Posts

How You Can Find Out What Sells on Amazon

Howdy,

Have you ever wondered what actually sells on Amazon and ultimately the exact products that will make you money on Amazon?

Simple answer, Jungle Scout.

If you’ve ever used Terapeak for eBay, think of this as Terapeak on steroids. Jungle Scout is a research tool just for Amazon and works brilliantly.

This afternoon 3pm GMT (10AM EDT) we’re holding our weekly mastermind webinar & we’re being joined by Greg Mercer, the creator of Jungle Scout.

Greg will be showing us how you can use this research tool for your business to find the products that sell & the squillion other features Jungle Scout sports.

You can join for free here, all you need is an email account to join us live. Hit the blue “Register now” button below:

When writing this post I spotted a customer quote on Greg’s site that sums up perfectly that there are a lot of “pants” tools out there for Amazon, Jungle Scout isn’t one of those.

Jungle Scout is the software you don’t want your competing merchants to have. It is really that good. Greg and his team put a lot of heart, science and soul into creating it, and it shows. In a world of half-baked “get-rich-quick” Amazon seller solutions, Jungle Scout comes out on top. Jordan Malik

3PM GMT, We’ll see you there!

As always, to your continued success,

Matt

Amazon UK Release Seller Ratings – You’re Being Scored

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seller Ratings Widget

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

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

An Introduction to Amazon Seller Ratings

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

Press Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seller Ratings Dashboard

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

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

My Rating

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

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

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

Score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are these Seller Ratings Calculated Video

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

Press Play

Video Transcription

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

Here is how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I Improve My Rating

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

Rating Trend

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

New Reporting!

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Seller Ratings Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

Let me know in the comments box below.

How to Get Amazon Feedback Removed

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

What Can be Removed from Amazon Feedback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Removing Neutral & Negative Amazon Comments

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

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

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

Hello,

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

The comment is:

<ENTER THE COMMENT HERE>

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

Kind regards,

<YOU NAME>

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

Tesco Marketplace Update: Not Enough Big Name Brands?

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

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

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

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

 

Current 3rd Party Sellers on Amazon

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

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

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

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

Digging into Mamas & Papas

mamas and papas on Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

What Do You Think of the Tesco Marketplace?

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

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

So one question for you:

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

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

Amazon Enforcing Returns Polices on 3rd Party Sellers

Amazon LogoIs this the end for bespoke goods and a wake up call for 3rd party sellers that use Amazon.co.uk? Or a really good move for buyers?

Amazon has had a bit of a beating from us over the past few months, being aggressive with price parityresponse times for messages and very short notice on changes that could cripple some businesses have really not helped what is a super productive platform to makes sales upon.

But now there is a new hurdle, take a read of the following notice that is being sent out today to 3rd party Amazon sellers.

Dear Seller,

To ensure a consistent experience for buyers, Amazon sellers are required to have return policies that are at least as favourable as Amazon’s own return policies. To help provide the best experience for buyers, we will be updating the return information in the Returns section of your Amazon.co.uk storefront page on 6 August 2012 to clarify that buyers may return products to you in accordance with Amazon’s return policies.

The updated return information will direct buyers to Amazon’s return policies and will continue to give buyers the ability to contact you for information about any more favourable policies that may apply. If your inventory includes Fulfilment by Amazon items, your Returns section will
continue to reference the Amazon return policies.

See this Help page for more information about Amazon’s return policies:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=502480

If you have questions, please contact our Seller Support team by clicking the Contact Seller Support link at the bottom of any seller Help page.

Kind regards,
Amazon Services Europe

In Short…

Yep in-short…

You’re having Amazon’s returns policy whether you like it or not

And that means if you’re selling bespoke goods or have got specific returns polices, to all intents-and-purposes, it doesn’t matter as the buyer is being sent to the Amazon returns page regardless.

Hidden Bonus?

This might actually be a bonus because in the three places they mention and link to “Amazon Communications Manager” from the help page for contacting “third party sellers” none of them actually go to the “Amazon Communications Manager”.

Count them and you’ll see what I mean:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_502480_faq_con?nodeId=3149541

So instead the buyer is left with the contact us button which is for Amazon’s own support. But it get’s even better, as you follow the support process through, its really easy for the buyer to select the option for the issue and end up being suggested to phone Amazon as a recommend option.

Take a look at the screen shot below and you’ll see what I mean. If you were a buyer, you’d click the big fat phone button wouldn’t you!?

Amazon Contact Seller Form

Your Thoughts?

So over to you, is this good, bad, or does it not really matter?

Let me know in the comments box below.

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Amazon Buy Box Factors

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

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

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

A Special Note on FBA

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

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

The Amazon Buy Box Rule?

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

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

So to the “Amazon Buy Box Formula”:

(Lowest Selling Price – 2.7%)

– £0.01
= The Buy Box, For Longer

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

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

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

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

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

Your Feedback

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

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

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

Tesco Marketplace Now Partly Live – Already Showing Signs of Flaws

Tesco has soft-launched the redesigned Tesco Direct website with two “Marketplace” sellers and guess what…we’re already seeing that there has been little learned by looking at the core rival Amazon.

The Tesco marketplace have two merchants live on the platform already, Crocus & Maplins and its the latter merchant that is making it clear that Tesco haven’t really worked out that Data is the life blood of an eCommerce business just yet.

 

Product Page – Tesco Owned Item

Tesco Marketplace Product Page 1I’ll be back to that topic in a few moments, but for now let’s have a drill down of the features of a 3rd party item and a Tesco owned item. There are going to be a few comments I’m not going to make, the reason is sat in the previous articles here regarding the Tesco Marketplace.

To the right is a screenshot highlighting some key points on the product detail page, if you click on the image it’ll open in a full sized window or you can view the live item here.

My first observation is the catalogue number, its base ten and not base 36.

If I’ve lost you already let me explain. We work in base 10 from 0 to 9 (that’s our fingers which caused that), base 36 is from zero (0) all the way to Z, so numbers and letters.

Why’s that important? Base 10 has a very low number variations for products, well in fact 7^10 = 282,475,249 possible variations. Yes, that’s 282 million variations, but we’re dealing with products and as they are potentially opening the platform up to 3rd parties, then 282 million SKU’s is nothing given enough time.

A quick flip to Amazon’s ASIN’s (ASIN’s are Amazon’s unique identifier for each product, see here) and an example is B005890FU. Taking this to the ultimate limit of ZZZZZZZZZ in base 36, this is normal numbers from 0 to 9 is 101,559,956,668,415 or 102 Trillion variations give or take a few million for rounding :).

102 Trillion V’s 280 million = No comparison

Let’s go a little deeper for a moment, if I’m loosing you from the above section, this one is even more important. The product identifiers have a hyphen between them. In the case of the TV above the catalogue id is “210-7084”.

But what importance could an hyphen have? It means it’ll be parsed as a text string by a 3rd party system. If we count 1, 2, 3 etc… it makes sense, counting 210-7084, 210-7085, 210-7086 does not because they’re’s a hyphen in the way. So a sub-function that splits or removes the hyphen needs to be run, the number value then incremented and then inserts the hyphen back in.

That’s one way of doing it, it can be done with regex & other methods, but my point is, its an unnecessary and a carry-over from the catalogue side of Tesco.

After that, the rest is mustard.

We’ve got…

  • Titles that overflow the navigation
  • Customer reviews (nice)
  • Primitive bullet points
  • Poorly formatted descriptions
  • An ugly specifics table
  • Half hearted cross selling
  • I love the orange add to cart button, I really do. Have you tried green though?
  • And my last note, look at the top right, the wording has been added “Buy from *”, which changes between Tesco and the 3rd party merchant. But where is the link?

Wonky Product Data

There are two merchants live on Tesco’s Direct website, Crocus & Maplins. Nice touch on adding Crocus, I really want some onions with my TV.

My point, however is picking on one SKU, of which I assure you that if you cross compare the data between the two sites, it’s not alone. Take a look at this item on Tesco Direct. A screen shot is below.

Tesco-Marketplace-Product-Page-2

Can you see the issue?

Not spotted it yet? Take a look at the item from the Maplins site here. Look at the picture and read the title. Yep, that’s a purple product and a black title.

Dig around the other product data from Maplins on Tesco Direct for a few minutes and it’s not alone. Not to mention the pointless extra images in items such as this SKU or this SKU.

Tesco Seller Stores & ClubCard Points

I really like the idea of buyers being able to obtain “Club Card” points with 3rd party sales, there is a dedicated “Sellers at Tesco” page that you can read over here.

Tesco Seller Stores & ClubCard Points

I also like the fully customised store landing pages for both Maplins & Crocus, screen shots are below and if you click on them, it’ll take you to the pages:

Tesco Marketplace Maplins Store Tesco Marketplace Crocus Store

But to deliver this to a wider audience, that needs back-end tools in place and even Amazon have not even come close to the ~£81.4M that eBay take from eBay Shop owners every year in the UK alone and the eBay Shop is one of the most poorly supported product eBay have.

By the way if you think that number is obscene, I added up the USA & international eBay Shop revenues, you better brace yourselves for that in a later article, I did fall off my chair.

Summary

I’m going to leave this article at this point. Mainly because if I continue I’ll edge on the negative side and we’ve got to be fair here, Tesco have made a good crack at it so far with picking two unrelated merchants, even if one is odd and the other has data issues.

If let unchecked, then the Tesco Direct marketplace for Tesco is quickly going to go down the pan as far as duplicated & inaccurate data is concerned. To a data freak, this is alarming, but to be expected and I frankly did not expect it so early. It’s a nightmare/plague/cancer on Amazon with duplicates and just indicates that the process to check data needs some work.

Your Thoughts?

The grape-vine has already spilled that discussions have been made with 3rd party software providers a long time ago. So let’s run with a hypothetical question here.

  • What would you pay to gain access to the Tesco customer base?
    For both commission on sale & would you consider a start up fee?

You can let me know in the comments box below.

The First Bristol Multi-Channel eCommerce Meet Up 20th April

Bristol Multi-Channel eCommerce Meet Up

Hola! I’d like to invite you to the very first Multi-Channel eCommerce meet up on Friday 20th April in Bristol.

One of the biggest takeaways from working with the 6 businesses in the latter part of last year was that while we enjoyed the one-on-one time, there was really no replacement for meeting as a group and discussing the challenges that we face as a group. Some of the solutions were ingenious and meeting on common ground really worked well.

I’ve had a chat about holding such a meeting with a couple of businesses owners in and around the Bristol area that use eBay & Amazon as sales channels and the response has been really good. Well, they’ve all said yes so far :)

I’d like to try & keep it a small, personal affair and if you’re near Bristol on the 20th April, I’d like for you to join us for an hour or two. If anything to escape the office on a Friday morning for a few hours and “talk shop” with your peers, you’re welcome to join us.

 

Agenda

There is none. It’s the first meeting and while I’ll pencil in an agenda, I’m planning to just roll with it and see where the discussion goes.

Zero Providers Allowed

My role in this meeting is purely as a host and to meet the “cool” people.

I’m sorry this is intended to be a zero service or product provider meeting. Later on, we may invite you to join us. If you are interested in attending in an informal or formal capacity from a provider standpoint, contact me directly using the contact form here. But it won’t be for a few meetings in.

Location & Directions

Multi Channel eCommerce Bristol

The location I’ve chosen is my 3rd place, it’s a coffee shop that is sat right on the edge of the historic  Bristol harbour-side called “Cafe Gusto”.

Car parking is plentiful with two large car parks within a few minutes walk and there is free parking either within 15 minutes walk (Constitution Hill) or just over the water on Cumberland Road with a swish ferry ride for 70p.

For those who also cannot bear to be disconnected from the virtual world, there is free WiFi and a decent mobile signal. I use this cafe as my second office so I know the connectivity is excellent, although make sure your devices are fully charged there are no public power points.

Sat-Nav postcode: BS1 5JE
(this is for Jack’s which is just around the corner but will get you very close)
Start Time: 10:00 AM
Google Map URL: http://g.co/maps/sp3w9 

Parking
The map below shows the 3 nearest carparks in yellow/orange. The prices vary for these and I’m not sure on the actual prices. The green square at the bottom is for Cumberland Road which the parking is free, if you walk/follow the signs for the SS Great Britain there is a ferry that crosses the water for 70p.

Walking
Alternatively if you’re  prepared to walk a couple of minutes, the arrow in the top left is for Jacobs Well’s Road, there is meter parking either side and half way up is Constitution Hill for which the side roads are free.

Bus
If you’re travelling by bus, any route to the centre will do, its 10 minutes walk from the centre and walking directions are here http://g.co/maps/nx2v2 (you can short-cut along the waters edge).

Bristol eCommerce Meeting Directions

Will I be Seeing You There?

I would like to stress, if you’ve got to travel half the country to attend, then this is probably not for you. Well at least until we’ve had a couple of meetings and I’ve hammered the format out.

There is no cost to attending although you’ll want to bring a tenner or so for refreshments. The coffee served is my personal favourite, there is a soft drinks fridge and a selection of speciality teas,  and the panini’s are to die for.

If you’re in or around the Bristol area on the 20th and would like to attend let me know by leaving me a comment in the box below, I’ll send you my mobile number directly just in case you need guiding in on the day.

If you have any suggestions on topics that should be added to the agenda, they’d be welcomed.

Meet Me for Coffee at the Internet Retailing Conference

It’s IRX time again and I’m soo looking forward to attending. Out of the 4 or so ‘public’ conference that I visited last year, IRX in March was by far the best!

The Internet Retailing conference has the largest line-up of exhibitors I know of in the UK, Amazon, ChannelAdvisor, eSellerPro, iContact, PayPal, Reevoo, SellerExpress and a whole host of others will be attending in person. While there is no stand for eBay specifically, you can be sure the select members of their team will be attending. You can see the full line up here and registration is FREE.Internet Retailing Expo 2012

Register for Free

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the team from My1stWish do, as they’re presenting with eSellerPro at 11:30 and I can’t wait to meet Dave Chaffey CEO of SmartInsights after his presentation at 12:00 on day 1. A full agenda for both days is here.

 

Agent Orange

This year I am taking up roots in the Cafe area again and just so you’ll not miss me I’ll be wearing “orange”.

I’ve included a cheesy shot below so you know who to look for. I’ll be sporting a solar panel, a goatee of some form, a smile and as someone kindly pointed out last year a hoody that makes me look like a Guantanamo Bay inmate.

Meet Me For Coffee!

Meet Me For Coffee!

I am attending both days and are staying overnight (thanks to the team at CargoBox). If you would like to meet me, just pop over and say “Hi”, I’d love to meet you face to face.

It appears it’s the same conference hall (3a) as it was last year at the NEC in Birmingham and there is a Cafe area in the middle. I’ll be sat in the middle of it, you’re not going to be able to miss me :)

Are You Attending?

Are you attending this year’s IRX? Let me know in the comments box below and we’ll hook up for a chat.

Amazon Just Made it REALLY Difficult for 99.9% of UK Businesses

First there was the price parity warnings, then there was the policy warnings for buyer response times, then Amazon started to get aggressive with 3rd party businesses by throwing them off and now… They’re bulking in all the really expensive places in the UK to ship to as mainland UK.

I’m going to start this article with a direct and open message to Amazon.

Open Message to Amazon

Dear “Amazon”,

It’s crystal clear that you care deeply about your customers, this also happens to be the same people we, as 3rd party merchants, care very much about too.

As much as this will be distasteful to you, on behalf of every business that uses the Amazon UK marketplace, please… take a lesson from eBay on communicating messages to your 3rd party merchants.

eBay just released a set of updates for their their marketplaces in a structured, well considered approach, taking the time to bundle several changes together into a single update and added excellent communications around this, this included a dedicated section of their website to the updates, video content and 3rd parties were informed.

We, [plural, as I am speaking for the businesses that I work with and the 11 frantic emails I received so far this evening from other concerned business owners (I’m sure more will follow tomorrow)] would like it very much if you could try and bulk up changes that are going to come out very close to each other, so that as multi-channel business owners we can react to them in one go.

Sometimes we may not like the updates you make, but we also understand that you are looking out for the best interests of our customers too.

While we may not like that the new change to the shipping, because it’s going to cost us an absolute fortune for certain product verticals, we do understand why you would like to make such a change, as it has the best interests for those customers in the outskirts of the UK mainland.

However, this is the 3rd update in as many weeks and it would not take much effort you bundle these together into a single update.

We’re not asking for the level of communication that eBay provides, just to slow down and give us chance to digest and react to the changes, rather than hitting us with three consecutive blows.

Thank you

Take a read of this, if you haven’t seen your’s yet, it’ll be in the email spam folder:

Subject: Important information about the UK Shipping Settings in your seller account

Dear Seller,

We are writing to let you know about a change to the UK shipping regions in your Amazon.co.uk seller account. As of 21st March 2012, deliveries to the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, as well as other off-mainland locations, will be included in the main “UK Street” shipping region.

We are making this change in order to ensure a consistent delivery experience for buyers on our site. Customers can now shop in confidence knowing that they will be charged the same rates for delivery to addresses throughout the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Your “UK Mainland Street” delivery rates will be automatically applied to the new “UK Street” region. If you wish to modify your current pricing, click the “Shipping Settings” link on the Settings tab in your Seller Central account, and then click the Edit button at the top of the Shipping Model section.

To find out more about changing your shipping settings, enter “Shipping Settings” in the Search box in the upper-right corner of the main seller Help page, or click “Configure My Shipping Settings” under the Configure Account Settings heading.

Thank you for selling on Amazon.

Amazon Services Europe

What Do You Think?

You can’t even block these locations now, if you start refunding orders from these locations, you’ll get policy warnings and jeopardise your account, if you make no changes then we’ll take a hit to your margins and not all our products are suitable for FBA.

So the only thing that gives, is to increase the shipping values used to even out the excessive courier & shipping rates to these locations.

Am I wrong? Was the message fair? What do you think?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Amazon Gets Aggressive With Price Parity

This is a follow-up article from the original posted a few days ago regarding Have You Received a Price Parity Policy Warning from Amazon? and it’s not pleasant.

If you’ve not read the earlier article yet or the comments, then this won’t make much sense to you just yet and obviously key parts of the email have been removed. This is the first sign that Amazon really means business with its sellers when it comes to Price Parity and makes for sick reading

Greetings From Amazon

Greetings from Amazon,

We are writing to let you know that we have suspended your selling privileges and placed a temporary hold on any funds in your Amazon seller account.

As stated in our earlier warnings, we generally require that sellers do not charge customers higher prices on Amazon than they charge elsewhere through their other online sales channels. This is critical to preserve fairness for Amazon customers.

It has come to our attention that some of your listings, such as those listed below still do not abide by this policy.

For more information, please refer to Section S-4 (“Parity with your Sales Channels”) of the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement, available in the Policies and Agreements section of seller Help.

We encourage you to take appropriate steps to resolve any pending orders.

Before we can consider reinstating your selling privileges, you must provide us with a detailed plan to ensure compliance with our policies. We will then review your plan and determine whether to reinstate your privileges.

For information on creating and submitting your plan of action, search for “Appeals for Suspended or Blocked Accounts” in seller Help.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Seller Performance Team

Appeals for Suspended or Blocked Accounts

I did find it odd that there was no link to the help section in this email, which is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200380450

What I am curious about is whether this page is updated to include a new example around the price parity topic…

Not pleasant reading and thankfully (for the businesses I work with) this came in from a 3rd party earlier this morning. Even still it wasn’t nice reading and I really do feel for this business as Amazon can account for a huge majority of sales volume for some eCommerce businesses.

Amazon, if it was a human, it would be a woman and she would be a ……….. (But I love her none the less).

So those parity emails, ignore them at your peril!

Amazon Policy Warning For Buyer-Seller Contact Response Times

This is the one I know you’ve been waiting for… Looks like Amazon are about to start enforcing the Buyer-Seller Response times to buyers as a measured metric on your Amazon dashboards.

If you missed the Amazon Price Parity article a few days, you can find it here, as Amazon appear to be focusing on 3rd party sellers this quarter.

Amazon Policy Warning Email

Below is the email being sent out from Amazon, you might have one of these too this morning:

Dear Seller,

Buyers tell us that receiving timely responses from sellers to their enquiries is an important contributor to their overall satisfaction with an order. Our research has shown that sellers who respond to 90% or more of their messages within 24 hours have nearly 24% less negative feedback than sellers who take longer to respond.

To help make your Amazon Marketplace transactions successful, we recommend that you respond to buyer enquiries within 24 hours. You can access buyer enquiries by clicking the “Messages” link in the upper-right corner of your seller account home page. Copies of messages are also sent to the e-mail address associated with your account.

You can monitor your average response times on the Customer Metrics page of your seller account. Your Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time metrics are located at the bottom of the page.

For more information on how response time metrics are calculated, search on “Contact Response Time Metrics” in our online seller Help.

The following are some best practices for achieving a great response time metric:

– Regularly monitor your response time metrics.
– Check your seller account for messages every day, including at the weekend.
– Mark messages you have read but not responded to as “unread” in your e-mail client.
– Use a Contact Response Management (CRM) system to track enquiries.
– Let buyers know if a question or issue will require additional time to research.
– If you receive the same questions on a regular basis, consider creating a document with prepared answers.

Regards,

Amazon Services Europe

Account Screenshot

I’ve included a screenshot from an account that has had this policy warning. You’ll notice that the account is in really good standing except for the communications rate, which appears to be an ongoing issue.

Note: No apologies for the blurred areas. You don’t need to know these values & Amazon employees read this site (hola!).

Amazon Policy Warning Buyer Communication Time

What is an Issue Is…

While I’m not going to argue with the statement that sellers who respond quickly to emails are more likely to have less negative feedback, that makes sense and the business in question could work on decreasing the response times, as it will have a wider benefit other than not having policy warnings from Amazon.

What is an issue is:

  1. Weekends are included in this rating
  2. Even if a customer says “Thanks”, the message needs to be marked as “not needing a response”

These two issues are real problems for businesses that are closed on the weekends and even just one day, they could easily score a closed response for a buyer just saying “thanks” if they were there, but if they’re not and have some form of life-work balance, it’s being missed.

An obvious idea is to set up an auto responder to reply to Amazon questions quickly, but I’m sure it won’t take Amazon long to start blocking such responses or to add that as a violation too.

I’ve had a couple of these forwarded to me this morning (it appears to be a mass mailer from Amazon)  and have checked a couple of Amazon Seller Central accounts, they ALL have yellow values for response times and found another one that was showing red as well. I’ll work with the businesses that have sent this to see what underlying processes can be altered to tackle this on a long term basis.

In the comments area I have added a note around the policy page for “Customer Response Time metrics”, you can view the page here https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/200549770/ref=im_200549770_cont_200549770 and an interesting quote is:

Will response-time metrics be used in seller performance evaluations?
Response-time metrics are not normally reviewed during seller performance evaluations, but we may review these metrics if a Seller Account shows extremely poor performance in other areas. Note, however, that customers who do not receive timely responses are more likely to leave negative feedback or to file claims, which will affect your performance metrics directly. It is therefore important to review these response-time metrics regularly.

I do wonder if this is going to change in the next few weeks…

Check Your Amazon Account Now

You can check your Amazon Seller Central account here:
https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/customer-experience/summary.html/ref=ag_custmetric_dnav_home

What do You Make of This Warning?

  • Have you had a policy violation as well this morning?
  • How do you you cope responses at weekends, when there is no-one in the office?
  • Is your account Red or Yellow for the Buyer-Seller Contact Response Time?

Let me know in the comments box below.