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The History of Multi-Channel Software – Part 1

Multi-channel software, love it or hate it, if you’re selling online and using the online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon, you need it and it makes a massive difference to you being able to run a successful online business or having to wade through the endless repetitive tasks each day manually.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on that covers the history of multi-channel software and is the beginning of a journey that will change the future of multi-channel software.

If you were wondering, this is directly related to main reason why I have been so quiet lately and together (thats us & you) will be changing the world of multi-channel eCommerce software forever and dipping our toes into the world of 3rd Generation multi-channel software.

However before we can get to the really cool stuff, we need to start our journey from somewhere and the best place to do that is to reflect on where we have come from and where we are today and this is what this article, part 1 and accompanying video is all about.

 

Part 1 – The History of Multi-Channel Software

Myself & Dave have put a video together to explain the history of multi-channel software below.

You can subscribe to the UnderstandingE YouTube channel here: youtube.com/user/understandinge

Proprietary, 1st & 2nd Generation Software

From it’s beginning where proprietary tools like Turbo-Lister (eBay) and Seller Desktop (Amazon) were created by the marketplaces themselves, then through the demands of businesses to expand further and add-in several missing features tools like InkFrog (1999), Auctiva, AMan Pro (for Amazon) and ChannelAdvisor who appeared on the scene in 2001. The 1st generation of software born and was there to help businesses be more productive with these channels.

Then the 2nd generation came around in the latter part of the naughties (around 2008/2009) where “Auction Management Software” turned properly into “Multi-Channel software” and was needed by businesses as they really started to leverage both eBay & Amazon and other online sales channels. We suspect this was because the Amazon marketplace really started to take off around then and the requirements changed for online businesses, they were selling in more than just one location, they had eBay, they had Amazon, their offline trade and the website platforms out there were getting better & better.

A Change in Requirements

This change in the landscape of business requirements spawned multiple 2nd generation providers that include ChannelAdvisor, who jumped from 1st generation (as they added in Amazon support), MarketWorks, ChannelGrabber, Linnworks, eSellerPro, SellerExpress and numerous other software companies who have come in later such as Brightpearl & StoreFeeder that have woken up to the apparent lucrative world of multi-channel software and whom we see today.

Some companies haven’t made the jump from the 1st generation at all, InkFrog, Auctiva & AMan Pro haven’t really strayed from their original selling platforms and that’s “ok” if that’s all you need for your business.

In the cases of eSellerPro and 247TopSeller, these were created by the failings of the original two providers that serviced the United Kingdom, ChannelAdvisor & Marketworks to adapt to the UK (and Europe for that matter) fast enough.

eSellerPro started as a shipping solution and with an integration to Sage from MarketWorks that then evolved into the tool we see today (see here for the unofficial history), as for 247 TopSeller well this was born in the same 2-3 months time window of eSellerPro because neither of the existing options (CA & MW) would meet the requirements of UK wholesaler.

Cost, Cost, Cost

The current options for business owners like yourself that use multiple sales channels (including the marketplaces) all fall into one of the two camps when it comes to pricing, fixed price and a percentage of sale.

Generally the “smaller” providers offer fixed price software where you pay a set amount each month to them for them to help you manage one or more marketplaces, these are generally medium cost and viable options. The more expensive options appear from the larger providers such as eSellerPro and ChannelAdvisor, where you’ll have a committed minimum monthly bill in the region of £500-600 and if a percentage of sales (around 1-2%) exceeds this value, then you pay more. That’s why you’ll find numerous businesses paying in excess of £1,000 a month for multi-channel software.

It doesn’t matter which path you have followed up to today, all the current 2nd generation multi-channel software products offer good-ish value for money.

As a whole, they all do the same tasks with similar features when we look at them from a high-enough level (in some cases it has to be really high with a slight squint). When we get down to the minute detail, there are major differences which explains the differences in the amounts that different providers charge and it’s these smaller details that generally depict which business uses which software provider because their business needs these small, less “transparent” options.

3rd Generation

It took a mistake by one of the 2nd generation providers to force this path to be explored and when we joined the pieces of the puzzle together we ended up with something that is greater than the original parts combined. What has been missing up until now is for us all to work out that this is actually viable and what we found, personally I was very surprised by.

The 3rd generation is a completely new take on multi-channel eCommerce software and while I say completely new, this has been around for the best part of 3 years already. We’ll cover more on this in part’s 2 & 3.

We don’t have all the answers, frankly we never will, however we know this path works. It’s highly flexible, ridiculously inexpensive and leverages the might of both open source and the backing of a massive corporate umbrella. For the past 7 months, I have followed it myself and there are examples of businesses turning over millions each month using this method.

The Vision of the Future

“A hybrid of both free and paid for open source software where multi-channel business owners can pick & choose the tools that suit their business, both now and in the future

We’re going to leave you with the vision of the future of multi-channel eCommerce software and we’re starting a journey today and we both invite you to join in at UnderstandingE.com/NOW.

PS. You can find part 2 here, where I admit I was wrong. But what about?

Podcast EIPE 002 – Preparing for Christmas

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

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

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

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

Play

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Preparing For Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Black Friday & Cyber Monday?

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

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

Amazon Sales 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Channeladvisor Christmas Sales 2011

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

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

“A business is for life not just for Christmas”

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

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

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

Amazon Customer Metrics Screen Shot

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

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

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

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

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

Free Royal Mail Christmas 2012 Cut off Calendar

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

Christmas 2012 Cut off Dates 2012 Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Offer extended warranty to cover Christmas period

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

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

  • Don’t forget January!

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

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

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

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

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

  • The risk of getting it wrong

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

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

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

  • Consider free shipping

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

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

eBay Fast and Free Example

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

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

  • 1st Nov STOP changing!

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

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

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

  • Be careful with Holiday Settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback from ChannelAdvisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

About our Guest Pete Moran

Pete Moran

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

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

Sources used: Hitwise | Image | Image | eBay

Improving eBay DSR’s – A Personal Account

eBay Detailed Seller Ratings Card  - DSR'sThey’re eBays version of your school report card and every time a buyer leaves you a feedback comment, eBay asks them to leave a survey on your performance as a seller. I am of course referring to the “eBay Detailed Seller Ratings”.

The following is a guest post from Pete Moran who has documented his struggle, successes & strategery in turning the eBay DSR’s to his advantage.

All successful eBay sellers will highlight the importance of keeping your Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR’s) as high as possible. Not only does it give buyers confidence you do as expected but also allows access to the eBay powerseller and Top Rated Seller program which if you are serious about eBay you need to be in.

However for those relatively new to eBay or just starting out as you scale your business you may notice that your DSR’s start well but then gradually slip as the number of transactions grow.

This is exactly what happened to my business and the following article describes what I did about it.

 

Our Background

Our business was never planned, my wife started selling our unused brick-a-brack at car boot sales as so many of us do.  However, she took it the step further and started buying really nice vintage and retro items from other people’s car boots and selling it for a profit at her own.

“Our business was never planned”

Pretty soon she graduated to buying at car boots, auctions and a wide variety of other sources and selling part time on eBay.  Although still modest sales the business showed promise and she quickly (within 3 months) became a PowerSeller and then a Top Rated Seller!

With these honourable titles business accelerated and what started as a hobby became a full-time job.  I joined my wife in April of this year as a family business with the intent to making a decent living doing something we both enjoy.

The Problem

When taking a business from a part time hobby to something more substantial, growing pains are inevitable, we started to see our DSR’s once 4.9’s drop to 4.8’s and then our postage and packaging charge DSR went to 4.7.

What did we do wrong?

Simply we didn’t have a strategy to ensure our DSR’s remained high and it was starting to show.

Reading through the eBay forum’s many people had been contacted by eBay as their DSR’s approached 4.7/4.6 with stern warnings they were not living up to the high standards expected of sellers.  It became clear that if we dropped to 4.6 there was a high likelihood we would lose our eTRS (that’s the top-rated seller status) and our sales would suffer…we needed to react and fast.

The Postmortem

“The first step in turning around our degrading DSR problem was to actually accept we had a problem”

The first step in turning around our degrading DSR problem was to actually accept we had a problem, we had not changed the way we had worked so the issue was just becoming more apparent as we scaled.

We were fortunate enough to convince Matt Ogborne to give us an hour of his time in which we gleaned some invaluable tips! He ran through each of our DSR’s and questioned how well we were doing with them, what was impacting them and what the customer thought was important.

How accurate was the item description?
eBay DSR - Item As Described 

Selling second hand goods means that unlike goods where you can take photo’s, write titles and descriptions once and sell multiple times – every item (which equals one sale) needs photographs, a good title and description.

We had been fortunate that this DSR has remained steady, we had always ensured there were several photographs of each item, especially highlighting any defects and this combined with a precise description has left us in good shape.

How satisfied were you with the seller’s communication?
eBay DSR - Communication 

We had left communication entirely to eBay – that is to say we never personalised any emails, we did not give thank you notes or inform the customer of delivery times.

eBay does a great job of automating the standard communication, but it is the most basic level of communication and could be greatly improved upon.

How quickly did the seller dispatch the item?
eBay DSR - Dispatch Time 

“we still had some hangovers from how we worked before”

As this had evolved from a hobby, we still had some hangovers from how we worked before.  On our listings we would specify we would post within 3 working days, and often it would take that long as we would wait for a number of sales before packaging and dispatching in one go.  This was of course more convenient for us, but not convenient for the buyers.

Matt rightly pointed out that buyers expect you to dispatch fast and even though you may specify how long you expect dispatch to take, ultimately if the buyer feels you are dispatching too slow then you are dispatching too slow.

How reasonable were the postage and packaging charges?
eBay DSR - Postage and packaging Charges 

This was and still is the hardest DSR to get *right* the buyer is unlikely to know the true cost of postage and packaging, many think it is just the cost of the actual postage and not to take into account the time it takes to package, the cost of material it takes to keep it safe, trips to the post office etc.

We sell some delicate and bulky items, antique porcelain needs to be packed very carefully in a lot of protective layers, boxed and sent.  This is not only highly time consuming but the costs can be significant.

Many eBay businesses offer free postage and packaging to effectively remove this DSR from a rating, we unfortunately could not do so without making a loss so we needed to find another strategy.

The Strategy

So we understood where we were going wrong, now it was time to get to work to turn around our DSR’s before our business suffered.  Making use of Matt’s suggestions as well as some idea’s of our own we devised a strategy to improve our DSR’s as quickly as possible.

The aim of our strategy is simple:

“to ensure that every one of our customers receives the best possible service from us, above and beyond what they expect from buying online“

We are human beings, and it’s much easier to offer lower ratings to a business or person who has offered mediocre service than to a business who even if in some cases may fail, makes up with it in willingness to please.

So with this in mind we worked on improving our overall service to ensure that every one of our customers felt as special and valued as they are!

The Friendly Seller

Accomplishing this started at the very first contact with a customer, which in some cases if they ask a question about an item or perhaps when they have made a sale.

“an extremely polite and friendly manner”

In every communication we try to answer as fast as possible in an extremely polite and friendly manner.  By acting like people rather than just a business in many cases we quickly build a rapport with our customers which instantly makes it harder for a customer to rate in anything but 5’s.

Keeping the customer informed

The second part of this enhanced communication strategy is to keep the customer informed at every stage above and beyond the automated eBay messages.

“keep the customer informed at every stage above and beyond the automated eBay messages”

If a courier is needed when booked we inform the customer that it has been booked, when it will be picked up and the estimated delivery date.  When it is dispatched we mark it as dispatched on eBay and then send a note letting them know that it has been dispatched.  Similarly with Royal Mail, if you organise your postage via PayPal the item is marked as dispatched once the postage label has been printed.

We also drop a short note letting them know it has actually been posted and when it is expected to arrive.  This level of communication not only ensures that the communication DSR is well serviced but also highlights that you care which again makes it harder for a buyer to rate another DSR lower.

Dispatching Fast

We made a decision to dispatch the same working day for any orders before 1pm, as a small company of just two this can sometimes be difficult to manage but so far we have made it work.  The fact we dispatch so fast means our dispatch DSR is back on the up!

Delighting the Customer

When we have bought something online (assuming it is something more fun than practical) there is a certain anticipation when waiting for it to arrive.

This can be used to the wise sellers advantage in a few simple ways, Matt again gave some great ideas around this which we have implemented to a great effect.

These are just some steps we have taken:

  1. The Customers Perception of Time
    If an item is sent 1st class post in most cases the item should arrive the next day, in our message to say it has been dispatched we always indicate it is most likely arrive the day after it should arrive e.g. if it was sent on a Monday we say it should arrive by Wednesday when really we expect it to arrive by Tuesday.If it arrives on the Tuesday we have secretly earned some brownie points that it arrived earlier than specified and if it didn’t and arrived the day after, we were on time. Win-Win.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the received package
    We make every parcel as beautiful as possible – initially as we often send larger items we would use reclaimed boxes to put our items in and then add the postage label.  Someone receiving a re-used crisp box did not have a great perception of us as a company.So we worked on our packaging, every item is first wrapped in a beautiful tissue paper before going through its ‘protective coating’.We still in some cases use second hand boxes but every time we cover with brown parcel paper so that the first opinion is always a good one!
  3. The small barrier of tape
    We ensure it takes that little bit of extra effort to unwrap the item at the final stage, in our final bubble wrap layer just using that extra bit of tape which takes a moment longer to open builds anticipation!
  4. Getting Personal
    We include a personalized “thank you” letter with every item, this is an important part which has multiple effects.  Firstly it gives you the opportunity to reinforce the rapport with the customer which was started in earlier communications. It offers the opportunity to cross sell some of your other products (but do so carefully should not turn into a sales letter) and finally you can gently thank them in advance for leaving positive feedback.Many times we have been thanked for the letter, it makes the transaction that little bit more personal.
  5. Sweets, they always work
    We also include a simple ‘lolly’ with every parcel which is mentioned in the letter as a ‘thank you’ gift.  Whilst this small step does add a cost to each parcel it once again indicates to the customer they and their business is important.Matt’s comment: I love sweeties, try it it works amazingly well!

Dealing with problems

It doesn’t matter how much you try – things are going to go wrong, items lost in the post, damaged items or a customer feels that something is not as described.

“things are going to go wrong”

In our case as we have already made such an effort to build a relationship with the customer it makes it easier to resolve.  In all cases so far customers have contacted us when something has gone wrong and we have listened and resolved the problems quickly and most importantly without taking it personally.

Even when things do go wrong it’s an opportunity to build trust with a customer, in most cases so far customers have not only been happy with the outcome but also have bought from us again!

Monitoring DSR’s

If you have an eBay shop eBay provides reports which allows you to monitor your DSR’s, you can navigate to the reports as below :~

Home > My eBay > My Account > Seller Dashboard > Your reports

eBay Top Rated Seller Dashboard

In these reports you can specify a date range and a geographical area, if you use this report regularly (weekly, monthly or keep a running log) you can easily see how your DSR’s are doing.

Since implementing our strategy we have kept a running log of DSR’s every couple of days I run a report for the last few days to see how customers are rating us.  It allows me to quickly see if the strategy is working, which generally it is.

Conclusion

Do we have straight 5 DSR’s? The honest answer is no, we still get the occasional 4 and the even less occasional 3 but these are by far the exception rather than the rule.

“by taking our DSR bull by the horns we have had lots of other positive side effects”

However by taking our DSR bull by the horns we have had lots of other positive side effects, we have needed and learnt to be more efficient and organised especially around communication and dispatch.

“Customers are increasingly thanking us for our letter and lolly and recommending us to their friends”

Customers are increasingly thanking us for our letter and lolly and recommending us to their friends. We have repeat business which is the best kind of business and our feedback has gone from the boring ‘great ebayer’ to really genuine nice and kind compliments.  All in all it has made our business better in every possible way.

About Pete Moran

Pete MoranThis was a guest post by Pete Moran.

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

 

 

Your Feedback!

A week or so ago I got an email, “Matt the lolly’s are working” it exclaimed “and I’ve done a lot more too, it’s working!“.  Pete really did take the suggestions to heart, it was over a month ago we spoke on the phone. Pete crucially took action and has shared his experiences so far with us, this leaves us with this question:

What could you use from Pete’s suggestions to help your DSR’s on eBay?

Let us know in the comments box below.

Making Sense of the eBay UK Updates for August 2012

This is probably the most comprehensive guide there is to the eBay UK updates that is being released this morning that covers the impact of the updates to you and your business.

Pop the kettle on, as this one requires your complete attention. If you’re on the move there is a treat for you with a special mobile version of this guide especially for you.

It’s that time of year again and eBay have loads pre-Christmas treats lined up for you in the August 2012 seller release and one thing for sure, eBay is on your side for the busiest season ever.

There are stellar changes lined up for us and there is a lot for us to cover, however unlike the eBay updates we had in May, I’m not going to be using a scoring mechanism for the updates, because as a general rule the updates are all positive, with the exception of two epic changes that is….

More on those two epic updates later, once you’ve been through this comprehensive guide to the eBay autumn updates, I’d love to hear from you and what your thoughts are on this round of eBay updates, how they impact you and what your Christmas trade is going to be like because of them. You can let me know in the comments box at the bottom of this page.

Downloadable Edition Available!

Ebay-Updates-Ipad-Edition-2012This guide is a monster of over 5,500 words taking you through each update step by step.

That’s quite a lot to take in and because of this, I’ve created you a special downloadable version in PDF format that you can use on you iPhone, iPad or Android device.

To view this version on your mobile device:

[CLICK THIS LINK TO VIEW MOBILE VERSION]

And open in iBooks or your favourite PDF reader.

eBay to Change in 7 Days?

Before we dig into the eBay Autumn 2012 updates, I’d like to share a quick story with you from a meeting earlier this year.

Until the ChannelAdvisor Catalyst event, I hadn’t realised how much effort the team at eBay had put into organising these updates and the communications around them. Half way through the meeting, a question was asked to the audience on the premise that what would we do if we could change a specific factor and have it rolled out live in 7 days.

A nice thought, a change made in 7 days…. after basking in the idea for a few moments and I’m sure several parties taking them seriously that it was possible, the reality had hit home. Just before the meeting had started and while the delegates were just beginning to enter the room, the eBay the team huddled together.

“Right guys we know we might take a rap from some of the sellers here today, we should expect that, everything is not perfect, but we’re trying out best, lets not forget that”

To release major updates like the ones that are about to follow is not a straightforward process. There is a mountain of code to break, sorry edit :D, almost endless groups to work through, testing and re-testing and what about the buyers? Every single one of these changes, don’t just impact us as a community of sellers on eBay, they directly impact the community of buyers and they’ll need an education program as much as the sellers do!

Seven days to make a massive or even a minor change to a site with how many million users globally? Pfft not likely, twice a year is enough for me and hopefully you too.

There is a lot to cover with perhaps the most in-depth there is on the changes for this Autumn, grab a coffee and let’s dig in.

Reporting of Bad Buyers Being Introduced

eBay Report a BuyerWoooooohoooooooooooo!

Once you’ve sat back your chair after falling off while cheering, eBay have hit a home run on this one. Well, that is IF they actually action in the information they are fed from sellers.

We are going to be able to rate buyers again, but unlike before with the old “negging”, sorry “feedback” system, this process is designed to highlight “Unreasonable Behaviour” by buyers through a new form.

This form is available after the purchase has been made via the feedback page and through a set of different set options than before, leave feedback about the buyer which is forwarded directly to eBay for them to process.

“We all know that a small number of buyers on eBay have been playing the system”

Let’s be frank here, we all know that a small number of buyers on eBay have been playing the system since the ability to leave negative feedback for them was taken away from sellers some time ago.

I covered one dynamic of this around the frequency of “lost orders” when comparing eBay & Amazon a week or so ago and the feedback in the comments from business owners who also use both marketplaces was compelling (also very constructive too, see the comments around the use of a barcode for a “suggested” tracking method on untracked orders to lower the “lost” rate).

Update: This is an important note around the reporting of buyers from John in the comments at the bottom of this article:

John says:
I was concerned that reporting a buyer wouldn’t be possible if auto feedback was enabled but eBay tell me that it will be possible to still report dodgy buyers.

A video from the James Stewart, director of eBay’s EU seller team is below where he explains this part up of the update in detail:

The amount of time and money being wasted by eBay businesses due to buyers playing the game must be reaching scary amounts now and while thankfully it remains the few, it’s started to us hurt more and more as time has gone on. Time will tell if eBay stand by the statement of:

eBay UK says:
Based on your report and additional information that eBay has about the buyer, we’ll investigate if there’s a pattern of unreasonable behaviour. If so, we’ll take appropriate actions, including buying restrictions or even suspension of a buyer’s account.”

How to Report a Buyer that Exhibits Bad Behaviour

When the process is put live it will be really straight forwards to notify eBay of a bad buyer and it is important to note that this can only be done through the eBay website and cannot be automated using the eBay API.

Note: It has been confirmed that there is no intention currently to allow this to be available in the eBay API (the interface that 3rd party tools use to talk with eBay), as that could undermine the new process through automation tools and that’s the last thing we need. Phew!

Step #1 – Select the “Report a Buyer” Option

After a item has been purchased, on the Leave Feedback page here http://feedback.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?LeaveFeedback a new option will appear called “Report a Buyer” where the eBay account is the seller for one or more transactions.

Select Report a Buyer on eBay

Step #2 – Select a Reason

Next you’ll be able to select from one of five options, these are:

  1. Buyer has made unreasonable demands
  2. Buyer has left inappropriate feedback
  3. Buyer abused the buyer protection program
  4. Buyer misused returns
  5. Other problems

And there is an appropriate link to solve unpaid items through the eBay resolution centre.

Report an eBay Buyer Step 2

Step #3 – Submit Report

After making your selection, you then submit the report, noting the text in the confirmation notice “Bad Buyer”.

eBay Confirm Bad Buyer

Surely you agree that it has to be a positive system to introduce? I know I have missed a feedback process like this for some time now. What do you think? Let me know in the comments at the bottom.

eBay Buyer Communication Updates

Buyers are now going to be required to contact you through eBay first before they are allowed to start the resolution process for an order and state that it was not received or significantly not as described.

eBay Resolution Centre - Contact Seller First

eBay’s allowed a hefty time frame of 8 days for you to respond to such a request before being allowed to escalate it to eBay. 8 days does seem a lot, but remember we are dealing with a a very broad range of business types and tracking for some goods may not be possible immediately and also this does account for the time to resolve the issue between the buyer and seller.

There are also two important parts to this section of the eBay updates, these are:

  1. Only queries referred to eBay and found in favour of the buyer will be included in your seller performance evaluation
  2. If a buyer asks ‘When am I likely to receive my item?’ before the delivery date has passed, we’ll display a message reminding them of the date.

Both of those are very welcomed, saving both time in customer services demand and making it fairer for you for when you’ve been playing ball.

I was sold on the first line where the buyers are forced to contact the seller, the two extra parts of this update for the validated feedback and better communication of delivery times sealed it for me. What do you think? Let me know in the comments at the bottom.

eBay Gallery View Redesigned Including Colour Swatches!

Images speak a million words, we know that and they are second in the importance list of attributes that effective eBay businesses need to get right on eBay, right after the listing title to allow the potential buyer to find the listing that is.

eBay are known for their split testing across the site, it’s why you see one thing when signed in as one account and something different when signed in as another account when it comes to different parts of the structure of eBay when they’re testing.

eBay UK says: 
“Our trials have shown that previous increases in item image size, have resulted in a significant* increase in sales. And we’re anticipating a similar response to this update.”

No eBay USA Gallery Requirements!
Before we dig into those changes, I know for many of you that you have been concerned that we might have been seeing the same gallery requirements update that the eBay USA site had.

eBay US Gallery Image requirements

eBay USA banned extra text, forced image minimum sizes, disallowed borders in gallery images, gave suggestions on watermarks and generally floored a very useful selling strategy for gallery images (it was quite horrific). The good news is that it is NOT in this update!

The eBay UK Changes
We’re going to be seeing much larger thumbnail images on listings in the gallery view and also a neat little feature where the title will expand to the full title once the title/image area is activated.

This is much better than relying upon the “Alternative text” message that the web-browser gives you and there is more!

eBay Extended Gallery View

We’re going to be seeing the introduction of swatch images for multi variation listings.

This is… sick!

If you’ve not heard of swatches before, these are generally the little colour images that you see on product pages, that help the buyers make the decision on product attribute like colour through instant image recognition because its an image, rather than having to read text from a list of options.

Swatch Examples
To explain this as clearly as possible, let’s use two examples of the extremes from Amazon.co.uk (who have had this feature for years *coff*).

The first example in the image below shows us a dress on Amazon (click to view) where the swatches only have text labels. This means that you have to read the options to make a selection and we know how disastrous that can be when we need buyers to read :D

Amazon Swatch Example - No Swatches

This second example (click to view) has actual colour images for the different variations that the dress is available in. So if you want the red dress, locating it is so much faster for the buyer.

Amazon Swatch Example - With Swatches

eBay variations and Pricing UpdatedIn eBay multi-variation listings buyers are now going to be able to clearly see that there are variations in your listing. You’ve got to agree that the “More Options” that we have currently is not clear to buyers and I know from personal experience, most people do not know what that link does when in the gallery view.

The price range annoyance is being fixed. It’s a feature that has been in dire need of for ages, as before the update if you have a product in a variation listing that ranges from £9.99 to £129.99 the highest price is being shown to buyers.

In this update we’ll be seeing “£9.99 – £129.99” instead, much better, yay.

Gallery Image Swap based Upon Search Terms
And it gets better too! If the variation option is a colour and matches the search criteria the buyer has made, then the image attached to the colour variation in the listing will be shown instead of the main gallery image.

Intelligent searches will show the corresponding variation images

So if you search for a “Pink Shirt” and there is a “Pink” variation for colour, in an eBay listing that has a “pink image” attached, eBay will show this image instead of the main gallery image.

eBay Variation Options With Set Images

Important Notes On This Update
While this is a super cool feature, it does now mean that instead of just working manually on the main listing image that is used in the gallery, the first sub image for each colour variant is going to be just as important, as this image could be your gallery image instead.

The first variation image is going to be as important as the main gallery picture

Also if you look closely in the image above and in the image below, notice the “Colors” attribute. This is being shown as a shade of a colour, just like how Amazon use shades for their colour mapping, so expect some data work to match your items to pending new item specifics and attribute sets.

eBay Variation Colour Shades

Note: Amazon uses colour mapping to group together colours so that it they are able to make better filters on the site, for example you may have a garment that is “burgundy-red”, so the nearest mapping for colour is red. This is very similar to what you can see above.

eBay Checkout Comments Toggle

eBay Checkout Add Message to SellerAt the beginning of this article we had a little story from the CA Catalyst event, in that meeting it was revealed that sellers will now be able to turn off the buyer’s comment box during the checkout process.

I can see how for some businesses (like the ones that use CA who do not support it) would find it most useful, however it would have been better to have the reverse of this option, which is to force the buyer comments box on, so that for customised goods, buyers have to fill the box out.

Not an exciting update for what it could have been, I’m sure some businesses will find it useful and there will be a new toggle option to show/hide this, probably in site preferences.

eBay Fast

eBay Fast and Free ExampleA really sweet edition, that we’re already seeing variations of on eCommerce websites is coming to eBay in October, ready for Christmas we’ll be seeing a new logo under our items called “Fast ‘n’ Free”.

This will appear on listings that have an estimated delivery of 3 days or less. So that means if you have a handling time of 1 day and first class or a courier of 24hrs or 48hrs with the same handling time.

Google Base Requirement Updates

Google Product Identifiers ExampleIt’s been a requirement for sometime now for items to be included in Google Base to include unique identifiers. For those without a clue of what these are, it’s easy, it’s the barcode of the product.

That means you’ll need to be adding an EAN, UPC, JAB, ISBN or GTIN as customer item specific to your listings (if you have no idea on what those are, see this article that explains them all in a handy 5 minute video).

Huge Tip: Remember to use the custom items specific called MPN for the “Manufacturer Part Number”. An excellent example of this in action on Google Product Search is here as shown in the image above.

Duplicate Listing Policy Extended

Prior to this update coming into effect we are able to run 1 fixed price listing and up to 14 auctions that may or may not have a BIN price on them.

eBay UK says:
“In 2011 we reduced duplicate fixed price listings and saw a sales increase across European eBay sites. Fewer duplicates mean more sales for more sellers.”

Post this update we are only going to be able to have one fixed price listing, like before and up to 14 auctions running at the same time, but none of the auctions are allowed to have a “Buy It Now” price on them as eBay are to be considering these as duplicates.

I don’t believe this to be a bad update per-say, rather that if it is viable for your business to lay-down 14 sub auctions, you’ll have to do it without BIN being offered.

Unit Prices Introduced

I’m sure you have seen this before, this has been in the supermarket shelves for some time now. If you add a weight as grams or kilograms to a listing as an item specific, it eBay will soon display and price per weight unit below the item price.

eBay UK says:
“This will help you to better comply with European laws on how the price of certain goods should be displayed”

eBay Unit Prices Shown in Update

A nice update, gotta love the EU at times, but this is not yet supported by the one place you’re likely to see a weight difference, multi-variation listings.

eBay My Messages Enhancements

eBay My Messages Being UpdatedRight this one caused some confusion across the pond, so let’s be super clear here.

eBay are not going to be reading your personal email

Instead, if you are using the reply button in you email application, say Gmail or Outlook rather than using “eBay My Messages” to make replies to queries, then when you hit reply and send a message, your “eBay My Messages” will update so that you know that the message you just replied to in say Gmail, has been replied to in eBay My Messages.

It’s as simple as that, handy eh?

Manufacturer Warranties For New Products

eBay UK says:eBay requires Manufacturer Warranty period to be added
“An increasing number of buyers look for the manufacturer warranty in a listing for extra confidence and reassurance in their purchase. Including these details in your listings can help lead to an increase in sales, especially for higher value items”

 

Is this really a bad thing?  Hardly, this is a super update for buyers.

They’ll know clearly what a warranty is included with their purchase and how long for.

It’ll be a requirement for all business sellers  in late September to fill in the “Manufacturer warranty” eBay item specific.

If you’re using a third party tool, make sure you add this ASAP and update your products before the requirement time is enforced.

Category, item specifics changes & eBay Catalogues Extended

At the time of writing this article, I am not 100% sure which categories are being updated for structure and item specifics, but as soon as I am fully aware I’ll add them here.

Generally all category and item specific updates are a nightmare, especially when it comes to moving data round. This time there will be a few fee increases and odd decrease as categories move entire trees, one of the downsides for having category based fee structures I guess.

Update: The categories that are changing are vast, these are as follows:

  • Art
  • Business, Office & Industrial
  • Cameras & Photography
  • Clothes, Shoes & Accessories
  • Computer/Tablets & Networking
  • DVDs, Films & TV
  • Home & Garden
  • Jewellery & Beauty
  • Music
  • Musical Instruments
  • Vehicle Parts & Accessories
  • Video Games & Consoles
  • Wholesale & Job Lots
  • Everything Else

You can download all the category changes for September 2012 as a PDF and what the new category structure will look like after the structure also as a PDF.

The eBay Catalogue is being extended, but not as widely as it was in the previous update in May, into four categories, these being:

  • CPUs/Processors (category id 164)
  • Server CPUs/Processors (category id 56088)
  • Motherboards (category id 1244)
  • PC Desktops & All-in-Ones (category id 179)

We’ve seen this path developing as the eBay catalogue becomes bigger and as a reality check, it has always been around in the media category with Muse. It’s pretty obvious that given enough time, eBay is migrating to a catalogue structure that we know and love (*coff* hate at times too) similar to Amazon’s, how much impact seller data is going to play in this, is not entirely sure just yet.

Is it a bad update at present? Nope, as long as sellers can retain their uniqueness, rather than just being on a race-to-the-bottom Amazon styled listing format.

Motors Tyre Label for EU Requirement

If you’re listing tyres on eBay UK, you’ll be required to display tyre performance information in lists for tyres manufactured on or after the 1st of July 2012.

Later this season we’ll be seeing eBay enforcing these requirements by making the item specifics compulsory when listing these products on eBay.

eBay Tyre Label Requirements

Customised Item Condition for Non New Items

This is a sweet update if you sell used or refurbished goods, as you’ll be able to add and explain any extra details about the condition of non-new items listed on eBay with a text area, which is going to support around a whopping 1000 characters.

eBay item Condition Note for Non New Items

As eBay are going to be making this custom message more apparent to buyers, they’re suggesting to remove any notes you have on the condition of a product to this field, however we all know what buyers are like and I strongly suggest you put the items condition description in the new field AND in the description area.

Featured First is GONE!

The two stunners in this update, I have saved for last. You better hold on as I was shell-shocked when I found out about this.

eBay’s highest ticket feature upgrade is going in September 2012.

For those who have not heard or used “Featured First”, for £44.95 a week or £134.95 a month, you were (were almost being the right tense) able to promote your items are the very top of the eBay search for matching keywords and thus items with featured first on them would generally make a lot more transactions than a listing without this feature upgrade.

The ability to add such a feature has pretty much always been on the eBay I have known from the days when there was such a thing as homepage featured, to today where featured first is still available.

The playing field is going to be levelled.

I know a large number of businesses that use eBay’s featured first to accelerate the performance of newly listed products. Products that are both new to eBay and new to the sellers and without this boost of activity, the length of time needed for such products to gain traction is going to be significant.

But it’s retired and that is going to be putting a hell of a lot of weight on to getting eBay’s best match working for your eBay listings and while I can see why I can see this as being a good update for buyers, like many of the updates we’ve been through above, this update is scary for sellers as you’re unable to essentially pay to be featured and now the playing field is going to be levelled.

What do you think about Feature First going? Let me know in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

Upgraded eBay International Selling

This isn’t just one update, this is a combination of updates that are going to make selling internationally more easier & more cost effective and there is an epic feature being lined up for 2013.

Postage Prices Per Country
The first part is to allow eBay UK businesses to specify postage costs per country, this feature alone I know many businesses to have been crying out for.

There is always the odd little island like Malta that breaks all the rules for despatch costs and grouping Europe up into one option hasn’t helped with the price differences for couriers across Europe, this part of the update solves this pain and as you can see in the image below, you can now add postage rates per country!

eBay Postage Prices Per Country

Listing Exposure & Translations
The second part of the international selling updates is the change for international buyers to only see listings from eBay.co.uk, eBay.com, eBay.com.au and eBay.ca that will post to their country.

Also to help buyers with translations of product descriptions, eBay will also be including translate button using “Translate” to swap languages to the buyers native language.

New Single Monthly XXL Subscription
The third part of the update for international selling is that eBay are releasing a new single monthly store subscription to allow a single eBay trading ID to listing internationally for one monthly fee.

eBay goes XXL, fries with that sir?

You will be able to list to all the eBay European sites and eBay.com.au at no extra cost for the same price of an anchor eBay UK store subscription at £349.99.

By my reckoning, this is the following EU sites for free:

  • eBay Australia
  • eBay Austria
  • eBay Belgium (French & Dutch)
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • And of course the UK

Note: See the global list of eBay sites here.

The XXL subscription will give you the following:

  • Zero insertion fees for 30-day and Good ‘Til Cancelled fixed price listings on domestic, European and Australian sites
  • $0.03 insertion fee for 30-day and Good ‘Til Cancelled fixed price listings on eBay.com.
  • Final value fees charged according to the site that you list the item on. (You’ll also be charged relevant feature fees.)

And get this, this is in preparation for 2013, eBay are going to be allowing you to create eBay Shop for each site you list on.

I can see some third party software tools falling over with ability to support so many sites, both technically (as that is one complicated inventory structure when you account for ~14 eBay sites) and also instructing how users can leverage so many sites at the same time through a single eBay account and software backend.

I’m also not sure how eBay’s own tools are going to cope with this either, does that really mean you would need to log into ~14 sites to collect sales off each of them or is the backend of eBay going to change to facilitate this somehow.

An eBay account manager had given them an anchor store to help with their “international visibility”.

About 2 months ago, a Bristol based company I spotted had a anchor eBay store. It didn’t make sense as that’s £350 and they had around 200 listings. The threshold is exactly 6,000 listings to warrant am anchor store.

After an email or two, it was revealed that an eBay account manager had given them an anchor store to help with their international visibility. As I had pointed out at the time, that was pointless as it made no difference. Now the logic makes sense, it did not then and the account manager was a little eager maybe? After this update, it will do.

There are a lot of questions unanswered on this topic for the next update in 2013. but £349.99 for listing to so many sites, if you can get around the data requirements, then this could be lethal for the larger businesses on eBay right now.

Autumn 2012 Updates Summary

The Autumn updates are jam-packed with some super updates for both buyers and sellers alike, but I cannot believe “Featured First” is going from eBay UK.

The importance of having “quality” listings has and will never have been so great.

This is going to make it soooo hard for some businesses that use this to expedite sales of products that are new to them, new to eBay or need the competitive advantage against long standing listings that have become welded to the top of search.

The importance of having “quality” listings has and will never have been so great when this update goes live, we have new gallery image sizes, variation listing updates that will need you to work hard to make them become sticky in the search results.

We can work as a community to tackle the scum

Finally we can work as a community to tackle the scum that have been causing us so much trouble with fake loses and abusing the feedback system to their advantage. Even in eBay terms they’re calling them “Bad Buyers”, “problem buyers” might have been less harsh, but either way I as you don’t mind, that is IF eBay deliver on this one and carry through the reports we make as a community.

What do you make of the ability to report buyers, is it enough, do you see it working in the long term? The comments box is below, let me know.

Also where buyers are concerned, they’re being stopped from creating cases where they have not contacted the seller previously and then the seller is given 8 days to respond and deal with the query effectively before they can escalate the case to eBay, that is certainly another welcomed change.

eBay variations and Pricing Updated

The annoying bug with variations is being fixed, so we can see the range of prices and we’re seeing the long awaited introduction of swatch images to variations and the gallery images as a whole will be increased too.

The entire shopping experience for buyers will be better on eBay this Christmas with a easier list of items to view and also clearer messaging for businesses that use expedited delivery options with the inclusion of the “Fast’n’Free” logo appearing on listings that meet the 3 days or less delivery window.

Getting your products into Google Shopping results by including the EAN or identifier is now a requirement and also don’t forget the tip earlier about using MPN to include the manufacturers part number to also help in Google searches.

Did I mention that I cannot believe Featured First is going? Still not over that one, are you?

The link between external email applications so that your My Messages section is now updated when you reply to messages outside of eBay using the respond button is going to help you if you’re using a mixture of the my messages section and email, before you could only really use one without shouting across the office to see which ones were answered.

Besides the above and featured first going, the next largest part of this update is around international selling. No surprise really as it’s been pushed hard over the past few months and finally now we have some tools at our disposal that we can leverage to take advantage of the changes.

A Single fee for all the eBay EU sites AND eBay Australia

I did not expect to seeing that the eBay stores are going to be unified, this was a suggestion we made over a year or more ago, I guess they listen after all. I also did not expect that we would be seeing a one fee to list everywhere and in the detail above, that’s 14 eBay sites by my maths, but the devil will be in the detail and we’ll know fully as more communications from eBay surface on this.

With a single fee for all the eBay EU sites and eBay Australia, the Australian’s are going to be well pissed off with this update. As far as I can see, if you want to expand your UK business, why bother with translation’s, just open up eBay.com.au, its far more easier.

We must not forget that this update also includes $0.03 listing fees for the core eBay.com site as well and I am very curious what is going to happen with the unified eBay shops, even with sub shops as well when it comes to the eBay USA site and listing insertions.

“All in All” an excellent update, no fee increases are always welcomed.

“All in All” an excellent update, no fee increases are always welcomed and we’ve also scored with value back from eBay with the single store subscription fee. For those of you with anchor store subscriptions, it was am exact threshold of 6,000 listings over the period of a month to warrant having an eBay shop.

Now over to you, what do you make of the updates and how do you feel they are going to impact your business over Christmas?

Let me know in the comments box below.

 

PS…

If the above was the most comprehensive guide you have ever seen to an update by eBay ever, I believe you need consider registering for access to the free forums where we work together with any questions you may have about this or any other eCommerce related subject.

The Amazon Buy Box – You know the Secret Formula Right?

 

If you’ve not read this article before, then you’re in for a treat as the Amazon Buy Box pretty much obey’s the formula and has been proven to do so time and time again.Amazon UK

If you’re new to Amazon, then in short the holy grail of Amazon is the blue buy box and if you’ve not come across the buy box before, you cannot miss it, it’s blue and on the right-hand side of almost every product on Amazon.

Hey, they’re infectious! There is one over to the right :)

When there is only a single seller fighting for the buy box, there can only be one winner, but when there are two or more sellers, then assuming that everything is even, you can win the Amazon Buy Box with the formula in this article.

The Amazon Buy Box Factors

However there is a but… This assumes that everything is equal and we know that nothing is ever a level playing field, especially when it comes to marketplaces and Amazon, well is not always even either (see this article Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent? for further reading).

There are many factors that influence who gets the buy box on Amazon and ChannelAdvisor points out the obvious in their help file,  as a reference, I have put an amended table below.

Factor What Amazon is Considering Winning Practices
Featured Merchant Status How trustworthy you are based upon account history. Being noticed by the Amazon account managers.As ChannelAdvisor suggest, it doesn’t hurt to ask Amazon support about your “Featured Merchant Status”
Price What is your product price? What is your shipping charge? Low total price, including product price and shipping
Availability How many do you have in stock? How quickly can you ship? Quick and consistent fulfillment
Volume Do you sell many of this product? Consistency
Refunds How often do you issue a refund for seller error? Low refund rate
Customer Feedback How do customers rate your service? Low negative feedback ratings
Customer Support How quickly you deal with customer queries Answering in less than 24 hours, 7 days a week (yes that’s weekends included)
A-to-z Guarantee Claims How often do you get returns? Low A-to-z claims

A Special Note on FBA

But that’s not all, because we have not included the “motherload” which is “Fulfilment By Amazon” AKA “FBA”.

FBA means that the seller has one or more of their products in Amazon’s fulfilment centres and because Amazon has it, have verified it’s condition and knows it can get the product out to its Amazon Prime subscribers, then it promotes FBA held items heavily against seller fulfilled items and routinely it’s going to take a hefty price difference to shake FBA products out of the buy box, or is it?

The Amazon Buy Box Rule?

If you have had a slap from Amazon, whether that’s an account warning or a suspension and very worryingly even if it was not your fault and a mistake on Amazon’s part (we have this documented in a support email back from Amazon) then this can count against you if everything is even.

But course your business exceeds in every area on Amazon, you are the perfect seller, well second to Amazon that is, so for the following to work, we’re assuming that everything is level.

So to the “Amazon Buy Box Formula”:

(Lowest Selling Price – 2.7%)

– £0.01
= The Buy Box, For Longer

By taking away 2.7% off the lowest selling price (including postage) and an extra penny, you receive the Amazon buy box for much, much longer.

It took me ages to work this out, testing, refreshing over many days it’s this worked out to be the lowest % and value I could get trigger the buy box and for it to stick.

The minus one penny is in the formula for the lower priced goods in the sub £20 area, it always seemed to take that extra penny to kick the box into action.

There are a few clauses, on the accounts I tested this out on, they were ALL of a great standing with Amazon, no major issues and all had long track records of great service. The other is none of these accounts were using FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon). FBA is a lethal advantage as I mentioned above, to shake FBA items takes a little bit more.

Also none of the products that were tested on were over £50, I am sure there is alterations in the trigger for the buy box, the percentage is likely to be a lot less than 2.7% at these levels.

Your Feedback

I would like for you to try this on ONE product for ONE day and let us know your results.

I know that several of the readers here have used this formula to great success over the past year since I first published this article, what I’d for you to do is try it for yourself for a day and let me know your results here by leaving me a comment below.

Alternatively if you have been using it, let us know your feedback as the formula does move around in different categories and price brackets, again let me know in the comments box and of course if we lost you anywhere in this article, don’t hesitate to ask in the forums.

Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?

For new or smaller businesses, this entire article is going to fly straight over your head, however for larger businesses and for me personally, its a question that has been bothering me for quite some time now. Months apparently.

That question is:

Why do sales through a specific sales channel, tend to stay consistent?

In this article I address this question and it wasn’t until I asked for help, that the real answers came through. It’s also raised further questions, such as how do you deal with this, what options do you have and how can you tackle this with your business model. I actually feel I am now left with more taxing questions than I originally started with.

This really is the upper extremity that I am considering here, if your business is new or is not optimised using any of the 3 rules I cover in a moment, then you should not even concern yourself with this article at all. However, if you’re hitting “limits” on different sales channels, then you really need to read this.

Why this Question?

For a number of years now, I’ve seen merchants selling on multiple platforms hitting a limit of what can be done with a marketplace. For example, businesses that are in a specific niche, their sales will rarely go above or below a 20% window on a daily basis.

There may be “spikes” in sales on a daily basis and seasonality does have a positive effect on most businesses. But overall, most businesses stay consistent.

To understand why I’d be asking myself this question in the first place, I have been working on a set of 3 rules as the basis of expansion/profitability, they also spell “ESI” or are pronounced as “easy!”, which is the ultimate goal of where I am going with these and there is a fourth part that I discuss later in this article. Anyway, the for now these three rules are:

  1. Efficiency
    Both internal & external. Internal is everything your customer does not see, like tools, processes etc… and external is everything your customer does see, branding, the application of persona’s etc..
  2. Sales Channels
    By adding more of them or refocusing on a specific channel to “catch up” with others or to break into a new or refocus upon a competitive advantage.
  3. Inventory
    Either wider or deeper inventory. Range selling, new product verticals (widening the current range) or deeper inventory (thus better price points & supplier relationships)

However, it’s common for a merchant to hit a “limit” on a specific marketplace like eBay or Amazon and I was not happy that “operational efficiencies” were the cause. I know first-hand after spending a few months helping one specific company on-the-ground overcome these and was not happy with the standard reply to such a question. There had to be another reason.

Another aspect has concerned me greatly; what if a client I am working with is actually at 95% efficiency of a channel, what really are the options and what can I do to help them overcome this inherent boundary?

Asking for Help

There was only one person that I knew that could possibly hold the answer or even comprehend what I was referring to in the question. This person was perfect for a number of reasons, the first that he has been in this arena longer than I have, seen more merchants than myself on the differing marketplaces and critically seen the sales data to back this up. That person was Marshall Smith from ChannelAdvisor.

Here is the first email, that I sent over to Marshall. Noting that I have been bothered by this for months. In a conversation on Monday of this week, it was pointed out I had been asking the participant the same question in January.

Hi Marshall,

Here is a question, that I think only you can answer.

Its a question that has been bothering me for quite some time, “Why do eBay sellers sales stay consistent?”

To be more precise, I have noticed that specific sellers sales, never move out of say a 20% window, for example seller X has a average sales of £10,000, the daily fluctuations mean that their sales will never (or rarely do) move outside of 2K below and 2K above.

Surely there are too many factors for a business to consistently land in the same “window” of sales every single day. I understand why this maybe engineered to happen, but that raises more questions that it answers as the most obvious one is “how to you break or work this limitation?”

Have you seen this also?

The first reply is below, it clearly shows that Marshall understands the common issues that occur and why I was right to ask him in the first place.

Matthew –

When I see that situation it’s the same as a regular retail business that’s hit a certain volume and ceiling in their current business practices, so that growth is just not an option for them as they’re trying to run things. They might have a software solution that’s put a ceiling on how much they can get done because it’s not as efficient as they need and a lot of time is spent managing the technology.

They might be short on people (or have chosen to stay at a certain size) and they’re doing all they can every day so there’s no room to grow. Even more common is that people get comfortable and aren’t looking for a change – look at all of the people that have complained about eBay’s changes in the last few years rather than embracing them and recognizing that being ahead of the curve means they’ll pick up the business their competitors lose. There have been plenty that are willing to do that, but even more that had gotten comfortable and just want to keep doing what they’ve always been doing.

One of the things that I’ve found hardest over the years when trying to explain the value that we provide to users is getting them to value their own time. Many times there’s a sole proprietorship that’s been running things using something like Turbo Lister and spending hours and hours every day just to manage their sales. They see it as “free” but aren’t accounting for how much time it costs them to manage that information. Even if they just stay on eBay, coming over to us is going to save them time that they can use to grow their business or go do some other leisure activity instead.

If we just cut the amount of work they’re doing from 6 hours to 3 hours every day (and we’re usually a lot better than that) then we’ve saved them 60-90 hours every month. For that fee that we charge, broken out on a per-hour basis, they’d be hard pressed to get someone that could handle that amount of information and that level of capability to guarantee their business keeps running the same as it’s always been for that amount.

They free up their time to expand their business or focus on customer service, areas that usually didn’t get handled nearly as well before. Yet, they see it as a “cost” because they weren’t calculating the value of their time that they were spending inefficiently to run the business before.

So many of those people have gotten trapped in a pattern where they have something that’s working that they don’t want to change because they fear change or don’t think they have any cash to invest into the business. Most of the time those types of sellers never even get to the level that we’re going to be dealing with them as they fall out of the sales cycle for one reason or another.

If they’re a serious business and want to grow then there are things we can do for them, but if they haven’t figured out the business cycle and a mid to long range plan to grow then we’re going to be big and scary to them.

We’ve had people tell us we made changes to their business that took 8-10 hours of daily work down to just 1 hour a day. Then they finally had the opportunity to grow their business, source more product, expand product lines, hire more employees, and finally get growth back into their business.

Marshall

Note: I understand that the above is quite a lot for most of you to take in, what this question did in short was highlight that Marshall was the right person to ask. We both [Marshal & I] had reservations that some of you may just not “get this” at all. If this is the case, then the rest of this article is probably a waste of your time.

Redefining the Question

Ignoring that Marshall has created a dozen articles worth in that reply alone, lost about 90% of the people that may read this [Stay! This really does hit gold shortly], it clearly showed that he was the right person to ask.

However I needed to redefine it, we had missed the goal I was looking for. And trust me, we hit it the jackpot in his reply to the following:

Howdy Marshall,

Ah it shows that you understand!

Now remove the users and the software as variables or imagine they’re 90% efficiency.

Why do their sales stay within a 20% window all the time? No major fluctuations, yea some days less, some days more, but never outside of their “boundary”.

Take Amazon sellers, they get the buy box, the sales flood in, its price dependant for sales volume (ignoring lots of other stuff), eBay its different, there is some form of cap or barrier in place??

Jackpot

Now this is where we hit the jackpot and I strongly suggest you read this at least twice as it’s that important:

There’s no buy box in the eBay experience, so you’re subject to the whims of what people are buying at any given point. At a very macro economic level, the demand for most items is pretty consistent and follows a standard pattern.

People replace their shoes on a certain cycle. At a macro version of the economy, there are always X% of people that are shopping for shoes. That keeps the demand at a pretty consistent stream. Then when there’s not something adjusting the demand direction like the Buy Box, then the sellers are exposed at about the same rate that they always are, causing the sales to be within a reasonable statistical level of average.

To parallel to another environment, think of the casino – any individual user might win or lose on the smaller scale, but at the big picture of all of the people playing all of the games the house knows what their rate is going to be and how much they’re going to make as a percentage of the overall bets. That house advantage is the macro version you’re seeing among these sellers where the growth pattern is to:

* improve their placement in the exposure to capture a larger proportion of the regular buyers (Buy Box)
* expand their product line to make the universe of potential buyers for them to be a larger group
* expand the distribution channels to open up the existing product to a larger overall audience

Since you can’t (really) get the Buy Box on eBay (eTRS and Best Match only goes so far) then really the only way to grow is to expand the product line or do additional stuff off-eBay.

A lot of people get comfortable with their products and what they know of eBay, so they don’t change any of these things and grow up to the point that they’ve captured “their share” and then are stagnant from that point forward.

That was okay in the past when eBay was growing at such a clip that people were seeing 20-30% annual increases because they were just riding on the coattails of eBay growth, but when that slowed down they weren’t ready and just got frustrated and confused.

When they pay attention to the types of things we both talk about, that’s when they’re able to address one or more of these points and expand their business again instead of being stuck on a plateau.

Marshall

Kipper Slap

What Marshall had highlighted were the following:

  1. There is a pretty much consistent demand for some product ranges, like shoes.
  2. With all factors being equal, sellers are exposed to buyers at a consistent rate
  3. There is only so-much you can do in a single marketplace
  4. There is only so-much you can do with a specific product range
  5. If you just tread-water, then you’re not going to see the high increases that you used to see, as eBay’s growth rate has slowed down

You cannot imagine the gravity of these 5 points were to me. I had been pondering over this for several months and in this one reply, which was comparable to being hit in the face with a kipper. It all became clear. It’s also raised bucket loads of other questions, but it was finally answered.

What Does this Now Mean?

In short, as Marshall puts it so aptly, “You can no longer ride the coattails of eBay for growth”. This also extends to every other marketplace there is as well. There is an inherent cap to the number of people looking for a specific product on a specific day on a specific marketplace.

Yes, globally this number may be a huge, however on a macro level each and every marketplace, the number of customers you can reach and convert is limited.

The E, the S, the I and the?

In the 3 rules of ESI, I give equal value to each of rules, that is, that efficiency carries a weighting of one, the same as sales channels and inventory. However within each of these, the weighting is not equal and it’s the combination of them that equate to something higher than just 3.

However, if just one is exceptionally poorer than the rest, then that heavily out weighs the others. In simple terms (I like to use metaphors, get used to them, there are more) its like a Ferrari with elephant as a passenger and coal as the fuel, you got some of the right gear, but you ain’t going anywhere.

If you’ve got a great listing template and no inventory, if you’ve got a world class backend system, but no sales channels, if you’ve got masses of inventory and a limited backend tool and only a single marketplace. You’re not going to get very far and there is no way you’ll ever hit the boundaries that we’ve been discussing in this article.

This is why its absolutely critical to your business that you pick the right tools for the job, because without them you’re not going very far and with them all in harmony, you’ll outpace “The Stig“.

I hinted earlier that I am working on a fourth part to the ESI structure, this is one is special, because this one is a multiplier. While the others cumulatively have a positive effect, this one is ultra special because with this one executed currently multiplies the gains of the first three.

The multiplier is “Why”. Why are you doing what you are doing and what guides you to what you are doing. A business with no drive is pretty much only ever going to tread water, however, if you lob in the magic of a say a CEO like Steve Jobs that will ensure that a company will succeed huge personal cost, then this is a multiplier.

My equation (again I am trying to keep this as a simple as possible) looks like this:

Results = (Efficiency +  Sales Channels + Inventory) x The “Why” Factor

As you can see, even if the sum of the E, S & I are low, if you say have someone or a purpose to add in a “Why Factor” then all these are multiplied and that is why I believe that most small businesses that stick longer than a year, have this very special ingredient.

Determination and grit are absolutely required and its these kind of factors that multiply the results. I am reminded over a conversation in a meeting a few months back, where it was blatantly obvious that my role in the conversation was to highlight that what they lacked for, did not matter. What did, was that they had the determination to make it happen, “The Why Factor” and I think you might have already guessed it, they are winning.

Conclusion

A stark summary of this entire article, is that there is a limit to what you can do on a single marketplace.

The inherent cap, does not impact all business models, if you’re business is subject to multiple customer bases (eg. B2C & B2B) and/or irregular stock levels, then this cap is going to yo-yo and give inconsistent sales on a frequent basis, by its very nature. However if your business is homed-in on a specific niche then if you’re not at this wall yet, then you will be soon (or later).

I’d like to extend a public thank you you Marshall from ChannelAdvisor. It was not my intention to use his replies in this article, but as I started working on it over the course of over a week or so, it became apparent that without his replies, the story of arriving at the final answer, would fall far short without its inclusion. Thank you.

Image Source

How to Make Your Own eBay Daily Deals & Weekly Deals

This is a precursor to the full article on how to leverage eBay shop tags which I may finally complete for tomorrow (ok, may be Monday). However this is the most immediate application for your eBay shop and can be implemented in minutes. Plus I’m including code for you to copy/paste with! 73MAR2VX5JRS

What are eBay Shop Tags?

Before we start, you need to quickly learn that there are special tags, or keywords that can be used in the eBay shops. These tags that allow you to dynamically show your listings and other data on your eBay shop. I’ll be covering these fully in an article I’ll be releasing shortly, that describes each of them and includes a practical example of each.

The eBay Shop Tag – eBayStoresItemShowcase

Example ItemIn a few moments we’re going to be leveraging the eBay shop tag eBayStoresItemShowcase and using the attribute called ITEM to specify an eBay item ID to then bring this through on to our eBay shop.

This tag (or keyword) has several other attributes, I cover these in more depth later in the full article, but for now, rest assured you can have more control than this.

Create a Custom eBay Shop Page

For this to work, we need to create a custom eBay shop page, as long as you have an eBay shop, you can do this as the basic eBay shop has 5 pages included.

  1. Go to eBay and Sign in
  2. Go here: http://my.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?MyeBay&CurrentPage=MyeBayManageStore
  3. On the left click on ‘Custom Pages’ (or go here)
  4. Now under ‘Active Pages’, hit ‘Create new page’ (its a little hidden, keep looking)
  5. Now there are a couple of formats, but we want the most control so go for the bottom one called ‘1 text Section/HTML’ along the bottom and hit continue
  6. Enter a Page Title. I suggest ‘Home’
  7. You now have a big text section, the HTML for this will follow in a few moments
  8. You can elect to show or hide the left bar at the bottom, this is a choice I’ll leave for you (leave it shown!!!!).
  9. On the next page, after pasting the HTML verify its as expected and hit save and publish

Notes: You may have already noticed that some of these templates include featured items, that’s really nice for simple users, I’ll be giving you some HTML in a moment that you can edit to your own liking and have maximum control.

If you would like this for your homepage, there is one extra step to do this, go back to the eBay shop custom pages page here and near the bottom there is a section called ‘ Shop Homepage’ and a drop-down box, you can use this to set the shops homepage. This is how people create custom pages and create some those superb landing pages you see.

Grab 6 Item Numbers

We’re going for the maximum control option, which is specifying the item numbers that are to be shown in our daily and weekly deals section. There are other options, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to be wanting to specify exact items.

We need 6 numbers, 2 are going to be our daily deals, the other four are going to be our weekly deals. So before we can do this, lets go and grab six items. If you do not know what item numbers are you can find these by looking at your listings, using this listing as an example.

I have put an arrow next to the eBay item number.

ebay-shops-item-number-1

Where you can find the eBay item Number of a Listing

The Keyword

We’re using two keywords, on that has two items specified for the daily deals and one that has four item numbers set for the weekly deals. In this example I’ve also set the attribute BACKFILL to on, so at least if you forget to update the listing or it ends, eBay will back fill for you.

Daily Deals Keyword:

{eBayStoresItemShowcase ITEM=”ItemNumber1,ItemNumber2″ DISPLAY=”1″ BACKFILL=”On”}

Weekly Deals Keyword:

{eBayStoresItemShowcase ITEM=”ItemNumber3,ItemNumber4,ItemNumber5,ItemNumber6″ DISPLAY=”1″ BACKFILL=”On”}

The HTML

Now this is clearly not going to be a one size fits all, but it’ll get you on the right track. It is s a single column format that has titles, descriptions and the eBay shop tags in and will point you in a the right direction.

I’ve added some comment tags to guide you to which sections you can edit and also remember to replace ItemNumber1, ItemNumber2, ItemNumber3, ItemNumber4, ItemNumber5, ItemNumber6 with the eBay item numbers you harvested before.

Code:

Our Daily Deals
Welcome to ebay shop XYZ we have two amaizing deals for you, these are Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam et rutrum lorem. Morbi eget mauris enim, ac interdum lacus. In non interdum est. Nulla facilisi. Donec vel nibh ac purus faucibus volutpat. Praesent nec neque dolor. Aliquam id lectus sit amet augue aliquam accumsan. Morbi lobortis eros lacinia erat facilisis suscipit. Donec eu urna nec elit vestibulum ornare ut ultrices arcu. Donec in nibh ante.
{eBayStoresItemShowcase ITEM="ItemNumber1,ItemNumber2" DISPLAY="1" BACKFILL="On"}
 
Our Weekly Deals
Take advanatge of our amazing weekly deals, thee only last for one week Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam et rutrum lorem. Morbi eget mauris enim, ac interdum lacus. In non interdum est. Nulla facilisi. Donec vel nibh ac purus faucibus volutpat. Praesent nec neque dolor. Aliquam id lectus sit amet augue aliquam accumsan. Morbi lobortis eros lacinia erat facilisis suscipit. Donec eu urna nec elit vestibulum ornare ut ultrices arcu. Donec in nibh ante.
{eBayStoresItemShowcase ITEM="ItemNumber3,ItemNumber4,ItemNumber5,ItemNumber6" DISPLAY="1" BACKFILL="On"}

Real Life Example

This is the example code live on eBay, as you can see, it only needs the descriptions and you’re ready to roll!

ebay-shops-daily-deals-example

The Example Code Output with Live eBay Items

Easy-Peasy

You’ve now got the keywords, the HTML and the instructions. Easy-Peasy. Enjoy.

The WOM Factor – Why ALL eBay Sellers are Not Equal

the-wom-factor-chalkboard

The Word of Mouth Factor

I’ve answered too many eBay’er questions over the years, its probably why I have such a tainted view on specifically eBay buyers, my personal ‘resounding’ conclusion is that they’re scared and really scared at that, almost to the point of paranoia.

In the next few minutes, we’ll be looking at the different types of buyers and a new system of gauging sellers, not feedback, but a derivative of feedback, which gives a clearer overall picture of the seller in proportion to their customers views and perception of the business. I’m calling this the WOM factor.

Multi-Channel

For multi-channel businesses, they’ll know that there are three different breads of customer and they vary enormously. These are:

#1 The Website Buyer

Website customers are the most relaxed of them all, you’ve woo’ed them with your marketing and reassured them with your subliminal security and reassurance factors. They’ll be happy with a couple of days shipping time and normal have already answered their questions before even buying from you.

#2 The Amazon Buyer

Its extremely rare to receive a question from a Amazon buyer and if you do its 99.9999999999999999999999999% of the time related to shipping or a broken item. Besides that, they’re quiet as a mouse.

#3 The Psycho eBay Buyer

I feel sorry most of all not for the sellers on eBay, but for the buyers. Mentally unhinged, these buyers are the stuff of customer services nightmares, they’re scatty and nuts, they’re lunatics and time wasters. But most of all they’re just scared.

They’re scared of being ripped off, they’re scared you’re going to steal their money and emigrate to Nigeria and then sell all their personal details to a chap in a mud hut who will spawn 10 versions of themselves as the victim.

Harsh, but that’s the kind of metal thought patterns that go through these paranoid buyers heads

Word of Mouth

This isn’t a new concept, infact its a very well documented concept, in short it simply says, that for a good experience a customer will tell two people and for a negative experience, they’ll tell 10 people.

Loss & Reward

This also sits well with the experiences of reward and loss. If I take your pet cat called “puddles” away from you right now, never to be given back, the sense of loss you will feel will be immense; However if I give you back a kitten called “Spot”, you’ll learn to love the little ball of fluff, but it will never replace puddles, who’s loss carries a far far greater sense of loss, than any gain can give.

Also word of mouth is extremely strong, companies are scared of the extremes that can occur with terms being coined such as ‘Brand Terrorists’, those customers that have been so pissed off by a business or brand, there is no stopping them ram-raiding the company or brand at any opportunity.

Inversely, when tribes are formed (Seth Godin’s input here)  “Brand Sponsors” are created, those people that are just nuts for a product or service, the most immediate example I can think of are Apple fans. I’m an Apple product fan, but I’m to the level of what I would call excessive, that some of these Apple nut-mini-Steve-Jobs are.

Using “Word of Mouth” to Measure eBay Seller’s

Its not hard to see why either, if we use the rule of that one positive comment will create 2 positive word of mouth reviews and a negative or neutral comment -10 word of mouth reviews, then its not hard to do the maths on a random selection of sellers and understand that eBay’s growth is actually tainted by its underlying feedback system and also that all sellers are not actually equal.

The DATA – Random Sellers Feedback

These were taken completely at random, I picked four categories and picked a couple of sellers for each category from the top of the list (yes I’m aware this is weighted by the best match algorithm) and included their feedback for the past 12 months and neutrals are counted as negatives.

I have not included revised feedback, I could not decide whether these were positive or negative events, so have elected to ignore them completely. If I was forced to add them, I would class them as a negative event, as it was not a “perfect” transaction, perhaps I should look at this again in a few weeks and maybe I’ll attribute a +3 or +4 to these, but for now, I’m not sure.

PS: What do you think? Post in the comments below!

Random eBay Sellers Feedback Scores

ID Positive Negative +Points -Points WOM Factor
jpe_enterprises 189 2 378 20 5.29
loco_gadgets 378 1 756 10 1.32
benthamltd 80791 1008 161582 10080 6.24
argos 259217 6181 518434 61810 11.92
xia090729 561 7 1122 70 6.24
glamorousoutlet 22585 530 45170 5300 11.73
bench_outlet 40274 530 80548 5300 6.58
bessy0302 2960 12 5920 120 2.03
online4babyltd 55870 614 111740 6140 5.49
babzeeonline 19549 217 39098 2170 5.55
tennis-deals-2008 4221 24 8442 240 2.84
poshtotz-store 5337 34 10674 340 3.19
little-devils-direct 773 10 1546 100 6.47
flyingplaneman 4765 68 9530 680 7.14
kmsdirectshops 14069 198 28138 1980 7.04
aqua_spot 894 7 1788 70 3.91
Totals 512433 9443 1024866 94430

Understanding the Data

I’m quickly adding that several of these sellers actually had either 100% or 99.9% feedback scores, this is only one factor that I am indicating in this article. While the vast majority of these sellers are above 99.0% feedback, Argos stands out for two reasons:

  1. They have a feedback score of 98.7, the lowest of the group
  2. They have the worst ratio 11.92% of WOMF

The second, is on face value an OK seller, they have a score of 99.1% currently, which is good enough and almost all retail stores in the physical world, would probably never be able to achieve this.

Glamorousoutlet are turning over a decent amount of items, with 22,585 feedback in the last year, this is probably around +32,000 orders, however they have incurred 530 negatives, or using the WOM Factor a negative score of 5300, giving them a WOM of 11.73 which when you look at Argos with their 98.4% feedback, is actually worse in proportion!

How to Calculate the WOM Factor

Calculating this is easy, you take your positive feedback for a set period of time and times it by 2, then you take the negative and neutral comments and times them by 10. Then divide the negatives by the positives and times by 100 to gain a more friendly number. In short the lower the better.

The-WOM-Factor

How to Calculate "The WOM Factor"

 

What Customers Really Think

Being able to gauge what your customers truly think of your business is stuff of marketeers wet-dreams. This new factor, I’m coining as the “WOM Factor” can be one tool in your arsenal to accurately gauge what your customers actually think of you.

To give you a measurable and a new dimension on what is just raw numbers. The WOM Factor gives you an indication of what is the actual effects and general response of your business on the outside world.

I wonder what the WOM Factor for Microsoft is?
I wonder what the WOM Factor of Apple is?
I wonder what the WOM Factor for the entire eco-system of eBay is?

Whats Your WOM Factor?

This leads to the pivotal question, whats your WOM Factor?

How to: SEO for eBay – 10 Minutes Per Day

Just because you pay eBay a fee for your eBay shop, insertion of a listing and a final value fee when items sell, unfortunately this does not mean that eBay unleash a team of experts to promote your business.

In many ways you’re left to your own devices and as long as you convert buyers now and then, it kind of keeps everyone relatively happy. But why should you be happy with mediocre?

chocolate-cake

I'd like to eat the entire cake, but I can only take one slice at a time

Cumulative effect

Once you’re in the game (see my earlier post on “getting in the game“) its only a matter of “practice to make perfect” and it does not need to consume hours each day. Just a few minutes here and there and the combination of lots of little things, make one monster!

Take this article for example, I conceived this while eating lunch on the back of a napkin, nothing major, a few notes, then prepared the layout, back filled it and this morning added some images and annotations. It is putting everything together, the idea, the notes, the layout, the back filling, the visual candy. The cumulative effect of this is the final product, this article.

Breaking it down

I was once asked this question:

How do you eat an elephant?

I paused for a few moments and honestly thought *k, that is a an enormous beast, I’m going to need a slab of garlic butter to go with that steak. While day dreaming on it for a few seconds, I was given then answer:

With a spoon

Yep a spoon. I got the point instantly. I’m hoping you do too.

elephant-car

See even elephants need spoonful sized mouthfulls too. Yummy. (Look at the people in the car, the dent on the roof and I'm pretty sure he's got his pinkie out too, rofl)

Only 10 minutes, set the calendar right NOW

Before you continue with this article, open outlook, Google calendar or write on your diary for the next two weeks, a 10 minute block at the same time each day, to look at and make these changes.

If you drink tea or coffee, all we’re saying is that we are going to have a quick 10 minute break, with a cuppa at a set time each day. With this done, lets dive in.

The areas of eBay to focus upon

We’re going to focus on a few key areas and then make the tasks really simple to do. These areas are:

  1. Research
  2. Listings
  3. The eBay Shop
  4. Reviews & Guides
  5. Outside of eBay

Research

If you are just starting the ball rolling, your first few mini sessions should be focusing upon looking at your competitors and understanding how they are better than you and how you can learn from this to ultimately sell more.

Firstly we need to identify who the real competitors are, do not use gut-feel for this, use facts. Go to Terapeak/ and sign up for the ‘advantage’ account, its $25 or £16, it’ll be the best £16 you have ever spent.

Searching by category and keyword searches to find the real competitors, compile these into an excel list based upon value of turn over and make a point of reviewing each of these, noting the points you like about them and equally the points you dislike.

Oh and do not forget eBay Pulse, somewhat limited, but can help with identifying top keywords and top sellers.

Once you have found your list of true competitors, check this list once per week to see how they are doing. Then once per month, go back and review the list and see if any new competitors have arrived and track those too.

I know companies that know more about their competitors than they do about themselves. A healthy paranoia is good, although some to border on excessive.

eBay Listings

To focus on this effectively, we are going to break this down into further sections, these are:

  1. Listing Titles
  2. Listing Descriptions
  3. Additional Text

Listing Titles

Even the most seasoned sellers can improve their titles, using the research in part one, you should already know top keywords for your categories. If you only do 20 titles in the 10 minute session, in a week you would have done 100, two weeks, 200 and in a month, a staggering 800 titles. Get started now!!!!

Listing Descriptions

I’m pretty sure every single description every written could be improved in some way. Again do not panic, we’re not after the entire elephant, we’re just after a tasty spoon full. You may have already learned through research that others may be creating clearer, more friendly descriptions that what you have.

One by one, with some time. That’s all it takes.

Additional Text

I’ve added this as an extra section, because we’ve covered the main two sections, title and description, however what about the rest of the auction contents?

I’ll give you some idea on the degree of scale I was recently given from a client, there had two lines, totalling no more than than 40 words for the description. The other 1454 words were terms and conditions and other useless scary junk.

Make all other content so simple, you’re mother could read it with her glasses off. Shipping, simple, terms, simple, anything else, simple. Customers are paranoid creatures, do not scare them. Caress them with nice information. Kinda like I am doing to you now :D

The eBay Shop

Again, this needs to be broken down in to spoon sized chunks so that it can be tackled in just 10 minute chunks.

  1. eBay Shop URL
  2. eBay Shop Pages
  3. eBay About Me Page
  4. eBay Shop Description
  5. eBay Shop Categories
  6. SEO Keywords

eBay Shop URL

The first task when looking at the eBay shop is to look at the URL. If we are dealing with an extremely well known & established eBay shop, then do not alter it.

However, if you are just starting out or have only a small following, then choosing a eBay shop name, making a URL that includes a nice keyword right name is strongly advised.

Edit your eBay shop name (thus URL):
http://cgi6.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?StoreMgmtEditDetails

eBay Shop Pages

I have an entire article dedicated to this. You can view it here:
How To: Using eBay Shop Keywords to Leverage the Extra eBay Shop Pages
(This may not be live at the time of publishing this article)

Edit your eBay shop custom pages:
http://cgi6.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?StoreManageCustomPages

eBay About Me Page

I have this noted to dedicate an entire article to this page, however in short the eBay about me page is a very handy page, as it gives you an extra icon next to your eBay ID. Its the ideal pace to promote your business and is the only page you are allowed to include a link to an off-eBay store on.

Edit your eBay About Me page:
http://cgi3.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?AboutMeLogin

eBay Shop Description

The eBay shop description can appear in more than one section. The first section you need to be aware of is that its used in the meta description tag for the eBay shop, also on some eBay shop templates its also used in the header area.

You’re allowed up to 300 characters for the description. I’d suggest the first 40-50 are human readable and then the majority are a list of the brands or other unique attributes and then are ended with another human readable sentence of 10-15 words. This way it reads well for both humans (primary goal) and search engines (secondary goal).

Edit your eBay shop description:
http://cgi6.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?StoreMgmtEditDetails

eBay Shop Categories

You can have up to 300 categories, down three levels. Named what ever you want with in reason, up to 30 characters each. The added bonus is, that you can set separate keywords for these categories too!

Edit your eBay shop categories:
http://cgi6.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?StoreCategoryMgmt

SEO Keywords

You can give each of your shop categories up to two primary keywords and six secondary keywords, plus you can specify your own keyword sets for the homepage as well.

If you are dealing with a wrath of categories you created in the earlier step, just plod your way through them, Just think in a few weeks, they’ll all be super hot, loaded keywords words and the task will be complete for a short while. Because you’ll want to be coming back to look at these again later to improve them further!

Tip! Refuse the urge spam the keywords. Think or even better, research what people are searching for an how that matches your category and match the keywords you use to the products you have in that given category.

Edit your eBay shop keywords:
http://cgi6.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?StoreMgmtViewCustomKeywords

Reviews & Guides

These are stellar places to pick up well targeted browsing buyers. The last time I had a stab at the reviews, I got an account to the top 100 reviewers on eBay UK. It took a lot of work and I did have a team to help me achieve this. But it can be done.

Take a look at http://reviews.ebay.co.uk/ You can review almost anything within reason. I’m not going to cover why you should be doing this in great detail here as again I have this already noted for a future article. But in short, it will help you be seen as the ‘Authority’ in your given area.

Tip: Stuck for an idea? Pick three items and say why you like one more than the others, now go!

To create your first review:
http://cgi3.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?CreateProductGuide

Outside of eBay

Its all about tipping the scales in your favour

I’m not going to be lame and suggest Facebook, Twitter as you already know this. What I am going to suggest is that you start your own blog, so you can talk about your items with your own community.

In short ‘blogging’ only requires some time, you have 10 minutes each day, thats all that is needed. Articles do not need to be huge like this one is, short and sweet works well too. Just be honest and show your passion.

If you’re worried about costs, do not be, here are two free options and they’re both great:

  1. http://www.blogger.com/
  2. http://wordpress.com/

Forum posting and generally just talking about your business and products will attract people. The more you talk, the more people will follow, its quite simple.

One crucial point I feel I need to make is that you should categorically should not use paid search such as Adwords or similar to promote your eBay shop. If you are at this level, then focus your attention on a creating your own web store outside of eBay.

Again the 10 minute rule applies here too, get in and get going and by the end of the month you could have created at least 20 blog posts!

Summary

I have shown you that all you need is 10 minutes with a cuppa to make a difference. We’re not after eating the entire elephant, or a VW with two people in it for that matter, but we can have a scoop of it each day and finally reach our ultimate goal. Now go get started!

Stop - Take Action!Take Action
Now that you’ve read this article, grab your calendar and put down a 10 minute window to make one small change, you’ll be amazed at the effect of this after just a week.

How To: Win the Amazon Buy Box

For seasoned sellers, they know when they get the Amazon Buy Box, because they start receiving batches of orders. Its literally an ON/OFF switch for orders once the Amazon Buy Box is enabled for that seller.

In this article I will explain to you what the Amazon buy box is, what impacts it and how Amazon FBA can weigh the odds in your favour to win it.

So what is the Amazon Buy Box?

The Amazon Buy BoxUnlike eBay where you can have multitudes of the same item over many listings, Amazon’s format is different, Amazon has one ‘master’ listing and then allows multiple sellers, including itself to sell that item.

This master item, contains information that is an amalgamation of data from eligible sellers of the given item. Although some master items are created by Amazon themselves and contain more in-depth descriptions than they allow merchants to create

The ‘Buy Box’ is Amazons way of sorting the sellers that have the master product available to the customers.

You’ll notice that there are two parts to this ‘Buy Box’, the one that merchants fight for are the upper ‘Blue Buy Box’, this is how the vast majority of sales are made on Amazon.

The lower part was added in 2010 and shows offers from merchants that are very close to the merchant that is currently winning the coveted ‘Blue Buy Box’ spot.

If you look at the blue part, this is coloured differently from the rest of the section and on the Amazon site, coloured quite differently so it stands out, within it, is the primary “call to action” button, ‘Add to Basket’. You can see it dwarfs the other buttons. This is why getting access to the buy box is critically important, if you’re not in the box, you’re literally not in the game.

Amazon Blue Buy Box Winners

This is where Amazon are pretty darn smart and incorporate a large number of factors into whom wins the blue buy box and also it is to be noted that the winner (where there are more than one equally competing merchants) can and does rotate.

In the screen shot of the buy box above, if you look closely you’ll see that not the cheapest option is sat in the blue buy box, instead an offer for ‘£1,380.25 + FREE SHIPPING’ is winning, although the secondary offer is at ‘£1,369.99 + £6.00 shipping’ which is less than the current winner.

In fact looking at the screen shot below, neither of these two are the cheapest and clearly illustrates that you need just more than price to win the blue buy box and crucially the sale.

competing-for-the-buy-boxSo as you can see, there are actually four other merchants that have this same item for sale, but even still, none of these won the box and instead another has taken the box.

And if this is not bad enough even after 30 refreshes in different browsers, from different machines on different networks, I could not get the buy box to shift off that seller, but I did win at the game by logging into an Amazon account that had Amazon Prime enabled on it.

getting-the-buy-boxSo what are the factors that influence the buy box?

We’ve seen from the above that if Amazon decide that they want to give a seller the buy box, then they will give out the keys to sales and sometimes it can be quite sticky even when prices are quite some way out too.

To understand the logic behind the buy box we need to understand what Amazon wants. This is actually quite simple:

Amazon want only to sell items to customers from merchants it can trust. Ultimately if Amazon suggest a different seller, then this is representing themselves.

Unlike eBay, this is Amazon’s own marketplace, they sell on it themselves, it is THEIR marketplace, so you better have some compelling reasons why they should allow you to sell goods along side them and for them to allow you access to the buy box.

Note: This is why I love Amazon so much, it is extremely rare that I have an issue with an order from Amazon, whether its direct from them or a merchant on the site.

While not exhaustive, these are the main factors in winning the coveted Amazon Buy Box.

Price

Besides actually being eligible, the total order price including postage, is the second most important factor in winning the blue buy box. This is only superseded by sellers that use Amazon’s FBA.

Availability

How many do you have and how quickly can you ship? By consistently fulfilling orders in a quick time, improves your chances.

Volume

This goes back to consistency and is probably why the seller in the first part of the article stuck on the blue buy box, they have been consistent when selling this product over a period of time.

Eligibility

Really daft, but first you must be eligible for the buy box. New merchants are not awarded access to the buy box for several weeks, even months until they prove that they can be trusted. Remember this is Amazons own marketplace and their own customers.

I say this time and again, never, ever piss off Amazons customers.

Refunds

By having a low refund rate indicates that you are in-control of your business. Not letting buyers (remember they are Amazon’s buyers) down, you are helping Amazon trust you.

Customer Feedback

By keeping negative ratings to a minimum, you are pleasing Amazons customers. Amazon like businesses that keep their customers happy. These comments can be revised and I strongly urge you to watch the feedback you receive. Remember its their customers…

A-to-z Guarantee Claims

This is Amazons return process. While you are bound to have a number of returns, Amazon expects very few, act fast on these as it will play in your favour. Not getting them in the first place by excellent customer services is probably a better route.

Fulfilment – FBA

This requires a special mention and I will expand on this in the next section

The not-so Secret Pricing Rule

I let this slip in a recent article, you an read it here: The Amazon Buy Box – You know the Secret Formula Right?

Amazon Fulfilment AKA FBA. Guaranteed Blue Buy Box

Quite a bold statement, ‘Guaranteed Blue Buy Box’, but once you understand that by using Amazon’s Fulfilment services called FBA, then you are actually giving the despatch control to Amazon, thus as long as your pricing is relatively close then the buy box is yours.

In the screen shot above where multiple buy boxes are shown, the one to the right includes s screen shot from an Amazon account that has Amazon Prime. This is a service that costs £49 a year and gives Amazon customers access to unlimited free next day deliveries, they do this by offering it on their own and on items that are held in their fulfilment services.

I will be posting more information on FBA in a future article, I did write this up before Christmas but decided it needed more work.

Combining the Factors

Its only by combining all these factors together, can you expect to have access to the Amazon blue buy box and make lots of sales on Amazon.

Sure, you can and will make sales without the buy box, but a common conversation with seasoned Amazon sellers is that they pretty much know when they have hit the buy box for certain items because they get a flood of orders for the item that has won it.

Links of Interest

These links provide further information on the factors that influence winning of the buy box.