Amazon, An unbelievable marketplace.

Amazon was the marketplace that threw investors during the dot-com boom because they had a ten year plan, while all the others had a a two week plan if they were lucky. The Year-On-Year growth of Amazon is to be ‘awed’ at and unlike other marketplaces, you never annoy their customers, because its their customers and they’ll kick you off with no chance of getting back on again for upsetting their customers. In short, Matthew aspires to eventually working with Amazon directly as the UK CEO.

Matthew has vast experience with launching merchants onto the Amazon platforms, including ‘Fulfilment By Amazon‘ or more commonly known as FBA.

Matthew is an Amazon expert and can help you leverage this channel effectively. You can contact him on his dedicated Contact Matthew page and see how Matthew can help your business.

Why Does More Products = More Kisses?

Sat around the dinner table a night or two ago, the reply to a question which was asked almost choked everyone the table.

So what was the question?

Does having more products available online equal more sales?

The thing is I was being serious in my reply and to share with you, we need a little story.

Intrigued? Read on…

 

The Direct Answer

The question was “Does having more products available online equal more sales?” and from experience the answer is simply “yes”.

If we look at Amazon then there is no price difference between having 1 item and 1,000,000 items listed if you have a Amazon Pro merchant account for a flat £25+VAT. With eBay if you have more than 6000 listings, then you should be on the anchor shop subscription level and you get free listings too (see here for why) and for websites… well that is really down to the tech behind the site being able to cope.

The Real Answer

If the answer is a plain “yes”, but what on earth does this have to do with kisses?

Well that needs a little story to explain it. Between the ages of 19 & 21 I completely missed the drug scene and instead we used to just get drunk and chat up women. Not being a huge sports fan, that was to all intents and purposes “our sport”. One night we decided to mix things up a bit and instead just  to “cut to the chase” and ask the simple question:

Do you fancy a snog?

Then round robin the entire bar or club that we were in until receiving the answer “yes. Crudely put, the law of averages just worked and unbelievably we never got slapped once either.

Now we just didn’t ask the question with no sense of style, we mixed things up.

This could be the entrance to the group of the unsuspecting, by sliding in to the chosen party or following up with the cheesiest of grins or just a tongue & cheek smirk and waiting for the response (silence with friendly smirk/smile worked best if you fancy trying this yourself). There was only ever two outcomes, yes or no. And even no wasn’t a point blank no, it was an entrance and opened up the conversation, so we were winners all-round (and at worst we got the piss taken out of us).

So how does this relate to more products?

If you don’t ask you cannot be told “yes or no”. This directly applies to making products available online. If you don’t make inventory you have available for sale, then how on earth can you make a sale?

The reason why we were never slapped was simple, we flirted at the same time. We weren’t butting in and not following up with a “follow up” of some form. We were making a light hearted gesture that sometimes got results.

When it comes to products, if we put up the barest of listings then our chances are still better than not having that item listed at all, but we can at least one a few extra steps and provide that tongue & cheek smile and provide:

  • Semi decent titles of products so that they can at least be found in the first place
  • Add in an image that is more than a thumbnail
  • Do our best to document the item with the information we have available
  • Bolster this with a half decent listing template
  • Cross promote our other products
  • And have accurate pricing

Now you maybe concerned about being uncompetitive with the pricing and that is a fair point, but at least we had the item listed and gave the buyer opportunity to make the purchase (this is comparable to flirting with the potential customers). After all if it means that the customer then gets a combined postage discount and a single delivery, they might just take it and that ultimately means more money for you.

Now before you leave this page thinking that I’m a just a womaniser, if we don’t ask, we won’t get.

That worked for us and opened up untold amounts of conversations we would never have had. When we compare this to making more products available for sale online, the same is true. Even if the browsing buyer ends up not buying a the product that they found us by in the first place, they weren’t looking at someone else’s and we’ve just introduced them to our business  and gave them the opportunity to say no.

Start more comnversations, take more rejections, just make more products available for sale, the worst they can do is just click away, but at least they met you and you got to say hello.

Matt

Do I Need a Barcode to Sell on Amazon?

This was a question asked a few days ago at the Brightpearl Commerce Acceleration 101 I presented at a few days ago and I thought it’s worth sharing with you.

 

So do you need one?

Yes and no.

The answer really depends on if the product you are selling is already listed on Amazon or not and I’ll explain why.

If the product is already listed on Amazon

Then this is “happy days“, all we need is the key and key is something called an ASIN.

This is pronounced “A-SIN” and stands for “Amazon Standard Identification Number”. Once a product has been loaded onto Amazon, Amazon gives the product a unique key that is not the barcode and looks like  this example “B003MWJKVI” which is for a memory stick.

If you pick any item on Amazon, you’ll notice that not only in the page URL you see the ASIN of the product like below:

An ASIN in the Amazon URL for a product

An ASIN in the Amazon URL for a product

Also the ASIN can be found further down the product page and looks like the screen shot below:

An ASIN in the Amazon product page

An ASIN in the Amazon product page

It should be noted that the ASIN still refers to the barcode (or the correct name is GTIN or EAN) but unlike where a barcode is meant to be for a single product only, an ASIN can refer to more than one barcode. Barcodes are leased not bought and can be re-used, hence that’s why you can sometimes find a barcode belonging to more than one product on Amazon.

Oh, if you’d like know the differences between an ASIN, GTIN, EAN, UPC or JAN then take a look at this article, as I covered that last year and a video explanation is also included too.

If the product is not listed on Amazon

Now this is not “bad days”, it just means that we need to locate the barcode for the product.

Most mainstream products have barcodes assigned and are on the product itself, just look for the numbers below the stripy label. However, if you’ve got a product that is new or undocumented on Amazon, then you’re going to need a barcode to create it on Amazon with.

There are a collection of sites on the interwebs that you can buy a barcode for a few pounds, these are fab if you only have a few products, but I’m guessing you have lots and this where you need to speak to a company called GS1. You can find them here http://www.gs1uk.org/.

Barcodes are not bought, they are leased

This means that you can lease a range of barcodes and if you’re wondering “how many do you get?” basically you are given as many as you need. This could be 10,000 this could be several million depending on your requirements.

To subscribe to GS1, the rough prices are £250 for the first year and £125 for the next years subscription as the first year they charge you ~£125 set up fees. But you get as many barcodes as you need to use and if you run out, you can go back and ask for more.

A full breakdown of the pricing can be found here: http://www.gs1uk.org/about-us/Pages/Become-a-member.aspx

Oh and how to find out the barcode of an ASIN?

Free ASIN to EAN ConverterThat’s a little more tricky if you have lots of products and you need to use the Amazon Product Advertising API to look them up.  But…. if you know the ASIN, then the tool at the link below will convert them for you, for free!

http://erwinmayer.com/labs/asin2ean/index.php

If you want to know the ASIN’s of the variations of products listed on Amazon with variations, you may wish to contact me directly as I have a script that I use with clothing and footwear businesses to look the variation ASIN’s up on Amazon for existing products, all in a deliciously simple CSV file for its output.

Hope that helps!

How Much Did eBay & Amazon Spend on Google Advertising in 2011?

While researching for an article working I’m working on in relation to Google Adwords and the eBay & Amazon marketplaces, I came across the info-graphic below and I’ve got to share!

The numbers are just unreal

In 2011:

  • eBay spent $42.8 million
  • Amazon spent $55.2 million

On Google advertising in one year.

Yes, in one year!!!

Question: How much did you spend on Google Adwords last year?

Was it £0, £10, £1000? You can let me know in the comments at the bottom

Googles Earnings Breadown for 2011

Googles Earnings Breadown for 2011

Brightpearl CA101 Live This Thursday in Bristol

Are you available to be in Bristol this Thursday for a breakfast meetup?

SS Great BritainBrightpearl are holding their first “Commerce Acceleration 101” live event at the SS Great Britain at 08:00 and I’ll be joining Chris Tanner one of the co-founders of Brightpearl, who will be discussing growing from one store to multi-channel the easy way and Lee Adams, who is showing us how he built an incredible online business.

Register here for free to reserve your place.

I’m up last out of the 3 speakers (is that a good thing??) and will be discussing “How multichannel can transform your 2013” in a fast paced presentation with one single goal, to ensure that when you leave the room you’ll be thinking “I must do marketplaces right now“.

[I am] opposed to the laying down of rules or conditions to be observed in the construction of bridges lest the progress of improvement tomorrow might be embarrassed or shackled by recording or registering as law the prejudices or errors of today.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel

The event is being held at Bristols famous landmark,  Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s stunning SS Great Britain, just outside the city centre. Starting at 8am sharp, a complimentary breakfast and refreshments are being served on arrival.

To stir your interest I’ve included a couple of slides from the presentation below, will we be seeing you on Thursday?

Register here for free to reserve your place.

What is Order Aggregation & How Can it Help Your Business?

Aggregating orders from multiples sales channels is one of the main features in 3rd party software, but what are the benefits of doing this and how can it help your business?

I delve deeply into order aggregation in this article and explain how this can help your business tackle multiple sales channels and still leave you with (some) hair.

I’ve also included a video accompany this article and I would value any feedback you have in relation to the aggregation of orders from multiple sales channels, maybe this is something you take for granted through your current provider or maybe it’s something you’re pulling your hair out with right now. Let me know in the comments box at the bottom, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Order Aggregation Video Overview

What is Order Aggregation?

This is a process that collects orders from more than one source and aggregates them into a single location, this could be into your own system or that of a 3rd party.

Simply put, while you may be able to manage one, even two sales channels and even possibly three with a low velocity of sales and/or inventory, the moment you try to scale the business or add any increase in sales or inventory you’re going to run into a brick wall.

Order aggregation at any level of complexity can help you and your business deal with sales orders from one or more sales channels in a structured manner.

Winding Back to the Order Life Cycle

Let’s consider the typical life cycle of an order before we dig any deeper into this subject. We make one or more products available on one or more sales channels for customers to buy, this could be eBay, Amazon, your website(s) and maybe even a trade counter or retail store or may be many stores.

A customer commits to purchase one or more items and an order is formed. We may take payment straight away (cash over the counter or electronically) or the payment could be delayed (think eBay here) and some common details are taken and we then need to process the order.

For orders taken over the counter in a store or trade counter are orders that require little packaging in most instances, however for orders that need to be fulfilled by a delivery process you will likely need to create any documentation to pick & pack the line items and then possibly bespoke courier labels to prepare the order for despatch.

Once the order has been despatched, then typically with most online order sources, we need to update the channel source with common details, such marking the order as despatched and some other luxury data, such as the method, time of despatch and tracking details. We may also desire to email the customer to let them know that their order has been processed and despatched.

In the background, for the line items on the order, we need to keep track of their quantities, which is super important when dealing with multiple sales channels, so we can notify the other sales channels of stock updates or maybe to identify that the stock level for one or more products has fallen below a set level and a re-ordering process needs to be triggered.

Typically when you first started your business with one of the online channels, keeping just one channel up to date is relatively straight forwards for low volumes of orders, however as soon as we mix in multiple sales channels, a high velocity of orders and/or large inventory base, keeping everything in-tow can be an impossible task to complete manually.

Locating software that can solve all or part of this process can be hugely beneficial to the efficiency of the business, resulting in costs savings and sanity of the staff & business owners. It’s these benefits that I delve into for the rest of the article.

Benefits of Order Aggregation

Even if we just had two eBay accounts, logging out of one account and then into the other is cumbersome and time-consuming, as we’re duplicating the effort placed to process orders. It’s amplified when we have many order sources, in some cases to the point it would be almost impossible to do so.

Single Interface to All Orders

If we imagine that you have several order sources, these could be two eBay accounts, Amazon Seller Central or Marketplace, two websites and the desire to take manual orders in a retail or trade store aggregating the orders together for unified processing can by hugely beneficial and even if you have just one sales channel.

However, if we mix in the other features of the software providers offer, making use of a single orders screen can be an added feature to gain efficiency.

Customer Services

By bringing in orders from two or more sources into a single location can be hugely beneficial. Not only for ease of processing orders in mass, but also as a single reference point for all processes relating to orders, thus lowering the time spent by customer services in resolving order-related issues.

Some applications also include the ability to process payments & refunds from the orders screen. besides the obvious of not having to jump to a different system to conduct such an action(s), a by-product is that you are easily able to administer this and keep a history of the transactions have been made (such as who, when, why and for what amount in a refund).

Platform Specific Functions & Marketplace Integrations

If the order system that you use also has direct integrations back to the order sources, such as eBay, Amazon or Magento, then payment processing issues can be tackled from a single interface. For example if we need to check a PayPal payment or to make a refund, instead of giving all the members of staff the login details, it can be controlled in the orders system so that this is no longer needed and depending upon the system used, an audit history can be maintained for referencing later if needed.

If we pick on eBay for a few moments (as this marketplace certainly has some platform specific functions!), just because we received an order, this doesn’t mean we were actually paid for the order.

eBay have the disputes process that is unique to eBay and when processing large amounts of orders, the amount of unpaid orders can become a concern to your business (turning on immediate payments doesn’t suit all businesses). Some software applications allow the automatic processing of disputes back to eBay, so that stock  that isn’t going to be paid for, can be released with the minimum amount of effort of you or your staff and with minimal time lag. So that the order can either be committed to that customer (after payment) or released back onto the sales channels for resale.

Amazon is not without its quirks, specifically around the fact that unless you mark an order as shipped you don’t have the funds released for that order. So being able to mark multiple orders as despatched from multiple locations and then the system going back to update the different sales channels to confirm they’ve been shipped can not only keep customer service communications down to a minimum (especially if you include the despatch method, time and tracking information), but to also to get paid for those orders.

Amazon also keep track on how quickly you despatch orders, remember Amazon only cares about ITS customers, then if you consistently ensure that your orders are processed ASAP for this channel and keep within their allowed levels (and far higher than these are strongly suggested) then you will ultimately benefit from a stronger relationship from them.

Here are some examples of what such an integrations could offer you:

  • Leaving feedback when orders are shipped
  • eBay dispute integration for unpaid orders
  • Marking orders as shipped when marked as shipped in the orders screen. In the case of Amazon this means getting paid for the order.
  • Updating the sales channels with the despatch method and tracking number, so the customer can see these details within their marketplace account

Business Rules

A by-product of being able to collect the orders from multiple channels is that you are able to process business rules on the orders. You might become confused here with these, this is not as simple as matching the delivery method chosen by the customer to the right order, that’s just matching, I’m talking about business rules and I’ll explain these now.

Business rules might be as simple as if an order arrives and is over 2Kg, then a courier should be used as the despatch method. Maybe if an order has an order value over £30 and as such its deemed by the business that it would be safer to send via a courier or a recorded method of delivery. Not just the shipping method that the customer chose at the time of checkout.

Also couriers are renowned for having exceptions to their services and typically there is either a delay in posting to certain locations or an extra charge. By applying a business rule (or several) to your orders, you could create an exceptions list of postcodes and select a different despatch option.

An excellent example of this is Northern Ireland, almost all couriers charge a premium for delivery to this location. Lets say we receive an order from Amazon and there is two line items and normally these would be sent via a courier, however because the courier wants $10 more to this location, using a service such as Royal Mail tracked would be more suitable. Its still relatively quick and it’s a traceable method, but works out cheaper than the main courier and has the attributes not found with normal Royal mail offerings.

Here are some of the attributes of orders that you may want to apply business rules to when processing them:

  • Order Source
  • Shipping service selected by the customer
  • The value of the shipping selected by the customer
  • Order value
  • Weight
  • Quantity
  • The destination of the order (postcode/zipcode, state, region and/or country)

Unified Processing & Documentation (Including Email Notifications)

Integrated Label ExampleAnother benefit of aggregating orders is that all the orders can be processed in the same process, so that could be the same (or similar) despatch documents, thus saving an array of custom documents to each order source and standardising the entire pick, pack and despatch process.

Obviously I’m guessing that you would desire customisation to the despatch documents, as if we have one part of our business branded in a certain fashion and another part to another, ensuring that the documentation is either universal or customised to the sale source would highly beneficial.

Depending upon the software being used, some allow you to fully customise each document, this could be the picking slip, shipping document and invoices. These documents could also be depending on the shipping method set by the business rules be customised paper stock, for example if the order has been allocated to Royal Mail 1st or 2nd class, then the document printed could include the PPI label, so  there is no need to stamp or add a stock for this.

The paper stock could also include an integrated label, so that once the contents of the order have been checked, you peel off the label, pop it on the front of the package and then spike the sheet or pop the rest of the sheet into the package itself for the customers reference.

Going beyond the paper documents, we must not forget email notifications. It’s quite possible to include a PDF version of the invoice for the order in the order despatched email and also for the email notifications to be tailored to each business identity and order source. Of course if you have the courier details from a courier integration to the orders aggregation software, then including the tracking information (and ideally links to track the order) could be a huge win for your business.

Despatch Process

If you can imagine that you have your orders in a single place of reference and have control over the documentation and business rules being applied to your orders, then we shouldn’t forget the ability to find a process of despatching orders that works well for your business.

Some businesses have really simple despatch processes, this could be a single document that fulfils multiple roles, such as invoice, picking slip and shipping list. Whereas another business may require barcode scanning of orders and products to ensure the accuracy of the despatched orders.

Whereas others may be required to enter or scan a serial number of the product being shipped in the order, for security or tracking. Having a software product where the despatch process can be altered, either globally for all orders or specific order parts can be hugely beneficial when working out a despatch process that works for you.

To add an extra dimension here, it’s not uncommon for a business to be looking at the despatch process and idealising other people’s businesses when it comes to order efficiency. The biggest eye-opener for me personally was during a visit to Expeditors in Avonmouth, Bristol.

This company specialises in warehousing and despatch of orders for 3rd party companies (amongst several other services). When I queried the team over despatch process and whether they used a unified process, the eye-opener was that for each business they worked with, they each had a tailored despatch process. Some had barcode scanning, some had picking lists for later processing and some just had a single sheet for all the despatch functions.

Stock Control

If your orders are being collected to a single location, then if we know what your stock level was before the order was received and the amount sold. We know what your true stock level is and this can be uesed to update the other sales channels where you are selling the same inventory.

This process varies from system to system, but the crux of this process is exactly the same, we know what we had to begin with, we know we have X number less and where from and where the item is being sold to, thus we know where we need to update with the latest stock level, so that we still achieve maximum market exposure of our products, but minimise the risk of overselling.

Note: See this article relating to the eSellerPro Channel Profile which is a process that does just this.

Accepting Manual Orders

One order source that we shouldn’t overlook is manual orders, these could be orders taken over the phone or trade orders. By allowing these to enter the normal despatch process can also be a huge win. Taking an order over the phone, checking stock levels and taking payment can be a tricky task when using multiple sales channels and without this basic information to hand, it can be impossible.

By having ALL the information about your inventory in a single place and being able to process an order with this information at your (or your staff’s) finger tips can make a call with a customer into a few minutes rather than 10’s of minutes and saving awkward situations of taking an order and not actually having the stock available to fulfil the order.

External Fulfilment

Not every company fulfils their orders internally, with the process of fulfilment becoming cheaper and cheaper and whole host of specialised companies out there that are capable of dealing with both stocked and just in time despatch (ProFS and Expeditors are two good examples of these).

With such orders, you can either allow the 3rd party company access to your orders or even in some cases integrate to their EDI or API systems for automated exchanges of the order data for them to fulfil the orders for you.

How Can it Help Your Business?

Bringing orders from multiple sources to a single orders screen will give you an exceptional business advantage. You can see your orders, process them in-mass, most likely be able to integrate with couriers, expedite the time it takes to process issues in customer services, apply business rules to the orders and have a clear picture of what is happening in your business, right now.

Going to the extreme, any and I mean any! order aggregation software will help your business become more efficient.

The processes in even less ‘evolved’ applications will allow you to process your orders more effectively and apply one or more processes to your despatch process. Some applications will go much, much deeper and allow for the full customisation of the processes, documentation and integrations involved with collecting orders from multiple sources.

Your Feedback

Maybe this is something you take for granted through your current software or maybe it’s something you’re pulling your hair out with right now. Let me know in the comments box at the bottom, I’d love to hear from you.

Q&A Free Delivery Versus Reasonable Delivery Costs On Amazon

This is the third of a series of articles where I’m answering several questions that have come in via email in the past few days, that I feel that you’d gain value from hearing the answer too.

Free Delivery Versus Reasonable Delivery Costs

Today’s question is from Christine and is in relation to the having free shipping v’s reasonable shipping costs on Amazon.

The reason why it’s curious is because Amazon is quite different to eBay in the way it organises listing & prices and I’d like to delve into the Amazon Buy Box a little deeper and their prime subscriptions too.

Here’s the question:

Hi There Matthew,

I was just wondering what your thoughts were on Free Delivery versus reasonable delivery costs.

I started selling on Amazon about 1 year ago and have always gone for the reasonable delivery costs option so the actual product price appears a little lower than those who offer Free Delivery.

Even though Amazon calculates the cheapest offer based on a total of product and delivery charges my thoughts are that if a buyer sees a cheaper product cost plus reasonable delivery cost then the perception is that the product is more reasonably priced overall.

However I am considering changing to Free UK delivery for ease of calculating delivery costs etc

Kind Regards
Christine

Price Perception

I feel Christine is right, the perception that a customer would have that the price is good and the shipping is sensible then it would appear as a better proposition overall.

However, we must account for that we would assume this to be logical, but as buyers we’re not logical at all, we’re emotional, plus we are considering the Amazon marketplace here and while this may be true for other marketplaces or on our own websites, for Amazon I don’t think this is true and I’ll explain why.

By the way, if you think I’m wrong, you can let me know in the comments box at the bottom.

The Amazon Buy Boxes

To see where I’m going with this reply, we need to take a look at the buy boxes on Amazon and how the change.

Amazon Only / Amazon Prime

Amazon buy Box No SellersIf we take a look at the normal Amazon buy box on for an item that is being sold by Amazon directly, then we can see it’s very clean.

As a buyer we’re presented with just the quantity option, add to basket as the primary action, the option to login or the secondary action of adding it to a wishlist.

All pretty clean.

3rd Party Seller + Free Delivery

Amazon Buy Box One Marketplace Seller

However if we now look at Amazon buy box where there isn’t Amazon and just a 3rd party seller like us, then we can see that the buy box has the extra details at the top about the seller.

We can also see the item price and the shipping amount and the sellers name, noting that the delivery amount is emphasised as “FREE UK delivery”.

3rd Party Seller + Paid Delivery

Amazon Buy Box With ShippingIn the buy box to the right, we have a product where the seller has a delivery price entered.

In comparison, the “FREE UK delivery” stands out more, but Amazon are not promoting the total price, just that there is extra postage to be paid.

And When We have Multiple Sellers

Amazon Buy Box Multiple SellersThere can only be one winner and if you’re up against an Amazon stocked item or an FBA seller then the chances of you obtaining the buy box on equal total pricing, is remote.

If there are multiple sellers that are eligible for the buy box, will rotate at differing speeds through the buy box and any sellers that are not in the main buy box are shown below.

If we look at the example to the right, then we have a winner that is at £2.65 + free delivery and three others with the same product at various prices, however the last one from TLSS is the one I’d like to point out in more detail next.

Note: If you’d like to know a formula that will get you access to the Amazon Buy box for longer, then see this article which gives you this and it’s proven to work and if you’d like to know more about Amazon’s “Seller Ratings”, the new scoring system for Amazon Sellers you can here.

I’m just a mere customer, not a mathematician.

In the buy box example above we’re given numerous options, but as a buyer I only really care about the total price and also I’m just a mere customer, not a mathematician.

Making a buyer think is a bad thing

If I’m presented with prices that all have free options, then I see the prices as the total price. However if you ask me to compare four prices on one set of terms, they’re all total prices with free shipping and you lob me a price that I need to calculate in my head, then you are making me think.

Trying sum up the prices so that I can either rule in the £1.50 plus £1.99 option when all the others are just prices with free shipping makes me think and making a buyer think is a bad thing.

We need to make it as easy as possible for them to work out if the proposition is a good one or not and if the playing field are using free shipping, then that is what you should follow, free shipping, otherwise we’re making the buyers think.

Considering Amazon Prime Users

Amazon Prime Get Your Stuff FastIf we also account for Amazon Prime accounts, this is where an Amazon customer has paid £49 a year (or $79 in the USA) these are the power buyers on Amazon.

According to ChannelAdvisor’s Scot Wingo last year, there are approximately 10-12 million Amazon Prime users whom he also believes that these buyers account for a 3 to 4 times increase in buying volumes. As such they should not be ignored.

If we consider that it was you that paid £50 to have free next day delivery on items, then you’re not going to be that excited about paying extra for shipping when you’ve already stumped up £50 for an item on the Amazon marketplace where you’ve already made a decent outlay to get free shipping. In short as an Amazon Prime buyer you expect free shipping.

Note: You can gain access to these buyers by using FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon), this isn’t for everyone and doesn’t suit all products. 

In Summary

Me me me me me me me me me me, that’s all the customer cares about. Using a quote from Seth Godin:

Customers want ME-MAIL not Email

So with me in mind (as a potential customer) I have a Amazon Prime subscription and trust me I hate paying postage on Amazon after paying £50 for free delivery and I know what the difference is between marketplace, FBA and Amazon stocked products are!!!!

I bet the vast majority of Amazon customers don’t and they just want simple pricing and the simplest it can be is price + free delivery.

While me and you may know that your postage prices are excellent, 99.9% of customers probably don’t know the latest price of a first class stamp (what is that now anyway?), let alone the different pricing bands from Royal Mail and whether your postage price is good value or not. They just want a total price.

If we consider the case for Christine, then if your competition are offering free delivery, then don’t make your buyers try and do maths, regardless of how simple it is. Customers are like babies, you need to keep it as simple as possible and spoon feed them just enough information so they get what they need to know at that moment in time.

Make it really easy for them and let them see that your total price is excellent.

Make it really easy for them and let them see that your total price is excellent. And if in doing so means you need to combine the shipping prices into the sell price and offer free shipping, then so be it.

In the original question from Christine, Christine was considering moving to a free shipping model on Amazon, the answer now with the explanation why, is yes you should move to a free shipping model on Amazon and I’ve hoped I’ve explained why.

Do You use Free Shipping on Amazon or Another Marketplace?

If you do and have seen a positive or a negative impact to doing so, let Christine know by leaving her a comment in the comments box at the bottom.

Q&A: How Can I Use All the Search Keywords for an Amazon Listing?

This is the second of a series of articles where I’m answering several questions that have come in via email in the past few days, that I feel that you’d gain value from hearing the answer too.

 

Maximising the Search Keywords on Amazon

Today’s question is in relation to using the extra keywords when creating or updating products on Amazon.

If you didn’t know about these, then dig in they can be leveraged to help drive extra traffic to your Amazon product listings and as we find out they complement the product title.

Here’s the question:

Hi Matt,

Amazon have 5 extra cells in excel that we can enter keywords into and they allow 50 characters per cell.

How do I use all these all to maximum benefit and can I put in more than one keyword into the cell, if so how?

Regards,

Loïc.

So What Are Amazon Search Keywords?

eSellerPro Amazon Catalgue Tab KeywordsSo before dig in we need to make sure that we’re all on the same sheet, literally the same import sheet.

When creating or updating products on Amazon you can do this using an import sheet that Amazon provides. These import sheets vary from category to category and if you are using a 3rd party tool, then look for 5 boxes called “keywords” or “search terms”.

I’ve included a screen shot from an eSellerPro account to the right and these are found on the “Catalogue Details” tab and also they should not be confused with “Platinum Keywords” (Platinum Keywords are used for the Amazon Webstore and their categorisation)

There are a collection of inventory loading templates, the templates you need to use to create new products on Amazon with can be found here and they are at the bottom of the page (not the first ones).

In these workbooks, if you go to the sheet called “Apparel Template” (or similar) and scroll across to the right until you get to columns BW to CA (or about there, depends on the template being used). Here we’ll see “search-terms1” through to “search-terms5”, just like below:

Amazon Search Terms Template File

Why Are These So Important?

It’s these keywords that can help your products be found on Amazon, but they shouldn’t be filled with any old junk. Unlike eBay that has quite a complex search engine (which is going to get very smart next year with Cassini, whole different topic) the Amazon sites search engine is still very primitive in comparison.

And it’s because of this, these keywords can make all the difference in making your items found, especially when we consider that the search bar at the top of the Amazon site, takes up a minimum of 44% of the width header area, even the Amazon logo or cart doesn’t get that kind of treatment!

Amazon Search box 44 Percent Wide

With a search box area that size, we have to be assuming that at least 95% of all sales or more on Amazon are driven by the search this box alone. I think I’ve made the point, search keywords are really important.

What Does Amazon Have to Say About the Search Keywords?

Surprisingly not a lot! Quoting Amazon’s help file for sellers below (which is also worth a good read):

Use terms once

Because the words of the product name are already searchable, do not use search terms that are words also contained in the title. For example, the complete list of automatic search terms for Allison’s Cookies is allison, gourmet, organic, chocolate, chip, pecan, cookie, one & dozen. Good search terms for Allison’s Cookies, therefore, might be “natural,” “baked,” and “dessert.”
Use single words

Single words work better as search terms than phrases. If you use phrases, then customers must type each entry exactly as you entered it. For example, if you enter “natural baked dessert” as search terms for Allison’s Cookies, then that is what customers must type. If they type “natural” or “dessert,” your products won’t appear in the search results. However, by listing these terms separately, you allow for more combinations, such as natural, natural dessert, baked desserts, baked, dessert, and baked natural. If you aren’t getting the sales you expect, continue to experiment with your search terms until you find you have the best combination of product title and search terms for your products.

To summarise what Amazon is suggesting we do is to try and keep to broad words and not to repeat them.

That’s pretty straight forwards and good advice. But sometimes broad is not good enough and we need to be specific and this is where the next question/answer comes in.

How Do You use All the Space Provided in the Search Terms?

In each of the search terms fields, 1-5 you’re allowed to enter up to 50 characters and the trick to leveraging these is to use commas between each keyword. That’s 250 characters of search-for-me-find-me goodness.

That way instead of just entering one keyword into each of the 5 search term cell’s, you can now enter multiple keywords in each and because you can use more than just one or two words you can use phrases too.

Now before you go keyword spam-tasticly-crazy with these, it’s really important to take note of Amazon’s first suggestion, use keywords once or kinda taking notice anyway.

Sticking in “ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod,ipod” is going to be futile, however stringing keywords together to make mini phrases, well that’s targeted.

Staying with the iPod theme for a few moments and picking on the #1 selling iPod charger, if we look at the title “FreeLogix – White UK 3 Pin Mains Charger – iPod All Generations” and the keywords that are being used:

  • ipod charger,
  • ipod mains charger,
  • ipod nano charger,
  • ipod  charger,
  • ipod 3pin uk charger,
  • Portable Audio,
  • Portable Audio

While the last two are duplicates, the rest are phrases. In fact the last two are absolutely pointless, who the hell searches for “Portable Audio”?

With thanks to Wikipedia the versions of the iPod are as follows:

  • Classic
  • Mini
  • Nano
  • Shuffle
  • Touch

I’ve got a Shuffle (fab little thing, doesn’t play Podcasts though…)  and the socket won’t fit the shuffle, I’m not sure the others, but for the sake of example we’ll assume they’re all the same.

To make this #1 performing SKU even better, we would bulk these keywords out to include:

  • ipod classic charger
  • ipod mini charger
  • ipod touch charger

Plus seeing as we have 250 characters to use up, we’d also be wanting to play with some other keywords too. Such as:

  • ipod uk charger
  • ipod 3 pin mains charger
  • ipod 3 pin uk charger
  • ipod wall charger

Amazon Search Terms in Search BoxAnd then if you get bored or stuck with a keyword, we have the best tool available… It’s call predictive search.

Nipping over to Amazon and typing in “iPod Charger” and then pressing space, we are then given predictive keywords that users will search for

See where I’m going with this?
Yep, you’re right, it’s keyword data!

In this example, most of the keywords are not really useful, however these are:

  • ipod charger plug
  • ipod charger mains

Very quickly, we can get to our ideal limit of using all 250 characters in the search term boxes. And while yes there will be duplicates, they’re going to match what Amazon are presenting to buyers via that whopping great big search box.

So our final keywords to enter into the search terms fields 1-5 will look something like this:

Search Term 1
ipod charger,ipod classic charger,ipod mini charger

Search Term 2
ipod mains charger,ipod touch charger

Search Term 3
ipod nano charger,ipod uk charger

Search Term 4
ipod charger mains,ipod wall charger

Search Term 5
ipod 3pin uk charger,ipod 3 pin uk charger

Obviously you’d spend a little more time than what I have to do further research, but you get the idea, we can use the same keywords that are used in the title, but supplement them with phrases, not keywords in the search term boxes.

In Summary

We’re given 5 search term fields for enhancing the listing search visibility instead of stuffing these with mindless keywords or just single keywords, use phrases. Use what Amazon suggests in their own search box and copy those to your keywords.

We can use comma’s in search terms to enter more than just one term per search field and that means we can bulk these out to cover the common phrases that allow our items to be found. We’re given 250 extra characters, let’s make sure we use them all :)

Have you used this before and found that it works for you too, or didn’t know that you could use a comma and add even more keywords to the search terms fields? Let me know in the comments box below.

Q&A: Gaining the Blue Buy Box for a New Amazon Account

Over the next few articles, I’m going to answer several questions that have come in via email in the past few days, that I feel that you’d gain value from hearing the answer too.

 

Gaining the Blue Buy Box on Amazon

The Amazon Buy boxToday’s question is in relation to scoring the Amazon Buy Box for the first time in a new Amazon account.

As always, there is history around this and the reason why the original account was lost, the point here is that ideally you’d try & avoid this from happening in the first place, but as well all know, sometimes one tiny mistake, can have a big impact.

Let’s hope the reply to this question helps them get back on track.

Good morning Matt,

Your site is great information.   You are welcome to put this in the forums, this was just the easiest for me to email you.

We had a very successful Amazon account with NN,NNN per month  in sales.  Due to some out of stock items, our account was suspended from Amazon. 

We have partnered with someone else in order to get a new account going. 

How do you get the feedback up quickly to get the buyer box. 

We are selling about 1 item per week.  I know it is due to being a new seller and no feedback, therefore we cannot get that little blue box!

Thanks for your help!

The part that is not pleasant is the part where I say, in 3-5 months time. Don’t panic just yet, there is an option that you might not be aware of and we’ll get to that in due course.

Limited Amazon Accounts

Sell on AmazonAmazon to the best of my knowledge sand-boxed new selling accounts. This is where they trickle you sales over a long period of time to see how the business reacts to increasing sales. It’s a good system, that works and this also highlights that Amazon is focused on looking after number 1 in the equation.

No that’s not the shareholders, but the customer. It’s the right thing to do, to protect the site from naughty businesses and the buffer of a few months is generally a good thing. We’re just on the wrong side of her, er Amazon (see note later), that’s all.

Talking from my personal history, Amazon is simpler to list on and you can in some instances sell more product on Amazon than you can in other marketplaces, however it is different and different means you can’t always just bump-in and splash product everywhere and not learn the ropes, this is their way of ensuring that you learn the ropes [and not put in place to intentionally annoy the heck out of us].

Amazon calls this process, “Velocity Limits” and the part that they neglect to mention in their help page is the time factor. (You can read the full details on their help page here)

Along the way of building a new Amazon Seller account, you’ll go through a few emails from Amazon and at least one account review. This typically takes 3-5 months to happen and as I mentioned is designed to build the expertise up in the business over time.

I only now about this as I’ve seen numerous accounts start on Amazon and when the switch is flipped, it is generally noticeable, as you get far higher than normal sales appear from no-where.

Thinking about a conversation last year, it came up that a business owner (again I am doing my best to keep this anonymous as possible) had been selling on Amazon for 4 months, but was saying he still hadn’t got the Buy Box access and Amazon was slow.

So we popped a ticket in with Amazon and they said that this was normal and their account was be activated for Buy Box eligibility as and when their account was reviewed next (or words to that effect).

What actually happened, was the next day, was about 10 times more orders than normal started to appear and the phone call I received was “I’ve got the buy box!“, understandably excitable. So sometimes Amazon just needs a nudge to make the point “Hi, I’ve been trading for a while, I’m a good boy“.

Note: If this is you and you’ve been trading on Amazon for 3 months or more and do not have the buy box yet, open a case and ask them how long will it be and is there anything you can do to aid the process.

Sooo…. coming back to the question, is there anything you can do. Ideally I’d suggest you just wait, take the time to build it up slowly again and earn the trust that was lost the first time around and play the slow game (Amazon is a slow game believe it or not).

Option #1 – Amazon Red Carpet Scheme

Red Carpet Scheme

Much better than just plain-old red carpet don’t you think? Source

That may not be the quick-fix answer you may have been looking for though. But there is another option.

If you’re in the UK and I am unsure about this in the USA, then there is a scheme called the “Red Carpet Scheme”.

This allows you to work with an Amazon representative to load inventory onto the marketplace as an account manager, a free Amazon seller central subscription for a year and crucially gain instant access to the Blue Buy Box (YAY!).

Dave has covered the details on the Amazon red carpet scheme in a post a few weeks back, you can view this here:

http://www.davefurness.co.uk/amazon-red-carpet-scheme-it-does-exist-but-what-is-it

It’s an invitation-only scheme, but it wouldn’t be too cheeky to open an Amazon case and include a message something like this:

“Hi,

I’ve heard about a scheme that can help us with launching our X number of products on Amazon called a ‘Red Carpet Scheme’.

Is this something you can help us with?”

Amazon are not daft bunnies, if the products are unique and they spot that it’s a previously banned account, then making yourself stand-out is probably not the best idea and I’d play low, and cool for a few months and take it the slow route.

Another Note: If you’re reading this and have just started selling on Amazon for the first time, then it’s 100% worth your while to make a call or open a case with Amazon and nudging them to see if you’d be eligible.

Option #2 – Fulfilment By Amazon aka FBA

Fulfilment By Amazon - FBA

The other option is that you could leverage Fulfilment by Amazon (now on referred to as FBA as my spelling is pants) to put the more popular products into Amazon and gain immediate access to the buy box.

FBA doesn’t suit all products and I, as Amazon own notes, it’s not sensible to send in ALL your inventory, just the lines that you know will sell in the next 3 months or ideally less.

I’ve not covered FBA to any great degree in an article to date here on the LastDropofInk, so I’m going to leave you with the basics and give you a few links to find out more.

With FBA you send your items into Amazon for them to fulfil orders with, this has several key benefits:

  • You gain access to the blue buy box (the reason for the email)
  • You gain access to the buyers that have Amazon Prime (there are lots of those, trust me you want these, they’re the high-volume buyers)
  • Amazon does the customer services for you (I hear you screaming wooohooo!)
  • Amazon process the returns for you (good & bad)

This would give you the quick win you’re looking for, however there is one key downside. Amazon then handle your products and as such if you’re not welded down with a patent or trademarks, then it is not unheard of (see this thread over at the Wholesale Forums) for Amazon to locate the supplier or manufacturer and go direct, essentially cutting you out entirely.

Note. This thread is also worth reading: No Customer Contact is the Major Downside of Using Amazon FBA

But let’s be frank here (and this is also the contents of another email I answered 15 minutes ago), Amazon and the Amazon marketplace is one great big market research tool.

The key benefit other than the range of products that 3rd party sellers add to the Amazon platform, is that Amazon can then mine the data to see what they should sell themselves. They will do this eventually and there is a very interesting thread in our forums called “Amazon vendor invite“.

So trying to leave this on a positive note FBA could be what you’re looking for and you can find more about Amazon’s FBA schemes at these links:

In Summary

As a direct reply to the question, I’d strongly suggest you play the longer game and reap the rewards in a few months time, exposing yourself at such an early stage could knock you right back. Trees, fruit & nurturing roots and all that.

The Red Carpet scheme might work for you, depending if it’s available in your country and if the products are not too much of a give-away. But as mentioned, if you are a new business selling on Amazon, then this could be a easy way of you expediting access to the buy box.

FBA should also be considered it has many, many positive sides, you get the buy box access you were looking for , it has several other perks and can work out cheaper if you account for numerous items being sent in.

But we must remember:

Amazon, if it was a human, it would be a woman and she would be a ………..

She’d want babies, grand children, a ring, the whole white wedding cher-bang, but she’d divorce you at a moments notice if she found and cheaper or newer model.

(But I love her none the less).

Food for thought….

Excellent question, thank you for asking it and allowing me to reply publicly. If this helps you and maybe someone else too, then the time taken to write this has all been worthwhile.  I’m sorry to hear about the experience, unlike Amazon, the rest of the world is a little more forgiving.

Have a Question?

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer, you can either post it publicly in the forums here, the doors are always open or you can contact me directly here.

Alternatively if you can offer any suggestions, words of advice or just a few words of comfort to a fellow business owner that’s had a boot in the knackers, you can let us know using the comments box below.

Amazon UK Release Seller Ratings – You’re Being Scored

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seller Ratings Widget

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

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

An Introduction to Amazon Seller Ratings

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

Press Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seller Ratings Dashboard

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

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

My Rating

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

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

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

Score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are these Seller Ratings Calculated Video

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

Press Play

Video Transcription

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

Here is how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I Improve My Rating

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

Rating Trend

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

New Reporting!

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Seller Ratings Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

Let me know in the comments box below.

How to Get Amazon Feedback Removed

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

What Can be Removed from Amazon Feedback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Removing Neutral & Negative Amazon Comments

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

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

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

Hello,

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

The comment is:

<ENTER THE COMMENT HERE>

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

Kind regards,

<YOU NAME>

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

Up to 43% More eBay Buyers In 5 Minutes

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Browser Compatibility Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, it matters a lot.

Exactly the Same eBay Listing, but in Different Web Browsers

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

An eBay Listing Example in FireFox

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

eBay Listing in FireFox

An eBay Listing Example in Safari on the iPad

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

eBay Listing in Safari

An eBay Listing Example in Internet Explorer

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

eBay Listing in Internet Explorer

An eBay Listing Example in Google Chrome

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

eBay Listing in Google Chrome

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

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

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

Mark Withers

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

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

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

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

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

The Web Browser Usage Statistics You Cannot Ignore

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

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

web browser statistics July 2012

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

Operating System statistics July 2012

Source: here

Check Your Listings Now

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

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

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

For the sake of 5 minutes, do it now.

Your Browser Download Links

Update!

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

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

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

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

Tesco Marketplace Update: Not Enough Big Name Brands?

The launch of Tesco’s Marketplace has been very quiet, first it was launched very silently in April with  just two 3rd parties, Maplins and Crocus and now according to this article Tesco has postponed its launch campaign. So is this the end of Tesco marketplace already?

Tesco Marketplace, the only viable new challenger to Amazon in the UK Marketplace as both a retailer and a Marketplace, noting that eBay is not a retailer as well, well “as yet” at least.

Sears MarketplaceWe’ve seen this done to varying degrees of success in the USA with Sears marketplace being the larger one of them and back in April we saw the statement in another article from the BBC that Tesco were looking to increase the volume by two, from 40,000 to 80,000 lines for their own supplied inventory and add more than double that through third parties with an aim of 200,000 by Christmas.

When I looked at the Tesco Marketplace back in April, we could already see signs that it’s launch had not been that well thought through and data was weak in some places and only a handful of merchants had signed up and were listing their inventory on Tesco Direct.

 

Current 3rd Party Sellers on Amazon

Looking at Tesco marketplace today, the current list of brands are as follows:

  • Crocus
  • Fred Aldous
  • Mamas & Papas
  • Maplin
  • Normans Musical Instruments
  • Purely Gadgets
  • The Nutri Centre
  • Thompson & Morgan
  • Trove (Hughes Electrical)
  • Wayfair

If we count the number of products that these new merchants have added to the marketplace, we come in with a total of 45,582 new products.

Hardly a dent in the target 200,000 products expected by Christmas and considering that it’s taken 5 months to get this far and 4 months to go December, then it looks unlikely that Tesco Marketplace will be anywhere near the expected volume of inventory.

Digging into Mamas & Papas

mamas and papas on Amazon

Looking at one retailer, in particular “Mamas & Papas”, they were said to be “a huge online shopping destination” for Tesco Direct, however, I’m wondering how flawed this is.

Checking their fully branded Amazon presence here they hardly scrapping 71 feedback comments, which means they’re only really seeing 700 orders a month from the Amazon marketplace.

It does make you wonder why Mamas & Papas even bothered with Tesco Marketplace in the first place

If we look to eBay where there is no direct presence by Mamas & Papas, there are over 5,500 items listed, showing that the secondhand market is strong (as it is second hand here as no primary presence by the own label brand) and an estimated monthly sales volume of £271,000 according to Terapeak.

It does make you wonder why Mamas & Papas even bothered with Tesco Marketplace in the first place, as an over quarter of a million pounds work of a kit a month in secondhand only goods raises the immediate question, why are we not seeing them on eBay already, after all eBay see’s more visitors each month than Tesco and has the same or greater potential than Amazon does.

What Do You Think of the Tesco Marketplace?

In the original article that I wrote at the beginning of this year called “Part 1: Battle of The Giants – Tesco V’s Amazon – Who Will Win?” it was correctly noted in the comments that Tesco only need to make a small dent in Amazon to have an effect.

What I had not realised is how little this dent is going to be, now with their marketing campaign for the site being postponed, you’ve got to wonder if we’ll be seeing anything like the formation of a new marketplace that I know many of you have longed for.

So one question for you:

Do you think the Tesco Marketplace is ever going take off and are we likely to see the ~180,000 businesses from eBay and the estimated 100,000 from Amazon move over? Would you?

You can let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.