Welcome to the eCommerce in Plain English Podcast!

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Enjoy the show!

UnderstandingE After Just One Month Live


It’s been a month since UnderstandingE launched and frankly it’s been crazy.

If you’ve been hidden under a rock for the past few months, we decided that it was time for a new generation of multi-channel software, a generation that leveraged open source software such as Magento and we’re in the process of joining all the dots together so you too can have access to enterprise-grade software to list onto eBay, Amazon, Play & your own Magento website so you don’t have to.

Well, it’s been a month since launch and you can hear how we went from ni-on zero-page views to 44,000 page views in a single month.


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

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Driod or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here.


The Podcast

In the Podcast myself & Dave reflect on what was actually achieved in January and the thing is, the stats are crazy.

  • From ni-on zero to 44,000 page views in 29 days
  • 1,736 unique visitors on day one
  • Launched with 35 guides that took 4 months to build
  • Published the following 29 guides in a matter of days

We also take the opportunity to ask each other, “What could you have done better this month?”, the replies that you’ll hear are not what you would expect. And the saying, Jab, Jab, Jab, Hook will make complete sense to you too.

Never Been Done Before

“One never notices what has been done, one can only see what remains to be done” Marie Curie

Because I can count the number of people in the world on one hand that could actually pull it off, I doubt that we’ll be followed with the level of insight between all the different components that are needed to pull such an ambitious project off.

The thing is, to do this needed a “degree-in-nerd” (one of the phases that Dave coined during the guides) and it doesn’t need to be like this any more. Because we’re documenting the process for you to follow, all in Plain English so that anyone can pick it up.

Basically, we’re building the system I needed 10 years ago.

However I’ve been through two multi-channel software companies since then, seen and spoken to more marketplace business owners than most people will do in their lifetime and we’re implementing this insight into something you can pick up and learn to do at your own pace.

With Passion You Cannot Fail

I’m a strong believer that 90% of the battle is actually won by turning up.

If you turn up you can fight, the thing is most people just don’t turn up and if you sprinkle in the passion for multichannel business owners like you that I have, then that’s going to be one interesting combination.

We’ve had one crazy month and with thanks to your feedback, it’s only going to get even crazier.

Oh and while we were plodding along and the pace of “caffeine-obsessed-mad-men” we were shortlisted for the Real Business Future 50 nominations which is a project to recognise the UK’s most exciting, most disruptive early-stage businesses. Curious one that one :/

If we did this all in one month, WTF are we going to have achieved by the end of February for you?

I know what’s written on my whiteboard to deliver to you and it makes Dave cringe when I start whiteboarding ideas, because he (and you will too if you listen into to the Podcast) now know how aggressive I can get when I focus on targets and looking forwards, I have so much to deliver it’s just nuts.

Anyway dive into the Podcast and the 3rd Generation… it’s there waiting for you, UnderstandingE.com.


Podcast EIPE 001 – Descriptions That Sell

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

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


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

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here.

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


Descriptions That Sell

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

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

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

So Why are Descriptions so Important to Online Selling?

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

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

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

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

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

The 3 Easy-to-Use Tools

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

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

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

#1 The Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2 The Difference between Features & Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or more simply put:

  • Benefit
  • Benefit
  • Feature
  • Feature
  • Benefit

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

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

#3 Less Than Perfect Products

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Description Layouts

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

These are:

  • Bullet points
  • The main description block
  • Tables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Video in Descriptions

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

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

Video content is very powerful because:

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world

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

Sources: Here and Here

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

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

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

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

A powerful visual demonstration of how to word your descriptions!

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

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

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

Take Action Now

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

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

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

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

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

The Presenters

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

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

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


Podcast 008 – Wasting Time With Fulfilment

The timing of this Podcast is perfect, I’m betting this week has been the busiest week you have ever had in your business and a by-product of that is an obscene amount of orders that need to be picked, packed & despatched.

Both Dave & myself personally see absolutely no value for the average small business to be sticking items into boxes and we need to get you, the entrepreneur away from wasting time on menial tasks and promoting you to a director and working on your business, rather than in your business.

This is a must-listen too Podcast for you if you’ve considered or even not yet considered using fulfilment services for your business.

In this Podcast, we have two very special guests, Sam Phillips from EasiLogic.com who runs a fulfilment company for small businesses and also Jason Hawkins from AristaComputers who recently moved his entire business to a fulfilment company to look at fulfilment for small businesses.


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

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes you can subscribe here for free.


Massive Growth This Week?

I know numerous businesses that have seen 8, 9, 10 and in one case a 18% year-on-year growth compared to last year, eCommerce is not holding back, it’s currently getting bigger by the day. However, a side effect of all the extra sales volume is the sheer amount of orders you’ve got to get through.

I’ll be blunt, I see absolutely no value in you sticking items into boxes.

Your time can be better spent on other key business tasks and this may hurt, but the reality is, there are people (just like Sam) that care about your products and can pack them just as well and dare I say it, probably better too.

Basic Steps for Processes in a New Business

As you go through the basic steps of starting up a business, making sure there is actually a demand for what you’re selling, learning the sales channels, supply chain etc… this is what I call the proof of concept stage. Assuming we get through that stage and we have a model that works, it’s common place for the same processes that you started with, to be carried through as the business grows, I know I did and we’re going to focus on one process, fulfilment in this Podcast.

Some Processes Just Don’t Scale

The issue is, that some processes (and businesses for that matter) just don’t scale and that’s why I’m so grateful for both Sam and also Jason in this Podcast who give us an insight from both running their own businesses and having a need of fulfilment, Sam now running his own fulfilment company and Jason who moved his entire business to a fulfilment company.

Jason likened given away the despatch side of his business to giving a child away when the van arrived to collect his stock, but he knew it was the right thing to do and was at odds for several days follow as he had been so caught up in spending such a large amount of time fulfilling products and this had now been completely removed.

If you’re a one or maybe a two person team, you may think you can do it better,  “that’s nice”, but the reality is it can be done outside of your business for pretty much the same cost as it costs you right now.

Just imagine what would happen if you did that, how many hours per day would you save? And what would you do with that extra time? More products & more sales channels perhaps? Because we both know you won’t be putting your feet up on the sofa.

The Perfect Pick, Pack & Despatch Process.

There is only one perfect pick & pack process and that is a process that is time & cost effective for your business. I know several companies that are in the hunt for the perfect pick & pack process and the irony is, they have the best processes going for their business right now and for plenty of room for growth too.

This is just a myth.

We were looking at fulfilment companies a short while ago with a client and in the middle of their warehouse, the question was asked “Do you use the same process for all the businesses that have their orders fulfilled here?” I thought that the answer was a no-brainer, that they would all be in the same process, but the reality is, that there is no perfect process for all businesses and in that fulfilment centre of over 40 businesses, each had their own process.

RHD. Receive, Handle & Distribute AKA Charge, Charge & Charge

Fulfilment companies generally use a standard process as your stock goes through “Receive, Handle & Distribute” and you get charged at every point. Most of them charge you small fees, for each action.

But in Sam’s case as it’s aimed at small to medium businesses then this is just plain confusing and has opted for a simple percentage on the shipping cost. Sam is also using the discounts that he receives by using PPI as a selling point to small business owners, so in fact for many of his clients, there is little extra costs and he’s doing the fulfilment for them. How sweet is that?!

Good & Bad Amazon

We can’t cover fulfilment without at least mentioning Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), it’s a topic I’ve been putting off as I’d like to cover as a complete overview in one go, however Amazon really has been taking a beating over the past few months, recently in at least two forums posts from the WholesaleForums that are horrific. The first called “Amazon have destroyed my business and put two people out of work” & the second “Amazon shut down another business”. They’re both worth a read and also going back through the comments here on the LastDropofInk around Price Parity on Amazon, Amazon when she wants to be, can very bullish.

Another more positive example (not without Amazon having a stab at themselves I hasten to add) is in the LastDropofInk forums called “Amazon Vendor Invite” and is worth a read, as Amazon take on a 3rd parties products into their own catalogue and it works out quite nicely in the end for both parties.

Traffic Statistics for Shopping Sites in the USA

Amazon Web Traffic Compared to eBay

Those estimated 12-13 million Amazon Prime buyers are so lucrative, in some cases it’s worth the risks of selling on Amazon with FBA, just to get a tiny slice of the pie and we cannot overlook that Amazon draws more traffic that eBay.

Did you know that?
You do now! Look at the chart above, there is a massive difference between eBay & Amazon in the USA.

About Sam & EasiLogic.com

Sam PhillipsSam is the prime example of an entrepreneur, Sam, is just like you & me, we are wired differently and you do what comes naturally to you, adapt.

If you listened into the Podcast, then you’ll know that Sam cares about your products as much as you do and is perfectly capable of representing the despatch process of your business.

Sam is just like you, he cares and he understands, he’s been there himself and can help you remove the one of the most time intensive and least value processes (as keeping you as the entrepreneur is paramount) from your business.

You can find out more about Sam & EasiLogic here EasiLogic.com.

About Jason Hawkins

aristacomputersJason a successful entrepreneur, holding down a multi channel business using eBay, Amazon & his website at Aristacomputers.com and doing what entrepreneur’s do best, working on a darn cool new project.

Jason’s been there and put his entire business into an fulfilment company, that happened several months ago and now looking back, when you free up an entrepreneur, sparks fly and I’d like to thank Jason for his invaluable input in this Podcast, thank you Jason.

And a Special Thanks to Dave Furness

Dave FurnessI feel don’t credit enough back to Dave for his help, support & input in creating these Podcasts.

I’m sure you’ll agree, Dave is a vital part of each Podcast we’ve created and I’d like to say thank you Dave, I really appreciate your help.

You can too, by leaving a comment at the bottom of this article.

Podcast 007 – Becoming THE Expert

A few Podcasts ago we were joined by John Hayes to discuss if Social Marketing Is a Waste of Time (For Product Based Businesses).  In that Podcast we touched upon John’s book “Becoming The Expert” and myself and Matt have both read the book and we knew that it was worthy of a Podcast in its own right.

In this Podcast we ask the questions that you may have about Becoming THE Expert and this supporting article will detail the Q & A session that we had with the author John Hayes and will hopefully answer some of the questions about how YOU can become THE expert.

In this Podcast there is myself Dave Furness, Andy Hamilton the best-selling author of Booze For Free, Our special guest for the second time the author of Becoming the Expert John Hayes, and of course the man who needs no introduction LastDropofInk’s very own Matt Ogborne.


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

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes you can subscribe here for free.

Matt’s Comment: There are a few of these comments and for the first one a special “thank you” to Dave for putting this article together for us.

Q1: What is Thought Leadership Marketing?

To fully appreciate what Thought Leadership Marketing is we must first define the term as a thought leader. As John says in the Podcast a Thought Leader is someone who positions themselves as an expert in their own particular industry and becomes known amongst their peers for being an expert.

The concept of Thought Leadership Marketing is using this expertise to help build a brand and generate leads within their chosen industry and ultimately drive sales.

A “Thought Leader” is someone who positions themselves as an expert in their own particular industry and becomes known amongst their peers for being an expert

The key to this concept comes in two parts.  The first part is securing yourself or your brand as a Thought Leader, ensuring that people know that you are at the forefront of your industry and a reliable source of knowledge in your area. Once you have that secure you can then move into the second part which introduces the marketing concept.

Distributing their thought leadership through a number of marketing channels so that their voice is heard and people look to them for information further securing them as Thought Leaders.


As John mentions, there are a number of channels that are open to thought leadership marketers.  Some of they key ones are:

  • Blogs
  • White Papers
  • E-Books
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube

These are just a few of the most common forms of channels available for Thought Leaders to use, and John recommends that the first port of call should be a blog.

So if you are trying to secure yourself as a thought leader in your own right, or as part of a brand, you really should ensure that you have a Blog which is kept up to date as this is the first step in getting your information seen and growing an audience. From there you can then expand into other channels.

Q2: What does it mean to be a thought leader and do you have any examples of thought leaders the listeners or readers could relate to?

There are a number of thought leaders out there who are all prominent in their own niches.  In the Podcast I mention one of mine and Matt’s favourites that is Pat Flynn who runs the SmartPassiveIncome.com from the USA.

Pat has even commented on a few of the posts here on Lastdropofink.  The key here is that every niche will have their own thought leaders and the aim here is to secure yourself as the thought leader in your chosen area.

John also mentions Scot Wingo the CEO of ChannelAdvisor as one of the first Thought Leaders he came across during his time at Channel Advisor.  Scot had wrote a book, which in itself for anyone who has blogged before knows is no small feat called “Ebay Strategies: 10 Proven Methods to Maximize Your Ebay Business“.

The book that Scot wrote was incredibly easy to read was bang up to date for it’s time and it was written in Plain English that anyone could read and understand.  This point in itself is what differentiates someone who knows their industry from a Thought Leader.

Being able to communicate a subject that you are passionate about which has a lot of depth but in a manner which isn’t confusing

You can still be an expert but if you are unable to communicate effectively to your audience, you will never be a Thought Leader.  By being able to communicate a subject that you are passionate about which has a lot of depths but in a manner which isn’t confusing, doesn’t use a lot of industry buzz words and doesn’t aim to alienate those who may not understand the terminology.  Scot does this incredibly well still to this day in his blog for Channel Advisor still very up to date but in plain English.

Thought Leaders are not restricted to the technology sector we hasten to add, our very own Andy Hamilton is the perfect example of this, Andy is regarded as a thought leader in Home Brewing and Foraging, and because he is a very good communicator people turn to him as the expert in his field which has led him into numerous television and radio appearances to discuss his industry in detail. (Matt’s comment: Andy was recently on the Alan Titchmarsh show)

The message here is, every niche or industry needs Thought Leaders almost as village elders who others turn to for advice.  John calls himself a Storyteller and this is a perfect fit for a Thought Leader.

If you think of childhood stories, most of them have a meaning or a message and that is wrapped up in a story to give it a deeper meaning.  This is a very clever tactic which is used by many Thought leaders to get a message across to their audience.

A top tip that Matt shares in the Podcast is to write your content as if it was for a 6 year old

A top tip that Matt shares in the Podcast is to write your content as if it was for a 6 year old.  If you keep your content interesting enough and simple enough for a 6 year old to be able to read and understand.  By doing this, you don’t over-complicate the subject and keep it in Plain English.

A good example of this is the Financial Times newspaper which covers incredibly in-depth topics, but at a level that anyone could pick up and understand. John finishes off the topic nicely by explaining how due to the Internet it is very easy for people to at first ‘seem’ like they are Thought Leaders or to come across as such in their writing, as it is incredibly easy for anyone to put content out there these days.

A true Thought Leader has made the experience in what they write about, it isn’t just an opinion it is based on real life, they have made the mistakes, learnt from them and are passing these onto others, and that is where the true value of a Thought Leader comes from.

Q3: Is it a case of being across as many channels as possible…or, doing a few channels REALLY well when it comes to though leadership, basically is it quantity or quality?

The key point to take away on this question is to make sure the channels that you are working on are at a good standard before moving on to a new channel.  The first port of call for a potential Thought Leader is to have a blog.

Once the blog has good content it is natural to link this into social media and likewise video content is great for Blogs too as well as standing alone on the YouTube platform.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to run before you can walk.

Matt’s Comment: As we cover in the Podcast, the Blog, just like your eBay Store, becomes the hub for your business, get the hub in place and you can start adding to it, however you see fit.

Make sure that your blog is kept up to date and is at a sustainable place before you branch out into other areas.  John states in the Podcast:

Don’t overstretch yourself, you are better off with 2 or 3 well managed channels than 10 poor channels.

The blog is they key stone of your marketing efforts.  Blog posts can be mentioned in YouTube video’s they can be shared on Social Media sites, they can be linked to in forum posts, they are great for promoting products such as books etc.  Which is why the Blog should be the first port of call, and then look for how the other channels can create a web of content which all link in to each other to set up this personal information network.

This can either be for your personal industry or to further the content creation and network of your brand. Quality is the key when it comes to becoming a Thought Leader and it is something that will largely revolve around your experience.  You cannot pretend to have experience and if you try it the chances are you will get found out very quickly.

If you are the thought leader and you create quality content, then the audience will read what you have to say. Matt makes a crucial point in the Podcast which is that it is critical to interact with people who get involved with your marketing.  When you start writing blog posts in the beginning no one will read them, but over time they will start to attract visitors and you will grow your audience.

People may start asking questions or commenting on your content. To be a good Thought Leader it is brought back to communication, you must reply to these questions or comments to further solidify your position as the leader.  By talking about your experience and testimony then you are helping to create even more of an impression that you have been there done it and you are the expert.

Q4: What actionable steps can our listeners use right now in their businesses to leverage this to their advantage?

The first thing is BLOG! Get good quality unique content on there and start building your brand.  If you don’t know where to start with this, or you’re struggling for blog post ideas, let us know in the forums here and the community will do their best to help you.

No-one will read your blog in the early days but as it grows and the audience grows…

Andy again states here that the key is to have patience when it comes to blogging, but to stick at it.  To repeat no-one will read your blog in the early days but as it grows and the audience grows it is key to keep the content coming.

A blog which hasn’t been updated in 12 months can give the impression that the business has failed and this can have the total opposite effect in positioning you as a Thought Leader.  Never blog about something that isn’t quality content, don’t feel that you have to stick to a timetable, but if you are struggling to find something to write about, then as John says, it may be time to get a new job.

Matt’s Comment: Completely ignore SEO, you can never go wrong with this simple rule, “Quality, Unique Content”. It never fails and you can worry about the other parts later.

The natural progression from blogging is to build a social network audience.  Don’t use it as a sales channel, but use it to build interaction with potential customers so they get to know you as a business or person. This again solidifies your brand and shows that their is a human behind the facade of a business an this is important as people like to deal with people.

The key point that Andy mentions is listen to what your audience are asking for, or commenting on, and write blog posts on these topics to almost encourage interaction and the likelihood of it being read. Two Top Tips to take away from this Podcast

  1. Once your business is up and running start a blog, and make sure you turn up regularly with fresh unique content, set yourself a manageable goal to ensure the content gets created, and make it a habit.
  2. Use the blog and therefore it’s audience to feed the e-commerce site and vice versa, create this web of intelligent content based around yourself.  Using social media and other channels to link the content together and pull the audiences in from the different available spaces.

*Bonus Content*
To help you get started I’ve compiled a list of 10 potential starter blog posts for your business blog. 10 Starter Blog Posts:

  1. Introduction of You/Your Business
  2. Product/Service Review
  3. Your favourite book review which relates to your industry
  4. Latest news within your industry
  5. Christmas (Everyone has something to say about Christmas)
  6. A problem you had and how you overcame it
  7. A competition blog post
  8. A picture gallery post of either your business, processes, staff or key products
  9. An opinion piece on a certain technology or news piece in your domain
  10. A post looking to future trends within your industry

Matt’s Comment:  A really good example of #7 is from Pete Moran, who joined us for Podcast #2. Pete has just started a competition today on his site called “Guess That Thing”, take a look at it here, I have no idea what it is, do you?

Q5: Where can people find out more about you John and Thought Leadership Marketing?

Becoming THE ExpertJohn really is the Though Leader in marketing and we would like to thank him again for being our guest on this Podcast.

The truth is however that we have barely scraped the surface on what his book “Becoming the Expert” covers. So if you found this podcast useful and want to take it to the next level we would strongly recommend buying John’s book.

It’s available on all digital e-reader devices and can be found in all the main digital e-bookstores. See below for the Becoming the Expert website and the link to his publisher where you can get all the information on where to get hold of his book.  Likewise if you want to get in touch with John on twitter we have included his Twitter name below too.

John Hayes

John HayesJohn’s Hayes | Blog@john_w_hayes | LinkedIn John’s Book “Becoming THE Expert: Enhancing Your Business Reputation through Thought Leadership Marketing” is now live and you can purchase via his  publishers site here.

Your Feedback

If you have any questions about what we covered with John in the Podcast, let us know by leaving a comment below.

The New eBay & What It Means for You (Podcast & Video)

You can’t of missed it, eBay has a new logo, but what they have released in the USA goes deeper, far deeper than just a logo change, the way that buyers interact with eBay is fundamentally changing.

In this Podcast & accompanying video we give you the inside track on what the new updates are and how they’re going to change the way that buyers interact with eBay as this is the biggest buying experience change in 17 years.

We’ve got a very special guest in this session, Chris Dawson from Tamebay.com who was at the unveiling of the “New eBay” in the USA and he gives us the low-down on what’s changing and we walk you through step-by-step through the changes.


The Podcast Version

Because this update is so important we’ve released this two versions, this is the first version which can also be downloaded from iTunes and is audio only. Ideal for downloading to your iPod or droid, choose this version if you’d like to get the inside track on the updates when you’re on the move.


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

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.

The Video Version

In the video below we actually show you and take you through each of the sections of the “New eBay” from start to finish and in the rest of this article I’ll be focusing in on what each of the changes are.

The New eBay, The New Home Page

You can see the majority of these changes live on eBay.com right now and I urge you to go there and open eBay.com up in a separate browser tab or window so you can follow these changes along with the video and this article.

“The whole eBay landing page has changed”

The whole eBay landing page has changed and we’ll be working top down looking at each element in-depth to see how it’s changed and is going to change the experience for buyers on our favourite marketplace.

New eBay Header Bar

The New Header Bar

You can’t miss it, the new header bar is huge and dominated by the massive search box. This search box is 51.2% larger than what we have on the eBay.co.uk site and is carried across all the eBay pages, right up to the checkout.

We’ll have a unified experience for all pages and really highlights the importance of the weighting that eBay are putting in their search right now and also in their pending release of Cassini (a brand new way of delivering personalised results on eBay) that hasn’t had a date put on it yet.

eBay browse by categoryIn the Podcast Chris felt it really important to stress that there are no changes to the way in which the search results are being delivered for searches. We know that eBay’s new search is coming, but for now it looks like they’re giving us these updates in bite-sized chunks.

We’ve got the core categories shown in the upper part of the page and also the ability to browse by category using the link to the left of the search box.

I’ve highlighted these in the image to the right, and they appear as a new panel when you click on the right.

New Banner Area

New eBay Banner Area

It looks like the days are gone of homepage take overs, in the video version we saw that the eBay.co.uk homepage had been completely taken over by the Nectar points program. The Nectar points partnership is worthy of special note, but is this really what buyers want to see on their homepage? Hold on to that question because when you see what is coming up next, the answer is blatantly no.

The New eBay Feed

The New eBay Feed

The new eBay “feed” is going to complete change the almost pointless homepage (in comparison) which we have right now into a page that is higher personal and I can easily see this becoming the hub and sole entry point to items for buyers over time.

“The new Home page is a page dedicated to what you and only you want to see”

eBay have created a mash-up between Pinterest and Twitter, where you’re able to see products in a similar format to Pinterest, but you’re able to easily follow and search groups to return the results in your feed that are highly personal to you.

If we ignore how customisable the feed is for a few moments, this scale of this single change is immense, the homepage has turned from a flat, boring page that shows a few semi-related products into highly personalised stream of products that are focused on only your tastes, the tastes of your buyers.

Setting up Your Own Customised Feed

eBay Feed SuggestionsYou can test drive this by going to eBay.com/feed, on the left there is an option called “edit my feed”, using the same massive search box you’re able to enter your keywords of choice and see the potential results that would appear in your feed.

You’re also able to drill them down by category, format, condition and also price range to really home-in on products that only you are interested in.

Then after choosing your keyword groups, go back to the homepage and your feed, now personalised to your tastes, will be showing related items.

As you scroll down the page, the feed only stops when it runs out of items and as I found when looking for “BDU” (“battle dress uniforms”) sometimes you can pick up unwanted items, to remove these just hover on the product and click X in the top right and the item is gone.

Annoyingly you are taken back to the top of the page when you remove an item from the eBay feed, but eBay learnt from what you don’t like and admittedly after I removed about 15-20 baseball cards that had been appearing in my feed, I have seen little of them since.

You’ll also notice that the eBay “Daily Deals” are not featured at the top of the feed, I had expected them to be there, but instead you find them further down after scrolling.

Not what I had expected at all and if anything, this clear shows that eBay are expecting buyers to scroll this page and after you play with it for a few minutes, you can see that they will.

Dabbling in the Future of the Feed

eBay Hunch GraphWe do dabble in the future in the Podcast, suggesting that if eBay take their newly acquired Hunch technology which provides what they called a “taste graph of personalised recommendations” to what eBay might have install for us.

So as Chris explains, after buying a bed, why not show him other related items, as a bed is normally a once every few years purchase, but if you look at it from a wider angle, we now know he has a bed, so why not show him accessories, like linens or a duvet?

I’m a size 9 or 10 shoe, so I’m not interested in other sizes, if you’re a size 12-14, then why on earth would you be interested in a size 16 or size 8? Hunch could have the power, when combined with the item specifics we’re entering as businesses to really tailor the results exactly to your personal requirements.

Will ‘Hunch’ provide us with this kind of customisation? That is only to be seen in time, but if we’re thinking we know the boffin’s in eBay are too and as this is only the first incarnation of the personalised feed on the homepage, I’m betting we will.

The New eBay, The New Search Page

The New eBay Gallery View

Chris explained that it is only the formatting & styling of the search results that are changing, the way in which the results are returned on the rest of the eBay site is exactly the same as what it was before the update, but now they are clearer and have had a face lift.

There are two views of listings on eBay the list view, which is where you see one item per line and the gallery view where we see multiple items per line.

Currently in the UK we have four items per row in the gallery view, just like the list view, the main image is being increased in size from the current size of 225×225 pixels to 300×300 pixels, it’s a 33% increase and highly noticeable and there are just 3 items per row.

The New eBay List view

When it comes to the search results and also the feed, quality is really king here and we now understand why in the US that the use of image borders and extra junk in the images was removed, such distractions are not going to cut it in the new layout & design.

If we also look at the search results pages, the upper navigation has changed too, the format has moved to the left and also the filtering options above results have been made more compact and with easier access to sold & completed listings.

The New eBay, The New Item Detail Page

The New eBay Item Detail Page

The item detail page has been set up for a complete revamp and there is a little surprise we were not expecting in there too. I wondered where it had gone and Chris noticed it too, Dave spotted it after a few moments and we’ll get to that shortly.

The New eBay Image Gallery ViewWe’ve now got a more compact listing layout, but with the information the customers needs to make an informed decision if this item is the right item for them.

The Images area looks larger but in fact it is the same size as what it was before (500×500 pixels), but why it looks so much bigger is because the amount of wasted space that has been saved on the right-hand-side of the main image is huge.

While zoom is now enabled on images that are large enough, with the images, the biggest change is the size of the lightbox. When click on the main image, a huge lightbox layer appears and overtakes the entire screen.

You can see this in the image to the right, that is the entire web browser window taken up with the product images.

Just one image isn’t going to cut it for most items now and as we can see with this item, there are plenty of images to keep a buyer happy as they fall-in-love with the dress and make the purchase.


the new ebay quarters section on the listing pageWhen it comes to the right-hand-side panel of the listing page, we’ve also have some major changes here too.

Annoyingly adverts are still present and take up one quarter (but that’s a topic for another day), the action buttons now have their own quarter, item specifics have been moved from that huge bar where they occupy above the description to their own quarter and we have a new section that combines both the seller information and the key facts about the item

Chris did point out in the Podcast/Video that there are too many options for buyers to click on here, if we count the options in the screen shot to the right there are 11 buttons, way too many for one page. Buyers need an “or” option, so their decision process is simpler.

If we focus on buttons only for “Buy it Now”, “Add to Cart”, “Make Offer” and “Add to Watch List”, that is two, too many options and really needs to be nailed down to “Buy it Now” and if needs must “Add to Watch List”.

Note: eBay’s “action colour” is blue, we can see this throughout the site, even in the advert eBay mobile, the action colour is also blue. While there maybe too many buttons on the page and to me heavily diluting power of the blue “Buy it now” you don’t have to make this mistake on your own site.

One of my favourite marketers is a chap called Derek Halpern from SocialTriggers, take a look at the video in this article to understand what is your action colour.  The action colour on this site is green see the box below… Would you like to subscribe?


Item specifics still take up a load of space on the UK listings currently, it’s a good 2-3 inches of screen pace the buyer has to scroll in the fashion category and now we can see in the screen shot, that these are still available, but have been tidied into their own quarter and if you click on these any item specifics that are not being shown, will then appear.

eBay item details cardThe big change is in the top right quarter, the items key details. The condition now links to the description area, we’ve got the first delivery cost and also an ETA on when the item will be with us, along with a summary of the returns policy and the buyer protection notice.

The surprise I mentioned at the beginning of this section is in what is missing, next to the user ID we have the sellers feedback, but the eBay store icon is missing. Considering how much effort has been put into these updates that cannot be a mistake and raises the question, what is happening with eBay stores?

In the UK there are over 400,000 eBay shops (we Brit’s call them shops, not stores) which drive a massive revenue stream for eBay, some £81 million each year. So when I see them not being promoted, especially in such a radical update I’m concerned. The eBay shop has the been the hub for almost all eBay businesses and I certainly hope we’ll be seeing some changes here for the humble eBay shop.

eBay item description header bar

As you move down the page, we now have a unique bar that follows us down, so we can jump to each of the key sections, the description, shipping, seller info and the Q&A.

But what someone has overlooked, is the ability to buy from this bar. Where is the buy button? Seems to be the only major flaw we can find in the “New eBay”. Nice spot by Chris!

Note: In the video version of this article I’ve included an overlay to give a suggested impression what this could look like.

The New eBay, The New Profile Page

The New eBay Profile Page for Sellers

The next big change is to do with the “My World” page, you know the one, the pointless page where we’ve seen numerous failed attempts at getting users to update this custom page.

It’s had a complete revamp and you can see what yours will look like by going to http://www.ebay.com/usr/ and adding your user ID on the end of the URL.

Some important notes here is that there are now individual Facebook Like and Google Plus buttons and we again see a similar format of product images as we saw in the eBay feed page.

If you look at your own page, look on the right-hand-side, there is a feedback button that links to a survey here which asks “How effective was this eBay Page in helping you accomplish what you came to the page to do?” Is it just me or does that indicate to you too, that this page is somewhat useless? Would it linking to the sellers eBay shop not have been better and ditching this page all-together?

The New eBay, The New Checkout & Registration Process

The one part that we didn’t cover in the Podcast & Video is that eBay have changed the registration process and also the checkout process too.

New buyers to eBay only need to enter the bare information needed to start with eBay

The registration process now only asks for the information that is absolutely required to get started with eBay and then when an address is needed, that can be added the first time the buyer is in the checkout.

Linked eBay Accounts

Image borrowed from Tamebay

A massive change to the checkout process is the ability to link your eBay account and PayPal account together, so instead of having to login and move through some 3 or more pages, you can complete the checkout on a single page, because the PayPal account is attached and there is no need to sign in to PayPal too.

The New eBay, Summary

Personally I have for a long time suggested that eBay is becoming Amazon and that has been true up until now. I’ve got to eat my words as I hold Amazon in high-regard for the way that they market and re-market products, but eBay just dropped the bomb on that and has left Amazon for dust.

I’ve got to hold this has the largest single change to eBay, well since ever. We’ve now got the ground work for a highly customised, highly personalised home page and if the buyers take to this, for which I am sure of as it just works. If we sprinkle in some magic from the eBay developers team, then we have something I don’t thin k we’ll see change for another decade.

Patrick Munden Head of Seller Communcations at eBay UKI spoke with Patrick Munden, Head of Seller Communications for Europe, he had these words to add:

“With the new eBay Feed, the buying experience is now going to be truly customised to each of your buyers. This only has to be a good thing for sellers as we’re putting the right products in front of the right buyers.

As a seller, the focus really is on quality, quality listing titles so your items are found and quality images, as the eBay Feed is image centric”

Just as Chris did, he’s hit the nail-on-the-head. If there is only one thing we can take away from this update, that is the quality, size & standard of images now required by sellers has never been so high.

I’d like to say a special thank you to Chris Dawson for giving us the insight into the changes that are included in “The New eBay” and you can find more about Chris and Tamebay, the numebr one resource for marketplace and eCommerce news in the UK over at Tamebay.com.

What Do You Think?

What do you make of these changes and how do you think this will change eBay over the next few years? Let us know in the comments box below.

Podcast 005 – Social Marketing Is a Waste of Time (For Product Based Businesses)

I’ve suspected it for a long time, the evidence is now out there to show that Social Marketing for product based businesses, is a waste of time.

We’ll get to the details that back this claim up in a few moments, in this Podcast, Myself, Dave and our guest this week John Hayes discuss this topic and as John’s background is also email marketing perfectly suited to make the comparison between Social Marketing and Email Marketing.


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

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Drioid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.


The Evidence

Forrester ResearchForrester, probably the world’s most credible research agency, conducted a study in 2011 called “The Purchase Path Of Online Buyers In 2012” in conjunction with one of eBay’s newly acquired companies “GSI Commerce” and it’s digital agency “True Action” to to evaluate how shoppers touched various marketing touchpoints, such as paid search and email, prior to completing a transaction online.

Let’s run through a few of the findings in the report:

  • Barely 1% of 77,000 transactions could be traced back to social links
  • Email has usually been an influencing factor in the transaction
  • 33% of new customers and 48% of repeat customers coming from multiple touch points
  • By far the biggest driver for purchases online are email marketing and search
  • 30% of transactions started with a click from an email marketing campaign
  • Email marketing is by far the most important channel for repeat customers
  • New buyers looking for a specific product or brand are more receptive to paid search than your loyal customers
  • Paid & organic search led to 39% of transactions from new customers
  • Still a significant proportion of buyer visits are driven by buyers typing in the websites URL
  • Directly typing the companies URL was found to influence a surprising 30% of transactions

Basically the study found that the impact on Social Marketing on actual sales was almost negligible.

Before Jumping on the Evidence

I chose John to join us on this Podcast for his experience with Email Marketing and yes this Podcast is going to be biased towards email marketing and iContact who John mentions in the discussion. This is because I wanted to give you an option that you can leverage immediately and for me that is Email Marketing.

I’m sure some of you reading this are going to be horrified by the study findings, as we’re all being told relentlessly that “we should be doing social marketing“, “we should be on Twitter and we should be creating Facebook pages and so on…” and there are a lot of companies that are purely focused in Social Marketing that want your money and want to give you a design and a service.

To be clear here, such offerings are beneficial to businesses in the right situations, John points this out too, there are other reasons to consider Social Marketing key to your business and even for me personally (as you’re likely to have found this article on Twitter) these are vitally important and we’ll cover those shortly, but as this report is showing for transactional volume, Social Media capability in the study for delivering transaction results, is tiny when compared to other methods of marketing.

When Should You Consider Social Marketing?

Getting the Marketing Mix RightJohn mentions in the Podcast a “mix” and this is simply referring to a “Marketing Mix” and he’s hit the nail on the head, with this study we’re able to say that Social Marketing isn’t carrying the weight that some would like you to think it does.

And instead for you to consider this as a one part of your approach to marketing your business and if I use the simple metaphor of a cake mix, that it’s likely that your balance through the marketing we’re all receiving is weighing too heavily towards the chocolate icing, imagine a cake made entirely of icing, ewww. So instead let’s change the mix and compare it to a simple cake mix:

How to Make a Cake / How to Have a Good Marketing Mix

  • 4oz / 120g butter
    This is your eBay sales
  • 4oz / 120g white sugar
    This is your Amazon sales
  • 4oz / 120g white self raising flour
    This is your website sales & other sales such as affiliates, PPC, CSE’s and so on…
  • 2 eggs
    This is your email marketing, that binds everything together
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
    This is what you’re up to on Social Marketing

Now I’m not a cook but milk is added to create a denser cake through its fat content. Now let’s think of this fat as being the reach that social has which is huge.

We’re adding it all in the right proportions and that is our point, as we discuss, gaining new customers is very costly and retaining them is generally of the highest priority and while Social Marketing can help this, Social is currently getting too much weighting when from shown in the study, the transactional volume is still coming from the traditional channels.

While I have a special note to the future of eCommerce and Social in the summary, right now Social should come at the end of the mix, when binding everything together as the high fat dose to give it the depth and exposure for the businesses.

Not to discredit social completely, there numerous are reasons why a company would want to use Social Marketing as part of their businesses and we’re not saying that you shouldn’t be using social marketing at all, just not in the weightings that some would consider you should be.

So what are some of the reasons why you should consider social marketing?

  1. Brand exposure
  2. Instant one on one contact with customers & Customer Service
  3. The potential reach of the internet world
  4. To be see as “human”
  5. To give evidence / proof to buyers that you are here and real
  6. To build influence
  7. With Google Plus specifically there is a search weighting applied to it

Note: I did also read a few days ago “because your competition is using social media”, for me that is a lame reason and I’m not including it.

I asked one of the businesses I work with what they thought of Social Media, the response back was interesting:

“We find it so different being able to give instant responses, sometimes lacking in emails”.

I didn’t see what he meant to begin with, as surely email support is the same thing, instant? However what he had inadvertently picked up upon is that social media for him was the most pleasing for both him and his team was when he was able to publicly demonstrate the excellent customer support that his team offers in a public environment.

I asked John & Dave the question

“Maybe why eBay and Amazon may need to think about publicly showing the response times to buyer/seller questions beyond just the detailed seller ratings and make a more comprehensive picture and clearer picture for both sellers and buyers alike?”

What John came back was with excellent as it’s a nice cross over between owning the content of the interactions and being completely transparent with customers, you can see for yourself and their latest stats from customer services here http://www.icontact.com/resources/customer-satisfaction.


Let’s make no-bones-about it, I’m absolutely saying that Social Marketing for product based businesses is not worth the hype that its being given and that out first point of call for expanding your business should not be social at all.

But what can you use instead? We can’t just say that and give you no option, that would be cruel so our suggested first point of call be as a viable alternative to social is Email marketing, for which we’ll take a closer look at now.

Why Email Marketing as an Alternative

We’re not just advocating using just iContact, John works for Vocus and I felt he by far the best person to speak to on this topic, proven by his experience and his input in this Podcast, there are many options for Email Marketing tools and I’ve included as many options that came to mind at the bottom of this section.

Having John as part of the Podcast was a huge help for us as John pointed us in the direction of this info-graphic from iContact that I’ve included below. It’s rather large and you can see the full version here (opens in a new window).

How effective is email marketing

What this info-graphic points out to us is that Email Marketing is not dead and infact it’s live and kicking and according the Forrester’s study, it’s kicking serious butt with “30% of transactions started with a click from an email marketing campaign”.

While the info-graphic give us a founding in the reach of Email Marketing, what I want to focus on here is the effectiveness and I’ve cut out several pieces to show you.

Dave while researching for this Podcast also found an interesting article and infographic from June this year that shows that for the first time that mobile devices combined are now on par with desktop email openings, that is just amazing!

The full info-graphic is here http://litmus.com/blog/email-client-market-share-stats-infographic-june-2012 and we’ve included a cut out of the cross over point we discuss in the Podcast below:

Mobile Email Open rates Now Take the Lead!

Email marketing is all of these and a lot more too:

  • Fully scalable
  • Highly personal
  • Extremely clear on what is working and what is not
  • Almost 100% reportable
  • Easy to split test and improve
  • Very easy to do
  • Its cheap
  • Widely recognised as the most profitable form of online marketing today

And ultimately it works!

Email Marketing Companies

I hope this gives you an insight into why Email Marketing could be lethal for your business, but to cover Email Marketing to the level that it deserves would need a couple of articles in a series to cover it back to back and we can’t do it the justice it deserves here.

I’m not going to cover the ins-and-outs of each of them here, but here are several options for you to choose from and you can find several of these covered in detail in the email marketing part of the solutions directory on this very site.

I also want to point out, none of these are affiliate links. That is I gain no commissions for referring you, to show that I am not biased here on this topic, it is genuinely what I feel you should be doing as a product based business owner to be doing right now instead of worrying about the hype behind Social Marketing.

About John Hayes

You can put a face to the voice from the Podcast and John is over to the left.

Not only is John our guest in this Podcast, but also he’s the author of an Amazing book that both myself and Dave have read called “Becoming THE Expert” which shows you how to use “Thought Leadership Management” to excel in your chosen field.

You can buy John’s book on Amazon or in the iBookStore and direct links can be found on the publishers website here: http://www.brightwordpublishing.com/products/view/865794/Becoming-THE-Expert/John-W.-Hayes/

In Summary

Personally I have been looking for this evidence for a long time, I feel that for small businesses that sell products online, that social marketing is currently a complete distraction and given the choice between Social Marketing of any-form and other methods such as PPC and as we’ve covered heavily in Podcast and supporting article, Email that there are many other options that can delivery tangible results more easily, for less money and are almost 100% traceable to the final result, the transaction.

Now before some new-age nut job writes us off as “traditionals”, I’d like to point out is the eCommerce arena that we play in is changing and while right now Social may not be worthy of all the hype it’s been receiving, as more and more people start to leverage it and discover how to use these still very new channels to market with, we are going to see the potential power of social influence on transactions increase.

So right now Social may-be-not for product based businesses, but wind us forwards 5 years, I think we’ll be seeing unique uses and unique ways of leveraging social marketing as stand alone businesses to drive transactions.

Now that we’ve covered our point of views, what do you think?
(Let us know in the comments section below) 

Sources/Credits: Image | Study | Views | Image

Podcast 004 – Sell More with the Same Products

Sell more products and make more money with almost the same products… That’s the theme for our fourth Podcast.

No we haven’t gone mad, this is perfectly do-able and we are going to tell you, with examples how you too can use this to give your business a competitive advantage.

In this Podcast with Myself and Dave Furness we are going to discuss how you can use this to your advantage of this but MOST importantly we want you to TAKE ACTION.


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

If you’d like to download the Podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.


Sell More with the Same Products

This Podcast is all about action, we want you to listen to us and then look at the products you sell and think about how you could sell more with the same products.

We’re laying down the challenge. 
If you don’t think that there are any natural items that you could bundle together with your existing products then let us know, and we will do our best to give you a couple of ideas.

The key here is to sell more with the same.  This is something that you will of seen many sellers doing on the marketplaces over the years and if you’re not doing it, we are going to show you why you should be.

Customers on the marketplaces want one thing over any other, and that is Convenience.  It’s why they use eBay & Amazon after all. They are going to these marketplaces rather than trawling the internet to find the products they want.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention choice here, it’s because in the marketplaces there is an overwhelming choice of products to look at, but in the end, generally they are only ever going to buy one product. (hopefully yours).

A common question that I get asked through is: “Why don’t people buy from me?”  The answer is simple, they’re either not finding you or when they are, they’re overlooking you because you’re not making a compelling argument for them to choose you.

As we mention in the Podcast these will probably be one of the following:

  • A better offer elsewhere, from your Competitors?
  • Lacking key details in description (As we mentioned here in our first Podcast)
  • Poorer image?
  • Are they getting something for Free?

And that’s what we’re suggesting you do, take the customer to the tipping point of making the sell. In the Podcast we take you through the four standard physical product business models which consist of

  • Stocked
  • Manufacture
  • Virtual / Just in time
  • Asset recovery

Read more about the four business models here with some handy embedded video walk-throughs too.

The 5th one that we mention is the Hybrid model, which is a combination of all four of the product models combined, taking as many strengths and leaving out as many weaknesses.

In this instance we’re going to be making an edit to the Manufacture model and creating our own products from what we already have, but the manufacture model can easily be a Hybrid of the others combining different products to make a new product.

How to Make New Products?

Post it Notes

In Podcast Matt refers to using these Post it notes for book marks, imagine that your customer uses these as bookmarks and sees them every time they use that book. Neat eh?

So the key here is to make “Unique” products, set yourself apart from the competition and get people buying your product.

In the Podcast we use a lot of different terms for what we are describing.  These terms are Kits, Bundles, Packs and Sets which all mean the same thing.

Taking your item, putting a smaller/ inexpensive item with this product and selling them together.  Therefore setting yourself apart from your competition and hopefully taking the online shopper past the tipping point to buy your item.

We cover loads of examples in the Podcast of example products that can be bundled together and once you start trying to think of some we found more and more ideas came together, and we think the same will happen for you too.

This type of selling has been around for years and as I point out, one of my favourite TV Channels use it all the time to take their customers to the buying point. Best Direct TV Smart Pen

Here is a seller on eBay who has bundled a Free bottle holder with their nappy changing bags. See the listing here

A lot of easy examples can be found in consumer electronics and we talk extensively about iPads and bundling stylus’ or screen protectors with these items.  They are incredibly cheap to source and could be the only difference between you and your competitors.

Below are a quick list of other items that we touch on briefly in the podcast:

  • Books – With page holders and Markers
  • Laptops – Cases, Printers, Keyboards, Anti-Virus software
  • Handbag – Purses, Umbrellas
  • Photo equipment – Light boxes, White screen, Tripods, spare bulbs
  • Taking your item and selling multiples of them so packs of x5, x25, x50 etc

Whilst editing the Podcast we created a new kit of buying a stylus and getting a free screen protector and vice versa and in that space of 5 seconds we had created 2 new products!

Logistics of Selling Kits

There are a couple of issues that can crop up with selling kits and how the logistics of that will work internally with your business.  As long as you are aware of these

  • The logistics of stock control and order processing Maybe a shortened stock number to make them easily readable by humans (or your picking staff)
  • GS1 Barcodes –http://www.gs1uk.org/pages/default.aspx  For making unique SKU’s on Amazon and Google Product Base.
  • Don’t forget to tell your staff that you are selling kits, so when it comes to picking and re-ordering they know what is going on.

Our Challenge to You

We want you to take what we’ve covered today and put it into Action.

Think about what products you have already that you can bundle together to make it easier for customers to make a choice, they don;t have to be cheaper products and as we explain later on in the Podcast with the extra section is that you can easily bundle related items together, maybe from a range.

If you have any questions, get stuck for ideas or just need a hand, ask. We’re both here to support you with this and just leave a comment or a message in the forums.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dave & Matt

Podcast 003 – The 101 of eBay Variations + 7 Tips

They weld themselves to the top of eBay search results and now that eBay’s paid promotion tool for “Featured First” is going, using variations on eBay has never been so important.

In this Podcast with myself Matt (waves) and Dave Furness, we discuss eBay variations and why you should be using them, the benefits and the downsides and give you 7 tips to follow for success using variation listings.

We’ve listened to your feedback and today’s Podcast is a half the length of our previous Podcasts and comes in at a trim 30 minutes. If you think we’ve skimped on value, you’d be wrong, wait until the end :)


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

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.


What are eBay variations & Why do you want to use them?

Variations allow you to keep a product that has a range of options in a single listing. This makes selecting the right product as a customer much, much easier as they no longer have to go and find the variation they want, such as a shoe size, they can pick from a single listing.

eBay Variations Example

Several good examples of how these are used and are easier for both buyers and sellers are:

  • A pair of shoes that come in multiple sizes
  • A dress that comes in different sizes and colours
  • Rugs that come in different colours, styles and sizes.
  • Motorcycle helmets
  • A handbag that comes in multiple colours

Each of these products can come in different sizes, colours and styles. When linked together it makes it much easier for a buyer to make the right choice and also easier for you as a seller to track their inventory as instead of an individual listing for each colour/size/style, they are all contained in one listing.

Variation listings are now supported in 20 categories on eBay UK and you can see the full list and the exceptions here.

What other Benefits are there for sellers?

There are several key benefits to using variation listings and for best match rankings which is of special note and we cover that shortly too.

Key Benefits of using Variations

  • First picture is free so that if you have can extra free pictures on eBay, that swap when the buyer makes a selection
  • Saving money on listing fee’s as one insertion fee
  • The subtitle upgrade is better value as its £1.05 for a single listing
  • Increase of product visibility – every time a sub SKU sells the whole listing benefits
  • Stays clear of duplicate listing policy
  • Makes it easier for the buyer to find what they want which should make your listings stickier and increase conversion.

Note: You will hear us call them “multi variations” in the Podcast, even if you item has one variation, it’s the same thing. It’s just a term we use and it’s the same as variations, whether there is 1 variation or 5 variation options.

eBay Variation Tutorial Video

Earlier this year Dave Forest from the eBay UK seller team created a video to take you through the creation and use of eBay variations.

Dave takes you through a live listing on the eBay site, a Men’s T-Shirt that has colour and size variations and we can see how the price changes with his selection and also the how the image changes for each colour variation. Then how to create a variation listing in multiple colours and sizes like the example listing.

eBay Best Match & Variations

Listings that are variations become welded to the top of the search results. Even by eBay’s own admission in several categories you cannot compete unless you are using variation listings. They took hold fast and have completely changed the dynamics in every category they have been released in.

To make the point, we’ve made some searches on eBay below. Take a look for yourself and the listings that you see without “More Options” under them, you’ll find very few because for all the BIN listings, the single listings just don’t get a chance.

Example Searches of How Variations Weld to the Best Match Search Results

In the Podcast we refer to a rugs listing that has 17 colours and 10 sizes, you can view that item here http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/150669779518 at the time we looked at it, it had around 2216 items sold. Now it has 2255 at the time of writing!

Are there downsides to using eBay variations?

Although these are minor when compared to the benefits, unfortunately there are a couple of downsides to using variations.

  • Can’t rename the master variation SKU in eBay
  • Creating them can be slow
  • They are not supported by all 3rd party tools and even eBay’s own turbo Lister you cannot import or export them.
  • Cannot add separate EAN’s for Google search/shopping results for each variation

In the next updates we are seeing

eBay variations and Pricing UpdatedI’ve covered the eBay Autumn 2012 updates in huge detail, however the variations didn’t get much hype from eBay, but they were one of the biggest winners with numerous changes that will improve their performance.

  • We’ll be seeing “£9.99 – £129.99″ instead of the highest price only
  • Also seeing image swatches for colours, when common colours are used (shades)
  • Intelligent variation search – search for Pink shirt and eBay will show you the image of a pink shirt (Providing you have one uploaded).
  • Featured first is going, so your listings need to be as good as possible to get to the top spot…

Our Tips for Variations on eBay

Myself and Dave have put together 7 top tips for you on eBay variations and the last one is golden.

  1. Where-ever possible use them
    If your category supports them then you should be using them (we have the entire list on the website at… ) http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/sell/listing-variations.html#categories
  2. Keep the options to a minimum
    Think of your buyers! Try and keep the variations to a minimum, Size and colour.
  3. You can change prices if needed
    Remember you can change the pricing for each combination and if one variation goes out of stock, the listing remains.
  4. Take advantage of eBay’s Fast N Free Option
    Don’’t forget that eBay are going to be showing products as “Fast N Free” when you have an estimated delivery of 3 days or less. So that means if you have a handling time of 1 day and first class or a courier of 24hrs or 48hrs with the same handling time.
  5. Don’t force variations if your products don’t suit.
    Certain categories are so suited to having variations, such as fashion and certain home items.  If your item isn’t one of them, don’t force it or have complicated variations.
  6. Use images for each core variation
    Make sure you have pictures loaded for each variation…in place for when the latest update comes in, it’s going to be even more important
  7. Name the variation labels well
    Apparently it is OK to do this, you are able to Keyword stuff the variation names. As the variation names may only show 35 chars in the drop down box but you can add variation names that are up to 50 chars long. So thats your eBay title at 80 + 50 + 50 + etc… There is an article I created a while ago here that includes a video showing this in action. eBay declined to remove the listing.

Thank You!

We don’t really say it enough, thank for taking the time to listen in, because of you we’re out growing our current web hosting and are moving to a new server this weekend.

Your Feedback

You may have noticed that the sound quality has got better and we’d love to hear your feedback about this Podcast and your thoughts and experiences with eBay variations.

You can let us know in the comments box below.

Podcast EIPE 002 – Preparing for Christmas

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

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

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

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


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

If you’d like to download the podcast for listening to on your iPhone, Droid or iPad you can do or you can press the “Play in new window” button to be able to listen to the Podcast while browsing.  If you use iTunes, you can subscribe here for free.

Preparing For Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Black Friday & Cyber Monday?

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

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

Amazon Sales 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Channeladvisor Christmas Sales 2011

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

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

“A business is for life not just for Christmas”

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

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

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

Amazon Customer Metrics Screen Shot

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

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

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

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

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

Free Royal Mail Christmas 2012 Cut off Calendar

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

Christmas 2012 Cut off Dates 2012 Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Offer extended warranty to cover Christmas period

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

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

  • Don’t forget January!

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

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

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

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

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

  • The risk of getting it wrong

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

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

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

  • Consider free shipping

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

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

eBay Fast and Free Example

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

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

  • 1st Nov STOP changing!

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

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

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

  • Be careful with Holiday Settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feedback from ChannelAdvisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

About our Guest Pete Moran

Pete Moran

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

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

Sources used: Hitwise | Image | Image | eBay