Managing Related & Similar Products in eSellerPro for Magento

In this article I’ll be showing how you can easily manage related & similar products in eSellerPro for use on your Magento website and if that’s too much hard work, at the bottom I’ve included a link to a free Magento extension that will set these up automatically for you and 4 tips you can use too!

I know we’ve had a run of Magento based articles lately, part of of my goal for 2013 is to actually share what I get up to and I added this functionality into the eSellerPro to Magento connector over a month ago and it’s about time I shared it!

What are Related , Cross Sell and UpSell Items in Magento?

Upsell items in Magento

Upsell items in Magento

This is an excellent place to start, because in eSellerPro only two of these are supported and we need to know what the options are in Magento, to make a decision on which ones we should be using.

So… there are three types of cross merchandising options in Magento out of the box, these are as follows:

  • Related Products
    These are items that complement the current product being viewed. This could be a charger or memory card for a digital camera, a power supply for a laptop or maybe a necklace to go with a dress.
  • Up Sell Products
    These are generally products that are of the same type and ideally of higher value. For example if the product being viewed is a pair of shoes, then similar shoes of the same design, again ideally higher in price as well.
  • Cross Sell Products
    These are the items that are shown in the shopping cart when the customer is about to checkout. This could be a memory card for a digital camera or perhaps a warranty.

While setting these up manually in Magento is a straight forwards process for each item, if you have lots and lots of products, then doing this individually would take forever, so we need options and I have three options for you!

Why only two and not all three?

eSellerPro is exceptionally flexible and when building the connector between eSellerPro and Magento, I knew that you might want to be managing the cross merchandising options from within eSellerPro (it makes sense to do this as it is the core base of all your inventory data after all), so the ability to leverage the existing functionality in eSellerPro was considered and you can manage up to two of these options directly within your eSellerPro account.

In eSellerPro you can manage two options for cross promoting products, “Related Items” and “Similar Items”, that;s not the full three options that we can use in Magento, but it’s good enough.

The fantastic thing about this functionality being in eSellerPro is that you can easily manage the related & similar items using an import & export sheet directly in eSellerPro, rather than having to “faff around” setting this up externally (which is a nightmare for large sites) and I’ll get to how you can do that in a few moments.

Oh a quick note, let me know which ones you’d like your products matching to in the eSellerPro to Magento connector.

Which Options to Select?

This really depends on two things, your theme and what you’d like to happen. Different themes handle these 3 cross merchandising options differently and I’d suggest that you manually add a few products to each of these to a product and see how they look on your websites theme.

Generally I would suggest using “related products” and “Cross sell products”.

This means that you’re able to show related products on the product page and leave space for a “You also viewed” module to be shown on the product and category pages, without overwhelming the user with too many options and the cross sell products for the checkout where carefully selected products or services could bring the average order value up.

Managing Cross Merchandising in eSellerPro for Magento

To show you how this works it’s best if we make an example for you and you can follow me along in your eSellerPro account right now. It won’t more than a few minutes to do and once you see the import sheets, you’ll have it licked.

You can follow me along in your eSellerPro account right now

How to manually add related products in eSellerPro

To manually add products as related items to a product in eSellerPro is dead easy, just follow the steps below:

  1. Go to Inventory/Listing and open up “Inventory details”
  2. Pick any product and double click it
  3. Along the top click on the “Related/Kits” tab
  4. We now have two panels as shown in the screen shot further down
  5. On the left panel for “Related Products” press the “Add” button
  6. A new window will appear and you’ll probably have to resize it. You’ll also recognise it as well, it’s the inventory search screen so you can search for any products you like.
  7. Pick any product(s) you want and on the left put a tick next to it
  8. Press “OK”
  9. That’s it you have added related products to the original product. Easy eh?
How to Add Related Products in eSellerPro

How to Add Related Products in eSellerPro

Important Note:
This tab also allows you to make kits of products. If you are not using kits in eSellerPro stop reading this article immediately and listen to this Podcast. eSellerPro has a a wicked feature called “kits” that allow you to make unique products, unique products are like gold dust in the eCommerce environment and can give you amazing results in little to no time and with hardly any effort on ALL your sales channels.

How to manually add similar products in eSellerPro

To add similar products in eSellerPro, just press the “Add” button on the the similar items panel and follow the same steps as above.

How to import & export related products into eSellerPro

That was the hard way, now for the easy way

I’ve also included some tips for you next as well so that you’re able to do this in mass for all your products too.

You can import and export related and similar products using excel and it’s even easier than manually adding them to each product. To bulk import and export related/similar items just follow these steps:

  1. Go back to the “selection” tab in inventory details
  2. Pick the product we just set the related and similar items on and tick it on the left
  3. Along the top press the “Excel” icon
  4. In the middle there are two options, export on the left and import on the right
  5. Click on “Export Related Products”
  6. Save the file to your desktop as “Related Products”
Importing and exporting related & similar products in eSellerPro

Importing and exporting related & similar products in eSellerPro

In this file you’ll have two lines, one for the related products and one for the similar products, an example of this is below:

Managing Related & Similar Products in Excel

Managing Related & Similar Products in Excel

Column A – Related?
This is where you set the relationship type. Either “Related” or “Similar”.

Column B – Stock Number?
This is the stock number of the item you are adding the relationships to.

Column C & Beyond – Cross Promotion Stock Numbers
In columns C, D, E etc… this is where you add each stock number you wish to add as a related or similar item to the stock number in column B

You can now make as many edits as you see fit and to import them back in again, just press the “Import Related Products” button and upload the file.

Tips for setting related & similar products in eSellerPro

So now for some tips I’m sure you’ll find useful when setting up related & similar products for use on your website(s <= that’s a plural as Magento supports multiple stores out of the box).

Tip #1 – Limit to 1500 products

The excel xls importer for eSellerPro can slow right down if you give it massive excel files. So limit the number of lines you’re importing to a sensible cap of 1,500 rows.
This only applies to this import type as you are forced to use the xls format, on other imports you can use CSV which is almost unlimited and runs a lot faster!

Tip #2 – Set masters only

There is no need to set stocked sub SKU’s for related or similar items for use in Magento, these are rarely available own their own when in configurable products (as they’re set to “Not visible individually)”, thus just add the master products as then the customer can make their own selection for any variations. You can filter these out from your search results using the “Product Type” button and selecting masters only.

Tip #3 – Use Custom Exports to find matches

Make a custom export with “sku, ProductCategory1, title” and then filter by master SKU’s in the inventory list and export those to work out what should go with each other. You could also use eBay categories or any data that allows you to quickly identify which products complement each other and use this to make the import sheet for importing the related/similar items.

Tip #4 – Give it to one of your staff to do

Send them the link to this article and ask them nicely to do this for you.
If you’re reading this and your boss has given this task to you & you get stuck, just shoot me an email here.

Now for that Magento Extension

Related products manager for Magento

Related products manager for Magento

The reason why I’m suggesting this extension is because I have used it on numerous sites and I know it works brilliantly. It also helps it’s free, but the main reason why I like it and are suggesting it to you is because you get the best of both worlds.

With this extension you can set up related, cross sell and up sell products automatically, but in the connector between eSellerPro and Magento, if you set any values manually for up to two of these, then the extension will use the values that you’ve set manually first and ignore what it’s worked out for your products.

So that extension… it’s called “Related Products Manager” and you can download it using Magento Connect.

How to install “Related Products Manager”

If you’ve not added an extension before to Magento, it’s dead easy, just follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the Related Products Manager
  2. Press the big blue “Install Now” button
  3. If prompted sign in or press the register button which will take a minute or two to fill out
  4. Tick “I agree” to the terms and conditions
  5. Then click the “Get Extension Key”
  6. Copy the key (this will look like
  7. Go to your Magento site admin
  8. Along the top go to System > Magento Connect > Magento Connect Manager
  9. You’ll most likely be asked to sign in again, do so
  10. Enter the key we copied from step 6 into the box called “Paste extension key to install”
  11. Now press the “Install” button to the right
  12. A few moments later we should see a new section below telling us a little more about the extension we want to add. If it’s the correct one, press “Proceed”

Extensions normally on take a moment or two to be installed and you’ll be shown the progress at the bottom in the green text area, just leave this section running until you see “Cache cleaned successfully”

Once installed go to System > Configuration > Catalog > Related Products Manager
(If you get a 404 error on this page, just logout and login again)

Then you can set the options as you desire for the number of related, cross sell and up sell items, press save to store these values, then press the “Update Related Products” button for the cross promotions to be automatically worked out for you.

Tip: As with any new extension, run in a development site to make sure it’s compatible with your site and works as you expect.

In Conclusion

We learnt the difference between the cross promotion tools in Magento, related products, which are for products that compliment the item being viewed, up sell products that are best suited to items of a great value and cross sell products which are used in the Magento shopping cart, but depending on the theme you are using, may be shown in different places or have different labels.

We’ve seen how we can manually add products as related or similar products in eSellerPro and also how we can quickly import thousands of them too using the Excel import option for related & similar products. We also saw that eSellerPro has only two options for cross promotions, internally they’re called “Related” and “Similar” products, but that in the connect or Magento, these could be ported to any of the three cross promotion options as needed.

I know that it may be impossible for you to set up cross promotions manually for each product, especially if we consider you may have tens of thousands of products, so we needed a tool or extension to make these for us, which we found and installed called “Related Products Manager”. This extension gives us the best of both worlds, we can manually override the products we want minute control over at product level in eSellerPro, for some products that will be fantastic, but for the rest we can cheat and let that extension work them out for us.

What do you think?

Have you set up and used related products in eSellerPro before and did you find the guide above helpful?

Let me know in the comments box below.


One Simple Check for Your Website

This is more of a peace of mind check for your website, it takes one minute to check and could save you from losing customers.

It’s really that quick, let’s dive in!


So what is this check?

Open a web browser and type in “” and press enter.

The site works and brings you back to the homepage.

Now open a new tab and type in “” (noting the removal of the www part)

See how the site still loads on both of these?

That’s is exactly what we need to happen, customers can type in both versions and we need them to be redirected to just one of these. If they’re not being redirected, the site looks down and that looks bad on us :(

Now do this for your website and confirm the same happens.

Sometimes only a single DNS entry is added in the domain name with your registrar (where you bought the domain name from) and that can be just the “www” record. So when a customer like me is lazy and misses out the “www” part to your domain name, if I’m being sent to a dead site, that to me (and ultimately your customers) looks like a dead site!

Arh my website is like that!

What you need to change to make this to work varies from website to website.

Sometimes it’s just a wildcard A record in your DNS settings (that’s the * symbol) and the website platform will work out the correct URL and sometimes you’ll need to update your website settings and possible the .htaccess file to redirect it for you.

If you’re confident in what you’re doing, this .htaccess rule will work for both http and https connections:

For www to non-www

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

For non-www to www

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

If you’re not 100% sure, just ask your web hosting company to point you in the right direction for the changes you need to make. You can also make these changes in your website platform, so it’s worth consulting the help sections for your website provider.

In Summary

Personally I prefer the non-www version, hence this is why this site redirects back to the domain without www in it, but that really is up to you, I just like typing less.

For the sake of just typing your own web address in the URL bar at the top and checking that you’re being redirected, will give you peace of mind that at least the most, simplest of bases is covered.

If your site is OK and it is redirecting pat yourself on the back and if not, you’re now aware of it and can save customers from thinking your website is dead, when really it’s not.

2nd Impressions of Magento & eSellerPro Connector Update

In this post I’ll be sharing with you some of my findings so far after working for the past 3-4 months with multiple Magento sites.

Approximately 18 months ago, I worked deep into Magento for a clients site and I came out of that experience with some distorted impressions, now that Magento has progressed, I must say the second time around a lot more enjoyable.

The past week has been excellent fun and it’s looking likely that we’ll have 3 completed Magento to eSellerPro connectors completed and one live in the next few days. But before they go live, I’d like to share a few of the challenges we’ve had along the way and hopefully you can learn from them too.

Resource Hogging

By far the biggest challenge we’ve had has not been with the connector between eSellerPro and Magento itself, but the servers that the Magento sites are being hosted on.

In short, Magento is a beast and it needs lots of resources.

magento resource hoggingAnd when I say lots, I mean lots. Even 2 dedicated Xeon cores and 4Gb ram is still struggling to cope with ~15,000 products.

Granted a lot of these are variations (footwear), but even still it was being sold as “Magento Ready” VPS (Virtual Private Server from Vidahost) and so far it’s not been performing as well as one would have hoped. On another we got to 29K products on a shared hosting package and it did rather well in comparison, the only troubles we ran into there was that it’s proving slow to load and the other 50K products will have to wait until it’s moved on to a full dedicated server in the next day or two.

I’m now doubling my suggestion “that if you’re not paying £50 a month hosting fees then it’s not enough” to £100.

That means you can have a decent dedicated server to power the beast with plenty of room to grow and don’t have to worry about the number of connections and the amount of time a process is taking to run.

Oh and if you’re reading this thinking oh my goodness £100 for web hosting alone for a website… Then your right, it is expensive, but when you need flexible options and have large amounts of inventory, then Magento makes sense.

Common & Cool Magento Extensions

A couple of extensions have come to my attention and I think you should be aware of them too.

Magento Shipping Extension

Magento has some basic shipping options and also matrix rates that you can import via CSV, however these are not that flexible if you have complex rules and one extension that is being used by 4 sites so far is the “Product Matrix shipping extension“.

This extension is sick and if you want to see how configurable it is, see their Google document here which has exactly 1 squllion well documented examples included.

Image Switching for Variations

magento image swapping for variationsI was surprised that this didn’t work out of the box with Magento, it’s got every other feature you’d want, but image swapping when a variation such as a colour is selected from the drop-down box, nope.

Hidden in the depths of Google I found a really old article that showed  you how to set up images to swap on Magento’s configurable products using a £45 extension called “Magic Zoom Plus“. This extension adds the zoom window that we see on eBay listings, but it also opens the main image up into a lightbox too so the customer can see the full sized image.

Anyway… the core reason for wanting this extension is because if you set the variation products up to have images too (which the connector from eSellerPro Magento now does), you can select a colour option and the main image changes.

If you’d like to see this in action, have a look at this demo product on my Magento testing site (change one of the colour options in the drop-down box).


sagepay_logoOne of my old nightmares was with PayPal Website Payments Pro and Magento, back at something like version 1.5.1 PayPal was in there but not actually working for the UK version. Two minor updates later and multiple calls to PayPal it was finally working, so when it came to SagePay and Magento, I was kinda hoping for a more pleasant experience.

To integrate SagePay is a piece of pie. I’ve now set this up several times and we’ve had it running in an hour, the extension you want is this one, it makes it easy and the SagePay Tech support team are ace.

M2ePro – Listing to eBay & Amazon from Magento

This is a topic for a different article really, but it’s of worthy mention.  M2ePro has come on leaps and bounds from what it used to be (“cranky” was one word for it) and it’s exceptionally flexible now.

While not the most well documented product out there, their support is amazing! We’ve had 2 minute replies continuously for any questions we had and there are so many options to fill your boots with.

The setup wizards are OK, but some of the options are not well explained and we’ve found a few things that need to be setup just right for them to work. But it’s promising and I’m hoping to release a full step-by-step guide to getting up and running with M2ePro in the next few weeks, plus I’d like to get the business up and running on it first and can use that as a reference point.

eSellerPro to Magento Connector Updates

eSellerProWe’re so close to having our first Magento site that is powered by the connector I’ve built between eSellerPro live, literally 2-3 days and I can’t wait to share!

The data transformation needed has gone through multiple stages of development now and the process the data goes through has had major revisions. It’s running approximately 14.4 times faster than it was before (I time each transaction and log it) for small batches and for larger batches, the speed increase is almost exponential because of the way the data is now being handled. If I lost you with that lot, basically it runs fast when creating or updating products.

When the connector was first written I only hand a handful of settings, today there are 148 settings that completely change the way the connector works between eSellerPro and Magento for all parts of the integration, inventory creation, stock & price updates, order collection and of course updating orders back in Magento too, allowing for it to be completely customised to each installation and data sets that the business has.

To give you some idea of the flexibility the connector has, here is a glimpse of what the Magento to eSellerPro connector can do right now:

  • More Magento Versions Supported
    Supports Magento version 1.7.X and confirmed working with Magento 1.5.X as well
  • Category Creation
    Creates categories on-the-fly and with configurable options as well. Such as making the category active by default, including it in the menu or even setting it as an anchor category
  • Category Blocking
    Category blocking to block specific categories from being created, which is super handy when someone has old categories that they need to ignore or use elsewhere
  • Data Cleansing
    Category cleaning, so that moving from an existing website to Magento is much (much) easier and can mean that the category tree can stay the same temporarily while the product data is updated. There are a few amazingly sick things I’m not going to share around the categories, but they make the moving from one site to another a lot easier.
  • Up to 5 Variation Styles Supported
    Variations or configurable products are supported and now up to 5 different attribute sets can be catered for dynamically and they’re matched to the right visibility. Oh and if they’re all out of stock, guess what the master product is marked as inactive as well.
  • Dynamic Attribute Creation
    You’ll know these as custom fields from eSellerPro, but in Magento they’re called “Attributes” and these are created dynamically and with what-ever options you like by default too. Want to swap the type to another type such as a dropdown or text area, the connector now checks for attribute type changes so not to slow down the loading process.
  • Data Transformation
    The value of specific Custom fields can be transformed at the load time, for example one user has a full URL for a YouTube video that they wanted porting to a specific attribute in Magento, we had three options, update eSellerPro, hack the site’s template or just let the connector strip the URL part and load only the YouTube video ID.
  • Cross Selling in & Tested
    Related, upsell and cross-sell products are now fully supported from being set in eSellerPro in the “Related/Kits” tab and they’re loaded automatically and controlled back in eSellerPro where you can import and export all you like.
  • Tiered Pricing & Groups
    Customer pricing groups are in and tested and up to 10 groups are supported. These are handy for sites where you have B2C and B2B going on. Oh and tiered pricing (which is price breaks upon quantity) is also in and working.


Payment Processing WarningsPaypal Logo

During the setup process for these sites, I’ve noticed that that both PayPal and SagePay have been being set to AUTH and not SALE transactions.

Just in case one of these slips through to a live site environment or is changed at a later date, there are some massive warnings sent on orders to eSellerPro now that make it really clear that the site is set up as AUTH and not SALE (there is an option to block them from being sent and also turn the warning off as well).

If you’re wondering what the differences is, the SALE version means you get paid, the AUTH version means you only authorised the payment but haven’t taken it yet.

Spotted the problem yet? :)

Magento Theme Support

The differences between a well written and a botched theme are now becoming apparent.

Some themes look like they have been written by a blind baboon, but others are so well written they’re amazing.

Some themes look like they have been written by a blind baboon

I mentioned the use of the YouTube video integration earlier, this was dead simple with what one of the designer guys had done, literally pop it in and it worked and if you wanted the extra flexibility of sizing, you could set those via attributes or using a simple syntax for the attribute.

One of the connectors has been set up to manage custom containers and blocks as part of the loading & updating process for products, so that the actual product layout page can be set up and managed eSellerPro and the site changes accordingly, it’s soooo sick, I’m going to have to show you how this works in a later article too.

Anyway we digress.

Magento, second time around has been an enjoyable experience. Not without it’s frustrations though, the entire core of the product appears to be undocumented and not a wiff of a comment anywhere which makes extending it a real challenge at times, but what can be done with it is pretty darn cool.

Am a convert yet from OpenCart? Maybe… but as I dig in deeper, they’re chalk and cheese.

What do you think of Magento?

What’s your thoughts on Magento? Have you used it for your site are you thinking about it or maybe you’ve been looking at something else… Let me know in the comments box below, I’d love to hear from you.


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.

What is Responsive Website Design?

I’m sure you’ve noticed it by now, this site has had an overhaul, but it’s not-any-old-redesign, it’s a responsive design.


So what does responsive mean and why should you have a responsive website?

Responsive Web DesignTo answer this, we need a reality check and a little history to what’s been happening over the past few years.

Smaller screen sizes are becoming more & more popular, on any given day I’m likely to have used, an Android phone (two browsers, inbuilt and Chrome), an iPad (two browsers also, Safari & Chrome) and a desktop on numerous browsers, Chrome, FireFox, IE 8 and Opera and by 2014, it’s expected that mobile Internet usage will overtake desktops.

Before responsive designs were common place, website owners would make a different layout tailored to different devices. For example a design just for the iPad or iPhone and another for the other widely used devices such as the Android browser or the Blackberry.

I took that approach a while ago on this very site almost exactly one year ago when I launched a mobile version of this site, using a customised theme for smaller devices.

The problem with this approach is that you end up having multiple sites to keep updated.  One small change meant more than one set of files to update and that not only an administrative nightmare, it would usually be costly too, as each design was separate so your design fees were doubled, trebled and even more…

One answer to this problem is to use a “Responsive Web Design” or RWD for short. This is a single design that is made up of special elements and use of the @media tag in CSS (CSS is Cascading Style Sheets, they are what makes this page look pretty). Using this tag and special elements, the same design is then used for all browser screen sizes.

Try it for yourself

Assuming you’re using a desktop to view this article, if you now take this website in your browser window and start resizing it downwards you’ll see the site to change, but the overall look and feel has stayed the same.

If you’re on a mobile device, change the devices orientation and you’ll see the resize itself to the windows width.

Neat eh? That’s a responsive website in action.

There is a fantastic slide show by John Polacek (from whom also I borrowed a screen shot from for the image at the top and the image above) which you can view on responsive web design here:

So why should you have a responsive web site?

Simple, one set of files to update for all versions of the site, for small and medium sites this is ideal and also pretty cheap.

When planning your next eCommerce website, the key question to ask the web designers is:

“Is the site responsive?”, if the answer is no, look elsewhere.

The exception to this rule is for massive sites such as eBay or Amazon, then server side components is a better approach and you can learn more about that here and here.

What do You think of Responsive Sites?

What do you make of this sites redesign and do you love or hate responsive designs?

Let me know in the comments box below.


How to Disable the Magento WYSIWYG Editor

Magento comes with a lot of features out of the box, one of those is a HTML editor to allow easy adding and editing of HTML in almost all content areas.

However for advanced users, it’s more of a nuisance and you can disable it if you prefer, in this video I show you how.

There it’s that easy and super handy for HTML editing in Magento for advanced users.

Magento to eSellerPro Integration Completed!

magento to eSellerPro integrationLooking to use eSellerPro with Magento or looking for an alternative website system to use along side eSellerPro? Read on!

Over the Christmas period, I’ve completed a fully compatible integration from eSellerPro to Magento Community & Enterprise editions.

It’s the best of both worlds, you can now use the same inventory that you are using for selling on eBay, Amazon etc… and power your own fully customised website using Magento and order processing is completed back in eSellerPro.


How it Works

Because the integration connector sits between eSellerPro and Magento, if the data is available, anything is possible

The way the integration works is in 5 parts and this integration works with your existing processes and still allows you to manage as much as possible from within eSellerPro.

Part 1 – Inventory
You manage your inventory just as you are now in eSellerPro. Select the products that you’d like to send to your Magento website(s) and they’re created or updated on Magento automatically for you.

You can power as many sites as you like from this connector and beyond the eSellerPro limit of 10 stores via the Channel Profile. Oh and attributes, which you’ll know as custom fields are automatically generated for you.

Part 2 – Stock & Price Updates
Stock and price updates are automatically processed, so that if you have 10 items in stock and sell 2 on Amazon, the updates are also reflected on your Magento website.

Part 3 – Order Processing
As you receive orders on your Magento websites, orders are delivered back to eSellerPro and go through the same standard order process, just like your orders from the other order sources.

Part 4 – Order Updates
As you process your orders and mark them as shipped, just like with eBay & Amazon, your Magento website orders are updated with the shipment information and customers are notified directly.

Part 5 – Customisation & 
Because this is a connector that is sat between eSellerPro and Magento it is completely customisable.

If you have bespoke requirements they can be accounted for, the connector can do anything that you cannot do in eSellerPro and apply a layer of pre & post processing logic to fully customise your product & order data between the two systems.

A few examples of customisation are:

  • Tiered pricing, that’s pricing discounts based upon order quantities
  • Group pricing for wholesale, trade or other customer groups in Magento
  • Expands beyond the limit of 10 stores in eSellerPro
  • Automatic attribute creation
  • Support for simple and configurable products (these are variation & multi-variation products)
  • Support for almost any 3rd party extensions that you use that also need to be updated. Such as Google Base & Products Ads or variation images via MagicBox for swapping images with variation selections.
  • Automatic re-indexing, keeping your indexes up to date

This integration also works in reverse, so that if you’re using Magento right now for your website business and want to use eSellerPro for the back office functions, then now the two can be deeply integrated.

Video Overview

Press play on the video below to be taken through a high level overview of the Magento to eSellerPro connector.

Would You Like to Know More?

The full feature list is available on the Magento to eSellerPro Integration is available. Pricing depends on the level of customisation required with a small monthly fee that includes additional developer hours per month to make any changes as required and processing time.

Up to 43% More eBay Buyers In 5 Minutes

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

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

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

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

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


The Browser Compatibility Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, it matters a lot.

Exactly the Same eBay Listing, but in Different Web Browsers

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

An eBay Listing Example in FireFox

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

eBay Listing in FireFox

An eBay Listing Example in Safari on the iPad

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

eBay Listing in Safari

An eBay Listing Example in Internet Explorer

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

eBay Listing in Internet Explorer

An eBay Listing Example in Google Chrome

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

eBay Listing in Google Chrome

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

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

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

Mark Withers

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

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

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

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

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

The Web Browser Usage Statistics You Cannot Ignore

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

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

web browser statistics July 2012

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

Operating System statistics July 2012

Source: here

Check Your Listings Now

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

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

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

For the sake of 5 minutes, do it now.

Your Browser Download Links


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

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

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

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

Page Length 33% Shorter, 66% Better? – That Can’t Be Right?

You may have missed it, last Friday the homepage took a hefty re-design and was clipped by a third, but that’s worse right?


Wrong, Shorter is Better.

Shorter is BetterIf we compare the old landing page to the new landing page, size really does matter as the importance of what is being shown is increased as the number of items has decreased.

Before there were 7 core articles with longer descriptions and 6 sub articles, all arranged by date order, but not by importance to you, the user.

Now we have 3 core articles which are organised by date with larger descriptions, 7 of the most popular articles on the site to the right and one featured article of my choosing.

While this is only 3 articles less compared to the longer version, the amount of space that they take up & the ease of entry into them has increased N fold, because they’re right in front of you now.

And that’s my point, shorter is better because in this case the information that you need from the homepage is only a click away.

Your Layouts

This ports, really well to what you’re doing with your website and eBay listings. Get the critical information in front of the user ASAP and if you must have fluffy stuff (like me and my logo’s at the bottom), put them at the bottom out of the way of the main listing area, so users don’t have to scroll.

This is known as “above the fold” and “below the fold”. Everything “above the fold” is the part of the website, listing or website that the user see’s without scrolling and “below the fold” is everything below the first part of the page that the user sees.

The first part of the page AKA “above the fold” is ultra important, as that is the first part the customer sees when the page loads and is the reference point that the user comes back to, hence the action points should always be near the top and definitely in the the top 10-15% of the page.

eBay Amazon comparison

Each component of the header and top % of the page is really important, it’s like a map for a user to follow, looking at the image below for eBay & Amazon, you’ll notice that the placements are actually not that dissimilar for the home icon, breadcrumb, search, basket, product image, buy button, product options, prices, help and product sub images.

The only major difference is the layout and placement of the buying option, eBay is the middle and Amazon is to the right. Which makes me wonder, if eBay will ever try swapping these around?

The information the customer needs to know is right in front of them and the desired exit point.

In eBay & Amazon’s case it’s the buy option. Look how big both those objects are in the image above, the eBay buy button is a huge blue block and the Amazon buy box is also a huge blue box, that is no accident.

In my case on this site, it’s the register button, the registration area also being red helps, (which reminds me have you registered yet?), but I am ow wondering if I have made a mistake and I need to swap it to blue?

The New Forums – Have Your Say!

Recent Forum Posts WidgetWhile we’re on the topic of changes, you’ll see that the lower part of the homepage has been focused away from the content that I directly product in the form of articles & guides and instead focusing more heavily on  user driven content?

The forums went live last week and the messages left in the new forums  are shown on the left and the comments left on articles on the right.

I’m also developing a new widget area to show the latest forum threads, not just the replies so you we can get to the latest threads as quickly as possible.

It’s time that you have your say and while I do my best to cover as many topics as I can, together we are stronger and that’s why I need your help!

If you haven’t registered yet, the forums are now open and waiting your input. You can register here for free and a password will be emailed to you in seconds. I’m look forward to hearing from you.

And Finally….

Now you know about shorter page lengths and that “above the fold” is really important, because that is what the suer see’s first when they come to your product pages. Are your buy buttons on your website over to the right, clearly shown and easily accessible?

Google Checkout is now Google Wallet – New Logo’s Included

Google WalletI’ve used Google Checkout, sorry ‘wallet’, for years and I’ve experienced zero fraudulent transactions to date and as a buyer, I tend to use it over PayPal if the merchant accepts it. It just “works”.

Well its official, Google Checkout has today now been re-branded to “Google Wallet” and branding goes in-hand with the new Google Play.

I do actually like the new look & feel to both. However the purpose of this post is to remind you that the logo’s for Google Checkout are now changing and I’ve included the links to the latest versions below:

Big Buy Button

Normal Buy Button

Donate Button

Support Button

Contribute Button

Google Wallet Accepted Button

They’re much more stylish that the previous versions google-checkout-old-buy-button and it’s worth checking your shopping carts are using the latest logo’s for customers as any slight deviation in branding whether its your’s or a third parties could mean the difference between a customer converting and not.

Do you use Google Wallet for your checkout or have you used it as a buyer? What were your impressions? Let me know in the comments box below, I’d love to hear from you.


Delving into Niches with Multiple Websites – Part 1 Why & How

Hola! Welcome to the first part of a series of articles on how to run multiple niche websites and really tap into multi-channel eCommerce without eBay & Amazon.

Multiple eCommerce WebsitesI have been meaning to write this series for quite some time now and it’s going to take me a while to work through the different aspects I’d like to cover, hence breaking it up into multiple parts which will take me a few weeks to cover.

It’s my intention to start from the beginning in this article and cover the theory, then in the following articles work through turning the theory into practice to reach the final goal of you being able to run multiple web stores from a a single installation and really tap into the power of going niche.

I know I’m going to get distracted along the way, this is for good reason, I’m going to be focusing on a single open source eCommerce platform called “OpenCart” to deploy this concept with you and there are a couple of extensions that I’d like to include as part of this guide, this includes a free to use addon that will enable you to sell on eBay from OpenCart and also to delve into an Amazon integration as well.

To be completely up front with you, I have developed a complete integration from eSellerPro to OpenCart and while it would be handy if you have eSellerPro to power multiple websites from, I’d like to stress that this is not a requirement and I’ll be keeping this in mind throughout the series of articles as I delve into the how to power multiple nice websites with OpenCart.

So for now in this first article, let’s focus on the “Why” and start on the “How” parts.



I’m fully converse with deploying numerous selling persona’s on eBay & Amazon. I’ve done this previously with +15 accounts and I know of one company that has taken this & thrown it to the wall and has over 30 limited companies all specialising in niches just on eBay.

I previously wrote a pair of articles that desperately need a rewrite that covered why using multiple eBay accounts might be a good idea (you can read them here and here). As I mentioned, they need a rewrite and let’s summarise these, as the theory is straight forwards and comes back to a just three key factors,  these are:

  • Timing
  • Personal choice
  • External factors

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

Also, an interesting set of factors that I delved into a while ago was that there is a limit to the exposure for a given sales platform on a given day. This was started because I could see no viable reason why eBay sales should stay consistent within a specific window of 20% on a single day.

So let me ask you two specific questions here, if the response is anything like the one I normally receive back, this is exactly why you need to carry on reading this series of articles:

  1. By midday, can you make an estimate within 10% on the total value of sales for that day? (if you’ve not tried this yet, try it)
  2. Look at the sales totals for each day over the past two weeks. Do they stay within a 20% window?

Yep thought so. I’ve found some business owners that use eBay & Amazon can estimate their daily sales figures to the nearest £100 quite accurately just using that morning sales and others that can be well within 1-3% window on daily sales values in excess of £15K per day. The thing is, that’s not natural.

It’s what lead me to write a pair of articles, the first called “Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?” and the second to explore a hypothesis, that why I cannot prove, but I’d bet money on it or a subset of what I cover being in place, because its exactly what I would do, the article is here and called “The eBay “Best Match” Position Bias Modifier Hypothesis“.

I know I’ve not fully answered the “why” part just yet, but I need to explore a sub-topic, around choices. That’s next up :)

Choices, Choices, Choices

Choices, Choices, Choices. Which Colour do you like?While timing can be pure fluke (when they find your product) and I’ve already made a case for external factors in the earlier section, the one factor that you can most easily influence is choice.

Buyers like choices, I like choices, but what influences my choice of which company to buy from, especially to what influences my partner to what she buys on eBay can vary greatly. Sometimes its just the way the product data is laid out, sometimes its gallery picture, sometimes it’s the sellers feedback, shipping prices, the colours used, the photographs, the list is almost endless.

The fact is here, is that I, as any of your potential customers may open your product listing and “not like it” and move to the next one. It could ironically be for the same product. It doesn’t matter, the point is, I have personal tastes on what I like and so do your customers.

This is one reason “why” you should consider multiple persona’s for your selling activities. For example you could one persona set up as a full professional looking business and the second the complete inverse, maybe one account that just uses variations, one that does not, one that as separate listings for each product variation and there are a whole host of possibilities, as soon as you break away from the “single business” approach.

And back to Why?

I wanted to cover the choices section in some detail, mainly because it’s the easiest to understand, I like black, but you may like blue, that means we will respond differently to different pages, it’s a quirk of being human, we have different tastes.

Going back to the three key points, Timing, Personal choice, External factors. Your product may be overlooked, it might even not be shown for a specific search and being at the right place at the right time can and does play a role in the ultimate goal of the customer buying your product. We’ve looked at personal choice in some depth and I’ve already hinted that when using marketplaces that external factors such as my hypothesis for when it comes to “best match” search results, the worrying part is that is exactly what I would do.

These are just some of the reasons why you should consider a multi-faceted approach to eCommerce and I’m sure you can think of more reasons why this approach makes good sense (if you have any you’d like to share, let me know in the comments box at the bottom).

I’m fully converse with deploying numerous selling persona’s on eBay & Amazon, but for websites, this can also be tough nut to crack, mainly because it can be expensive and the results take time to take effect, hence this article series.

Going Niche of Niche

WorldStores +70 StoresIf you have a wide range of products, then it can be relatively straight forwards to slice your products up into groups and create persona’s for each group.

I’m not going to be covering how to do this with eBay here, but instead focusing on a different way of approaching this through multiple eCommerce websites over a couple of articles.

An excellent example of this is in the real world is WorldStores, take a look at this page. That’s over 70 dedicated websites  Each site is niche site to a specific range of products and this is the opportunity & challenge I’m going to be tackling in this series of articles. How to go multi-channel with multiple websites, on a budget.

If you’d like a corporate example see that are responsible for Littlewoods, Very, Isme (previously Marshall Ward), K&Co (previously Kays) and the other is, they have at least a dozen eBay accounts that I know of and if they had 30, I’d not be be surprised, let alone the assortment of highly specialised “Niche” websites.

Which website platform to use?

If we pick on a few examples Magento can be, sorry “is” a resource hog, to run multiple websites off Magento (or even one larger site for that matter) then you’re going to need specialised hosting, which costs, its far from a simple platform to use and as soon as you mention “Magento”, all costs go up a minimum of 60%.

If we look at the bespoke offerings from eSellerPro, then cost, features & time to deploy is a major factor here and if we look at the ASPdotnetStoreFront from ChannelAdvisor, ignoring the setup costs & design fees, the £200 a month is a non-starter for each niche website.

We need cheap, we need ease of use, some snazzy functions that don’t require massive amounts of processing power & can be run on a shared web hosting account, an arsenal of free or inexpensive themes, an extensions & addons base that is varied and equally inexpensive and that’s why I’m picking on one of my favourite open source website platforms called OpenCart.

If you’ve not seen OpenCart before, then I think its about time you did. You can see both the front end of the base installation of OpenCart and the administration panels through their demostration sites here.

For me OpenCart makes an excellent choice, the admin is easy and the front end is feature rich. It’ll happily run on shared hosting accounts, its free, the themes are super cheap and crucially…. get this!! It will run multiple webstores from a single installation!

Summary & Your Feedback Please!

We know that niche works, I’m in a niche, you’re in a niche. But there are so many sub-niches we can get into with a product based business, we just need a cost effective route to do so and that’s exactly what I’ll be digging into in this series of articles using OpenCart as a base.

My closing questions are below and you can let me know your reply in the comments box below.

  1. Have you considered creating niche websites before? What stopped you?
  2. Do you already have niche websites, what has been your experiences so far?
  3. What would you like to see in this series of articles?

I look forward to hearing from you :)

The True Cost of Adding Social Buttons

AddThis Button SelectorA cost, for adding social buttons to your website? Matt you’ve lost the plot…. or have I?

I wrote an article last year because I was horrified that the Facebook Like buttons are actually adding 84Kb, or in time 1.340 seconds to the page load time of this site. In this article, I look at the social sharing buttons again, but in more depth and identify the weight behind them.

By adding the Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Google +1, Facebook Like buttons and so on… you’re adding download weight to your pages and while they might look great and you might put a tick in your mind that you’ve got the social side licked, however… What is the true cost of adding the social buttons to your website?

It’s also worth noting that very shortly you should expect new Facebook buttons to be appearing, called “Want one” and “Own”, the Facebook Like button never really ported to well eCommerce and we’ll soon be seeing these plastered everywhere.


Tools Used

For this exercise, I am going to be using the following tools:

    I freely admit I’m a data freak and a website like this, really does it for me. For the purpose of this article I’ll be using it to identify the resources pulled on page loads. You’ll also find this site exceptionally useful for checking your page loading times as a whole.The data used for the majority of this article comes from this test: 
  • Excel
    The reports that the WebPageTest site creates can be copy/pasted to excel, this is what I’ll be using to filter the results.

Your mileage with these figures will vary upon many factors, such as location and server load. I’ve tried to keep as many aspects that I can consistent across the tests, but obviously things will vary. Felt I should point this out early on.

The use of the IFRAME tag for the majority of these sharing buttons does mean that your website page will continue to load while the external resources are being loaded, sometimes long after the website page has rendered. But my point is, they’re still being downloaded!

Let’s dig in and see what they’re like.

Facebook Social Button

In the previous article, I found that the Like button I was using was accounting for 84.4Kb to the page weight and taking over a second to the final page load time. A screen shot of this is below.

Facebook Download Data

Since then I swapped the button to a different one using a the ShareBar extension to WordPress and its this button set I’ll be looking at in this article and you’ll see them either on the left or at the top of this article (feel use them, if you’re finding this article helpful).

While the button itself is now in an IFRAME tag, which means it’ll load outside the main page and is not classed as page weight, the initial inclusion of the Facebook like button on the site is 6.9Kb and is loaded twice, for a total of 0.142 seconds.

So this is a vast improvement on the earlier article where I found it was pulling in a huge amount of overhead, however we must not forget that even though, this is in an IFRAME, it’s still being downloaded by the user.

So looking at this for the actual button in question in a separate test reveals that the browser is actually downloading a further 61Kb of data and takes around 1.229 seconds to fully load. This is shown in the screenshot below.

The full test results are here:

Interesting results so far as we’re getting close to the original 84Kb that I found last year. Lets see how the other buttons fair.

Twitter Social Button

The large twitter button is also not without a fair amount of page weight as well. Using the filters in excel from the previous test, we can see that its accounting for 52.5Kb of bytes downloaded and takes 0.431 seconds to load.


The Twitter sharing button also uses an iframe and we look at this as a separate resource at this page test  we can see that the iframe contents are 16Kb and take 0.720 seconds to load. So that’s an extra 16Kb for the browser to download, on top of the original 52.5Kb, yikes!

Still amazed that these buttons are so top heavy? Keep reading, it gets better!

Google Plus Social Buttons

The social buttons for Google Plus One are now becoming very popular and as they work on integrating businesses, we’ll start seeing a lot more of these. The bytes downloaded for the Google Plus button in the test is 22.3Kb and the time take is just 0.31 seconds.


Don’t get too excited just yet… Again the Google plus button is in an IFRAME, but the contents of the IFRAME still need to be downloaded and guess what… this one is at 69Kb and takes 1.607s seconds to load! Test results are in a screen shot and the test results are here

Google plus one button iFrame Test

Yea, that was deceptive, the Google Plus button has the lightest include so far, but looking at the total weight of Kb downloaded, 69Kb is monstrous and again I’d like to point out that the browser is having to download this content even after the main page has loaded.

Digg Social Buttons

Now it’s time to look at the very popular Digg social buttons for sharing. I might be techy, but I am frankly unsure why its being reported that it took 0.07 seconds to load just one file and the others have no time. If you know why, let me know in the comments box below!

However, this button is coming in at 9.9Kb to load the shell of the button and apparently 0.07 seconds to load it. Although I feel this value is incorrect.

Digg social button size

Not too bad so far, so let’s take a look at what it loads. This one was a little tricky to nail down, as unlike the other buttons so far they’re using iframes, this one is using a javascript include to bring the other elements in and to test this I have take the chunk of HTML & JavaScript that is used to load the button, put it on its own page and then page speed tested that by itself (I WILL find the weight of this button!).

Digg social button speed test

The page test & results are here and as this is a separate page, the results are slightly different as we need to remove the TTFB and the page from the sum of the components. The button resources come in at a total 9.4Kb of assets, with the png image taking up the majority of this weight at 5.3Kb.

Again I don’t know why the time taken to download the resources is not appearing in the test, but out of all the social buttons tested by far, at a total of 9.4Kb this is by far the lightest button!

Stumbleupon Social Button

This button is back to using a script file that weights just 0.7Kb, a fraction of a second to load and an IFRAME.

Stumbleupon share button File Size

Again lets look at the iframe weight by itself in its own test and we find that this button comes in at a very palatable 5Kb, however sucks at a load time of 0.812 seconds.

Stumbleupon Sharing Button speed test

AddThis Social Buttons

AddThis Button SelectorThe last button that I am going to test as part of this article is the “AddThis” button. I’ve chosen this button on top of the other ones I use because this tool can be seen as a quick fix for websites.

I’ve chosen the middle set of 3 options for icon size and also the generic code for “A Website”, obviously if you’re using smaller or larger buttons and for a different platform, your actual results will differ, but for a ball park figure this will be adequate.

On the first page load for the test file I made, I can already tell this one is going to lag badly. I’m on 50Mb broadband and the page lagged for ~1 second, thats not a good sign!

And… I was right. Again I need to remove the TTFB (Time To First Byte) from the equation, but on first impressions 124Kb is a whopping amount of data to be downloading.

AddThis Social Buttons Test

I’ve pulled the results out into excel as shown in the screen shot below:

AddThis Social Buttons Speed Test

The time take is incorrect again, however its interesting to see that when we sum the bytes downloaded, that we’re coming in over the original page weight at 125.2Kb. Eitherway this social set of buttons is the largest so far.


I’ve delved into the truer weights of loading these social buttons to help you understand that adding these buttons do come with a cost attached to them. While many of these use iframes to pull in the data from the external sites and don’t count towards to page load time to get the page loaded in the clients browser, they are still being downloaded and add to the true total weight of the page.

I feel its also worth pointing out that with the majority of the buttons tested, they are using content delivery networks, which will help with the delivery speed of the data across the globe. Also the scores from the testing sites were indicating clearly that the providers of these buttons have highly optimised systems to deliver the content, with most of them scoring A’s for each mark and of course, browsers do cache these data files, so if a user has been to another site and downloaded the sharing buttons, the weight is much less as the browser as the files in its cache.

The AddThis set of social sharing buttons might be the largest of them all in this test, however to be fair here, you’re unlikely to have both the AddThis buttons AND the other buttons separated on your pages.

So looking at the results as a whole, an aggregated tool such as AddThis (which is free) could offer a huge benefit to your website visitors when compared to loading each social sharing button separately.

Questions for You

For me personally, I’m dropping the stumble upon sharing button, but keeping the others on this site until I have the spare time to look at adding an aggregated option in combination with the ShareBar features as I’d need to style it heavily to get it to appear how I would like it to appear (vertically and horizontally).

So my questions for you are:

  • Did you know these buttons add considerable page weight to your website pages?
  • How many sharing buttons do you use?