to not compromise quality over the page-load speed influence.

The Question is…

How badly does your e-commerce site or blog lag? Have you even checked? How many customers are you loosing because of this? And… what are you going to do about it?

Dan Wilson: What are your nuggets of eBay selling advice?

Online Business Forum eBay

Online Business Forum eBay

An interesting question came up in the LinkedIn ‘The Online Business Forum powered by eBay‘ group by Dan Wilson and I think I am only one probably prepared to spill anything of any substance (I might be wrong by the time this is released), here is the question in full:

What are your nuggets of eBay selling advice?

I was asked last week for some advice regarding online selling by a journalist. The hack in question wanted little known tips for an article he was writing. Needless to say, I had a view. Here’s what I said:

Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Dealing with trouble customers and problems takes time and time is money. Sometimes quibbling over a few pounds is just not time or money efficiently spent. And when it comes to customers, there really are just some people who can never be satisfied, so save your energy and don’t try. Refund and move on. Finance this by making sure you build up a notional fund for such situations. The size of that will depend on what you sell online, but a small levy on everything you sell soon adds up because most customers really are lovely.

Are you getting the best deal on fees?
On eBay, there are several ways of getting better, lower fees. The first is an eBay Shop. Just by paying a subscription, you can get preferential treatment on the fees for BINs in particular and that can significantly lower your outlay if you want to expand the inventory you have available in the marketplace. And don’t forget PayPal. The merchant rate offers lower PayPal fees if you’re taking a lot of money through the system. But you do have to ask!

What’s your best little nugget of online selling advice? Or is it too good to be shared?

After writing what was a hefty reply, I decided it would be worth beefing it out and including it here for all to see. I’ll keep to my two points I could go on a blogging-bender quite easily.

Point 1: Do not devote 100% of your business to eBay

Amazon UK

Hey Look Amazon!

Its a mistake I made a long time ago and will not let clients make the same one. If eBay is taking up more than 40% of your over-all business turnover then you have a *critical business issue* and need to diversify your marketplaces, FAST.

I’ve said for a very long time that I am sure that sure that eBay does what it can to cause maximum impact to sellers to keep them ‘entertained’ with the eBay marketplace. The entire selling process could be a lot simpler and dare I say it less ‘unique’ to each buyer. eBay selling can-and-will hog your time, you need to be wise to this and look for ‘tools’ to aid you to diversify into other channels.

I’ll come back to viable actions for this point later in this post.

Point 2: My other tip is risk Aversion.

The point here is to not rely solely upon a single eBay ID. This could mean breaking ‘eBay policy’ to some, but I see each eBay ID as a ‘business’ in its own right and if done well it acts like one too.

To list on eBay has never been so cheap for pretty much ALL eBay sites, yes ALL sites, not just the eBay UK site. By spreading the risk of selling on eBay into two or more (20 plus is not unheard of now) eBay ID’s that have specific persona’s and product cross overs can be done from well managed backend systems.

Once you have created your inventory in a backend management tool (Channel Advisor ‘loosely’ fills this spot, eSellerPro is suggested [yes I used to work there, hell there is not one part that I didn’t influence. blah blah blah its ace]). The point is that to prepare the data for a second eBay ID is a fraction of the work, to prepare it for many eBay IDs (including on multiple sites) is again ‘a fraction’ of the initial work.

By spreading your inventory groups over more than one eBay ID, loosens the reliance upon a single point of income which in my eyes is a bad thing. It also allows you to focus each business (eBay ID) on to its core role. This does need to be done well and its a whole topic for another day on how to do it well (if I ever decide to divulge this info publicly, actually I doubt it).

Expanding Upon These Points – Real Life Tips

Now here some real life tips you can action really easily if you have the right tools.

Here is a no brainier, did you know that the vast majority of the eBay US categories are exactly the same as the eBay UK ones? That means porting your eBay UK data to a eBay US eBay ID is really quite easy, especially now that both sites are using custom item specifics for almost all categories? The same goes for nearly all the other sites too, they all have a common base, just with a few tweaks here and there.

Settle for the ‘Other Category’ if you have too, if its a decision between actually getting listed and getting the categories right, screw the cats, get the items on. You can sort out the re-categorisation (not mess as I first typed) later.

Also remember that America is massive, buyers are used to orders taking over 10 days to arrive for non expedited services and guess how long it normally takes for a UK parcel to arrive in the US? Yep you got it, about 10 days!

The second is a set of two questions:

  • Do students really cost that much?
  • Does outsourcing your language translation requirements sound really that scary?

Now leading on… eBay Germany [DE] is bigger than eBay UK and they will pay by PayPal (used to be a big issue, as those Germans love bank transfers). Yes thats right eBay Germany is BIGGER than the UK, let that sink in for a moment.

* let the dust roll by *

Sunk in? Here’s an idea for you, use Google Translate on your top 10 products, now search on eBay.de for them, making an excel spreadsheet as you go, then use xe.com to get the latest rate, the numbers work? If you have a Terapeak account, pay the extra and research the foreign eBay sites, I guarantee you, you’ll start feeling sick.

I Need Help Now!

I’d love to, but cannot commit to anything before the new year due to prior commitments. My content creation team is working literally 24/7 currently and its time I start looking at a VA (Virtual Assistant) again. Hey at least I’m admitting my flaws! Are You?

Anyway, its the reason why I have published this in front of the other posts that were due to be released, at least I can help you go in the right direction.