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What is an Amazon Product Detail Page?

Hola! In this article, I introduce you to the Amazon product detail pages and the different variations of the detail page for products on Amazon.co.uk

If you’ve never sold on Amazon, are looking to do so or are already a seller central merchant, then taking a few minutes to watch the video in this article will help you and your staff understand what an Amazon detail page looks like and the variations that they come in. Because they’re not all the same as I show!

The Amazon Product Detail Page

The product detail pages on Amazon can and do change between product types. In the video below, I take you through some of the common components found on an Amazon product detail page such as:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • User-contributed content
  • A Product Title
  • Variations if present (Size, Colour and Size & Colour)
  • Pricing information
  • The ‘blue buy box’
  • Frequently bought items
  • What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item
  • Product specifications
  • Technical details
  • Product details
  • Product description
  • Customer reviews
  • Tags & several other elements

While not an exhaustive list as Amazon just like their product detail pages, do change the layouts from time to time,.

Anatomy of an Amazon Product Detail Page – Part 1

This video is part 1 of a multi-part video series that covers the anatomy of an Amazon product detail page from the basics in this article, to show how the inventory data you create, rules, options etc.. can impact what is shown on the detail pages for products you create on Amazon.

Reference Links

In this video, I show several pages on Amazon.co.uk, you’ll find visiting these for yourself very useful (as I have sped through some parts of them on the video) and I’ve included direct links to them below:

Summary

You now have a great founding in what Amazon product detail pages look like, the variations of them and the common components that you’ll find on them. This is crucial if you’re intending to sell on products on Amazon and also if you are already selling on Amazon as I’ve come across businesses in the past that didn’t know that you could list products with variations on this marketplace.

As I’ve shown in each of the product detail pages, there are several key sections that when creating your inventory for sale on Amazon, then you need to be fully aware of these sections. It can be tempting to skip sections and not know what the repercussions of missing them out are or what the sections in the import sheets actually mean in the first place.

If you’re thinking about selling on Amazon or already are and would like to know more, then checkout the Amazon category here, as I will be adding the following stages to the article over the next few weeks.

Like this video & Article? Let me know by either leaving a comment below!

When Was The Last Time You Bought From A Competitor?

Seeing what your competition are up to is always an enlightening experience. You’re able to reverse engineer what their processes are and what the product quality & service is like and to gauge how you compare.

 

Real Example

One of the businesses that I’m working with as part of ProjectE had an action last week, which was to investigate a potential competitor on a new marketplace. What was found is that they were lacking badly and there is potential in them exploring this marketplace further.

I have removed some details from the email so that it remains anonymous and replaced the sections with [comments] as applicable.

Hi Matt! Hope you’re having a good week.

My [product] has just arrived from [marketplace] in a crappy cardboard box (which I’m sure is supposed to have some reference to [marketplace] on the outside?). No invoice in the box. Just a badly cut slip of paper with more bad puntuation and grammar which is in keeping with the email they sent!

And the [product] .

The quality is appalling – none of the [key attributes] in places and poor [person’s] face is the weirdest colour I’ve ever seen!  We know that these issues are caused by either using [a tool incorrectly]. Very amateurish to say the least.

So we know we can wipe the floor with these guys – they say they are the cheapest on [marketplace] , well in this case you get what you pay for! As soon as I get our new [something] back we’re on there!

Just thought I’d share that with you. Just toying with the idea of leaving feedback now.

Sometimes you hit gold like this, where competitors have no sense of standards and quality processes in place. Do you think that they’ll now be investigating this marketplace further? I think so.

A quick note around the feedback either formal feedback on the marketplaces or personally to them is that I’d not suggest you do this and refrain from leaving any, especially if it’s going to be negative. Also, I frankly see no reason except for a high-ground-moral-reason to tell them if you can get over that. I’d keep quiet and let them fail in peace.

Stop - Take Action!When was the last time you bought from a competitor?
You can learn so much from buying items from not only competitors, but also companies in other areas. It only takes a few minutes, the cost can be exceptionally low, however, the insights can be enlightening.

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Why do eBay Sales Stay Consistent?

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

That question is:

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

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

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

Why this Question?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asking for Help

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

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

Hi Marshall,

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

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

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

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

Have you seen this also?

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

Matthew –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marshall

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

Redefining the Question

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

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

Howdy Marshall,

Ah it shows that you understand!

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

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

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

Jackpot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marshall

Kipper Slap

What Marshall had highlighted were the following:

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

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

What Does this Now Mean?

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

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

The E, the S, the I and the?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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Tuesday (Not Weds) Workshop With ChannelGrabber!

Register NowI’m really excited to be able to announce that on Tuesday 13th September, I’ll be holding the next Webinar & have roped in two fantastic people to join me.

Here is your personal invitation and you can register here.

Guest Speakers

The first is Daniel Williams, Managing Director of ChannelGrabber and we’ll be delving deeper into why this product was created, how it helps businesses who sell on-line and what it can do for you.

The second is Jason. Jason is one of the 6 businesses that I’m working with as part of the ProjectE. You’ll be able to hear directly from one of the ChannelGrabber users, why he uses it, how it’s impacted his businesses and how it’s enabled him to work on his business and not purely in his business.

Why am I Excited?

I half-mention this in the video above, to be able to do “Multi Channel” effectively, then you need a tool in the background to support you & to apply processes, so that you can work more efficiently in and on your business. ChannelGrabber makes this task very easy and is exceptionally affordable.

Why Tuesday & Not Wednesday?

eSellerPro are holding a “customer council” that I have been graciously invited to on Wednesday and are attending the public “customer conference” event on Thursday. If you’ve missed this, then you can see the full article for the eSellerPro at Lords here.

BTW if you’re attending, look out for the bold bloke wearing purple & come say “hi!”.

When & Where

Register NowThis workshop is on Tuesday 13th September at 5pm UK Time. There are only 100 places and on the first workshop there were 81 attendees, register now before all the places are taken!

Previously Registered?

If you’ve already registered for the “Wednesday Workshops” from two weeks ago, it’s the same registration details. No need to re-register and you’ll be sent an email automatically just before the event on Tuesday. (Thanks Andre for pointing this out to me!)

House Keeping

Please arrive early, it will take a few moments to download the free GoToWebinar application and if you can arrive a few minutes before hand, you won’t miss the start of the meeting.

Stop - Take Action!Register now, only 100 places!
The first workshop there were 81 participants, the application only supports 100 and I’d hate for you to miss out.  You can register here.

When People Buy from You, They Make a Commitment

Getting Married to your buyers

Buyers make a commitment to you, do you make a commitment back?

Lets think about this for a few moments as its sometimes just glazed over, its very easy to do so, with suppliers calling, all those emails to answer and packages to pack, not to mention the kids are going to need picking up later. But are we missing what a epic journey your customer has just been on?

Unless you’re selling “consumable goods” like bread & milk, the buyer that just purchased from you, has probably been through quite an ordeal to make that purchase.

Not a one click & forget

eBay isn’t a one-click purchase, Amazon can be, I used it once, but still prefer to “checkout” to ensure the details are correct. Its even worse on most websites, with no uniform checkout process. They [the customer] has had to work to make the purchase from you and even then they still have doubts.

What have they been through so far?

So with the buyer in mind, lets flip-ourselves into their shoe, to see what they’ve completed to actually buy the item from you.

  1. They found the item you sell
    Probably amongst hundreds of others. Quite a feat.
  2. They probably bookmarked the item, or added it to their watch list
    This is especially true for “considered purchases”, typically items over £40-50
  3. They’re happy with “you”
    They checked your feedback and read the negs & neuts and are still happy
  4. They’re happy with the description
    After scouring the other products, they’ve decided that this item is “right for them”
  5. They’ve envisaged using the product
    Think fashion or a drain rod set. One’s going to solve an emotional need to look great, the other, well…
  6. They’ve jumped hoops to pay for the item
    Is the eBay checkout really that straight forward? Is the Amazon checkout that straight forward either? Logging in, signing into PayPal, these are all barriers that the customer has just been through and could have tripped up at any one of them.
  7. They’ve handed over their money in good-will
    The irony is that for both eBay & Amazon, they have paid you in “good will” before even having the goods. If you were in Tesco shopping, while you may not be able to open up the bread and take a bite (unless you have kids and they’ll do it anyway), you can still interact with it, check its consistency and “personally inspect it”.
  8. They still have doubts
    Even though they’ve been through all the barriers above, they still have doubts. Is the item right? What if its damaged? Will it turn up? Will I be in to collect it? Did they get the mooney? Did I screw something up in the checkout process? Pants, was that my old address or my new address I used?

Summary

Its like getting married (an experience I’m looking forward to next year), one party is making an epic commitment to you, what are you giving back in return?

Its easy to get consumed with the day-to-day actives and forget that your buyers have been through an epic ordeal to buy the goods or services from you.

Stop - Take Action!What are YOU going to do?
What can you do to make the buyers tasks easier? What can you do right now to over-come barriers or quash doubts?

Image source: Adamjonfuller

Your Invitation to an Unique Opportunity for 5 eCommerce Businesses for ProjectE

Last Friday, I announced that I would be offering “A Unique Opportunity for 5 eCommerce Businesses for ProjectE” (see the link for the video), today I’m providing more information around this huge opportunity for the selected 5 businesses and opening to doors to applications.

What actions you take now, can have a massive impact on the busiest season of the year, Christmas. This really is a unique opportunity for you & your business, as I am essentially offering my experiences & services for free at a critical time of the year.

I’ve had quite a few emails already asking questions already, most questions are answered below, the common one was “What do I have to do to ensure I’m part of this Matt?”, one sent me this:

(Yes, I know it’s shameless, but if you could email Camelot and ask them if they would suggest which lottery numbers might be good to pick I bet you would).

As I mention below in this article and in the video, I have no real preference on the businesses size, just that the 5 chosen will be in non competing areas and have a willingness to learn and put the time in as needed. If I’ve worked with you before, that’s also OK. I’ve put the invitation as openly and as honestly as I can in the video below.

Why am I offering this opportunity?

There are two core reasons, the first is commitment. I’ve been hovering around ProjectE for some time now and I need personal commitment to its success, this is my way of ensuring that it happens and does not remain a ‘pipe dream’. The second is being able to understand & document exactly the right information to help other businesses grow through ProjectE.

Who am I?

If this your first time to this site, then I strongly urge you to read the rest of this site. This is my personal blog and I’ve covered quite a wide range of eCommerce related topics.

As a very brief introduction, I’ve ran my own eBay based business for three years, held the very first eBay PowerSeller meeting, worked with an auction management company called Marketworks (which was later bought by ChannelAdvisor) for 18 months and then spent three years at eSellerPro, a multi-channel software provider. I work with one of the most successful unbranded fashion multi-channel companies & launched Tesco on eBay a year or so ago. I have two “daddys” girls, I’m getting married next year, I have an unnatural love of Fridays and I’m addicted to coffee.

Non Competing Businesses

A critical part is my intention to pick five businesses that do not compete in the same product groups/verticals.

By picking businesses where they do not compete directly with each other, I’ve found from personal experience, breaks down the immediate boundaries that competition puts up and opens the opportunity of working together, so that 6 people in a non-competing environment can work more effectively, than just one.

A core part of these 8 weeks will be working together with myself and the four other selected businesses to amplify the experience. I’m suspecting that the latter, being able to talk to liked minded individuals who face similar issues will ultimately be most benefit to you.

What would be my personal concerns if I was a business considering taking part?

I felt it important to include this section, as it would be one of my primary concerns in taking part in this opportunity.

I’d like to stress that data to me is just that, data. I’ve seen sooo many addresses, inventory records, to just glaze over them. A customer’s address is just that, a couple of data fields, its contents are completely irrelevant and what is important is that the data is valid and in the correct format (and if not, why not).

I categorically have no intention of using any supplier based information to start my own “physical product based” business, I’ve been there and done that and will happily sign an NDA on supplier based information, that terminates for the period for up to 12 months after the project ends.

What is the “ideal” business type?

Your business should be eCommerce related and are using or intend to use eBay or Amazon as sales channels.

If you’re only taking a few hundred pounds per week or several hundred thousand turnover, this does not matter. What critically matters is that you’re able to work with others in a separate business area, are willing to learn fast and can commit the time needed for both the individual meetings, the group ones and the work that stems from them both.

What do I receive in return?

Ironically, I need your help as much as you need mine. ProjectE, which I’m looking forward to discussing with you, is about helping as many people as possible with their eCommerce businesses.

  • Permission to write about the experiences gained through the 8 week program
  • Use the knowledge & experience gained so that I can then help tailor future articles to help small & medium sized business.
  • Feedback on ProjectE

What is included?

The following is included & payment for the following is not implied nor expected.

  • Unique access to ProjectE
  • 1 hour per week dedicated support, via Skype or phone, focused to you & your business (will be on Weds, Thurs or Friday)
  • 1 hour per week group session to share your experience with the other members of the team (will be on Weds, Thurs or Friday)
  • Unlimited community forum & direct email support as required outside of the above
  • A ½ day site visit if you’re in a 30 mile radius of Bristol, United Kingdom (subject to lunch and coffee being provided)
  • [Pending confirmation] Access to two other experts, one of which will travel almost anywhere in the UK for the train fare, lunch and (uurrrh) tea.

What is required from you?

The most obvious inclusion here is commitment, I’m offering at least 16 hours or more of my time unpaid to help you, I expect this and a lot more in return.

  • An “open mind”
  • The purchase & completion of two or more books, within two weeks of the project starting (they’re about £15 in total on Amazon).
  • Attending individual & group meetings which will be held on a Weds, Thurs or Friday.

Questionnaire

To enter your businesses into this opportunity, I require a few simple questions to be answered. Please include a phone number that you can be reached on over the weekend of 20-21st August, as I’m intending to use this time to narrow down the entries.

The closing date for applications is Friday 19 August at 23:59.

All fields are required.

<< Sorry, this unique opportunity has now ended>>

A Unique Opportunity for 5 eCommerce Businesses for ProjectE

Time to raise the stakes! On Monday 15th August, I’m going to open a public invitation for 5 businesses to work with myself for a period of 8 weeks, consisting of 1-2 hours mentoring & consulting for free.

The infamous “ProjectE” should be no surprise to you if you’ve read any part of this site or if I’ve worked with you before, its to be focused on eCommerce, with a hefty slant towards eBay & Amazon.

This is a huge & equally unique opportunity for you and your businesses, as I’m offering support, guidance and mentoring, at a critical part of the year. With Christmas with in easy reach, just imagine what you could achieve with the right guidance and actions on your part.

If you’re interested in working with me for free & for 2 whole months, watch this video now  as I’ve put together a brief overview for this unique opportunity and more details will follow on Monday.

I will be providing a submission form on Monday and the closing date for applications will be 17:00 Friday 19th August 2011.

Part 3 (Final): More Inventory – The 3 Ways to Increase Your Online Business

This is the final part in the three part series on how to increase your on-line business. In the first part we covered the two sides of efficiency, internal efficiency and external efficiency and then in the second part (which I had to cut short due to time) we covered more sales channels.

Recap

I want to quickly recap on the sales channels section, these provide the largest spikes in turn-over for businesses. Even when done poorly, they can still offer the quickest returns on investments of time and money. Over time, both internal and external efficiency will kick in and make the new channel(s) more productive.

I didn’t really cover the the how and the where-to particularly well in part 2, I’ve got this noted to look at it again in more depth at a later date, as the article is compounded by the use of multiple tools for backend systems and I’d be looking at creating one larger article that covers the common ones.

Moving on…

To the final instalment, the title has already given the thunder away, its simply “More Inventory”.

“More Inventory” could mean a couple of different depending upon its application, it could mean the leveraging of ‘range selling’ so that you’re better able to tackle the exit strategy (for when the item being viewed is not the item desired) for listings on different sales channels or completely new products (or services) to be added to your business.

Range Selling

Staying with “Range selling” for a few moments, this simply means that you offer the majority of a range of products. As its raining here currently I’m thinking umbrellas. So imagine you have a couple of umbrellas that you sell quite frequently, also the supplier has 20 or so  other umbrellas, that you’ve just not ventured into as of yet. These are different colours and different sizes.

Instead of sticking with just the few that sell or you’ve found that sell in the past, take one of each and add them to your inventory (virtual stock is much better for this) . Now if you’ve not included them in a multi variation listing (best case) or via size/colour attributes on Amazon in a single record (again best case) you could add extra images & links to promote the other umbrellas in the listings themselves (on Amazon this is related products). The simplest way of look at this is as a buyer “Oh I don’t like this one I’m looking at, but I might like that one”.

Note: “Range selling” was introduced to me by a seller in the toys category several years back. I didn’t really get it at first, but once I started treating them as “ranges” and cross-promoting them as such, I would find that the entire range would do really well, rather than just a few more popular items. And often as the other items in the range did poorly for others, I was able to negotiate better pricing on the entire range of products.

Simple Fact. Product IS Product

It frequently surprises me when I explain this to clients and they get the “ah-ha” moment. It does not matter if you are selling an house or a pen, the selling process is essentially the same. You document the product, you market the product, the product sales, funds change hands, the product is delivered.

A Product
= An Umbrella
= A Computer Keyboard
= A House
= …

With this in mind, what is stopping you from expanding your current product range outside of the ‘safe boundaries’? Think about it, you probably already have access to hundreds if not thousands of extra products already within your supplier groups, its just a case of looking for them.

Once you’ve found one supplier, finding their competitor is relatively childs-play. But every supplier is different and with a little effort you can easily move around the supplier-food-chain. If you’re using backend tools as mentioned in the first article, the efficiency of adding more products is amplified both in the backend creation process (internal efficiency) and also in the steps you make towards greater external efficiency. These are both universal regardless of product type.

Note: I always pick a house as the opposite end of the extreme, it has its complexities, but its still a product…

<Insert negative here>

Frankly some people either don’t like this concept or just don’t get it. The former is because they “believe” you should be specialised and I agree, you should be specialised, specialised in making more money. You’re either growing or you’re dying. Pick one.

Conclusion

Through these three articles you should have a better idea on how you can increase your on-line business. From using tools to make both internal efficiency and external efficiency greater, to adding more sales channels (hint this is the second largest spike producer in turnover) and finally to adding more products, because they’re ALL essentially the same.

The 3 Ways to Increase Your Online Business Part 2: More Sales Channels

Welcome to part 2 of a 3 part series that covers the three ways in which I consider the quickest and easiest ways of increasing your online business. If you missed the first part, this was on efficiency both internal efficiency, everything that happens inside the business and external efficiency, being more effective on your customer facing side of the business.

In this part, I’m going to be covering the thorny subject of ‘More Sales Channels‘. I say its ‘thorny’ because if not done well, then its going to have repercussions, however I feel its critically important that you diversify your risk and reach.

I did cover part of this in two previous  articles, the first called How To: Selling on eBay with more than one eBay ID and the second as the first caused quite a stir, called Part 2: Leveraging more than one eBay ID I’m going to be drawing from these two articles and explaining a little deeper on why you should consider duplicating (tactfully & gracefully) your current business.

Why more sales channels?

Lets get this out of the way first, as its the common question. As I mentioned yesterday the use of software tools such as  eSellerProChannelAdvisorLinnworks247TopSeller etc… force the business to use a set of processes, that are most likely far superior to what is being employed currently. This alone (after some hardwork & sweat learning these I hasten to add) will typically result in more turn over, as the business is some 5x times more efficient at the tedious, repetitive processes. Also the core users time is normally freed to focus on other important tasks, namely better descriptions, more stock, faster order processes and so on… resulting in more sales.

However… The critical point here outside of ‘efficiency’, is that the largest spikes in clients turnover is when they plugin another sales channel.

The simple sum here is:

More sales channels =  More Turnover

The Largest spikes

The largest and most immediate spikes happen when a business employs eBay or Amazon, when it was missing from their current sales channel mix

First lets imagine a solely Amazon based business that is not selling on their own website or eBay, as soon as you plugin these in, typically this is where you see the largest spikes in their companies turn over.

The same is true of the reverse, where a company may be solely eBay, when they add Amazon to the mix (because they can relatively easily as they are using one of the said tools) they’ve added another sales channel that responds quickly to their actions and thus, more turn over.

Certain software providers will use a clients growth as testament to that companies software product is the ‘better choice’; While this is partially true because such tools enable more efficient processes for unifying scattered business operations and like to shout about the growth companies experience when using the said tools, in reality they’ve just become more efficient and have added a major new sales channels into the mix. The real question is, what happens when you have done these steps?

Shoot me now

I’m going to go out on a limb here and actually say that when you’ve hit the natural growth points, ChannelAdvisor might be the better choice for you because of their dedicated “account management” structure & crucially experience.

While the other software products I’ve mentioned have such layers of varying degrees, when you’ve truly automated what you can, you’re stuck. The reliance for the business expansion goes back to the business owners & third party consultants like myself. If this is an area you know you’re going to struggle with, the extra fees could be a sound investment.

Note: For those who don’t know my history here, I spent over four years in direct competition with Channel Advisor in two SaaS products. If there is anyone that has the right to be anti-Channel Advisor, I’m them. Hey I even suggested I should throw their MD over the desk in an earlier article :)

I’m aware of changes that are occurring in another product and quite frankly I don’t like them, there is too much reliance on the product being the be-all-and-end-all. It gets you so far, but after that, you need that extra support.

And yes I am suggesting you could/should pay more for a software a product and saying you may not need my services (just yet), but that’s OK. You need to get as far as you can on your own.

I’ve already done this, what now?

If you have already implemented one of these software tools and have Amazon & eBay running well, then you are primed to expand.

What I mean by this is that you’ve gone through the learning curve of the software tool, you’ve got your data prepared for both of the key channels and probably have added on a website at the same time.

Sooo to recap you have:

  1. The majority of the steep learning curve completed
  2. Staff (hopefully) trained up on its use
  3. Processes in place to deal with over 10 times more orders
  4. Clean data that is just waiting to be “abused” to more channels
  5. More time to focus “on” the business, rather than working “in” the business

Note: If you have not got to this stage yet, then you should seriously consider using one of the software tools I mentioned as soon as humanly possible. The quicker you start using one of these, the quicker you reap the rewards of ‘efficiency‘.

Which leads nicely on to the next section.

The principles

Going back to the earlier article on selling on more than on eBay ID, we need a refresher on the underlying principles behind this and my views on these marketplaces.

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

Which leads on to this pivotal statement:

So if you’re selling widgets, there are lots of other widget sellers for customers to choose from, so why not be one of the other widget sellers?

I included a simplified calculation on what this could mean in the article, a rough outline is that if you are 1 of three sellers for product X, with all things being equal**, you have a 1 in 3 chance of selling to the buyer, however, if you added an additional selling account so that there is now a 2 in four chance of selling to the buyer, you’ve not increased your odds of selling from 33% to 50% and I like the latter.

** None of the sales channels are equal, there are a large number of factors that influence each of them. However if you’re using a business model that works, then there is a fair chance you’ve got the majority right.

Also risk is an important factor to be considered, imagine that your sole channel ID gets a stream of negatives and you get left in the brown stuff, even with the eBay TRS protection for 3 months that’s kicking in, its going to be difficult to recover. By diversifying risk over multiple selling identities, you’re able to lower the overall risk to the business.

The other key point, is that if you’ve already created the inventory record once, then altering it to sell it again (but differently, see the important section on this in a few moments), then you’re 75% on the way to being able to add multiple identities.

Original Time To Create the Record
+  (Original Time To Create the Record / Number of ID’s + Time to make edits)
= Overall time to create inventory

From the calculation above, the largest amount of time is spent creating the first inventory record, as soon as you add duplicates, they are what they are, copies of the original and then needed to be altered with minor details for leveraging more channels.

What do I mean by “sales channels”?

Maybe I should have included this sooner, however to clarify, one eBay ID is a sales channel, one Amazon account is a sales channel, one website is a single sales channel etc…

Stop

(You can see where this is going)

Imagine you had to start your business again tomorrow, scary thought right?

Realising that you have already got 75% of the hardwork done, the learning curves for software, the processes in place, great, clean inventory thats being pushed out to your main sales channels, hey you may have even added a few channels while going through the set up processes, does duplicating your business onto additional sales channels sound that scary?

Potential new sales channels

While not exhaustive, here is a list of sales channels that you could leverage.

  1. eBay
  2. Amazon
  3. Website
  4. Comparison search
  5. Affiliates
  6. Retail shop
  7. Play.com
  8. PPC
  9. Social (this is a special one, covered later on)

Are you using all of these? Are you using all of these times 5? 10? 25? more?

My point is, as soon as you’ve completed the steps for one of these channels, duplicating it again is only a fraction of the work.

Early conclusion

I’m stopping here as I need to work on ProjectE related tasks today. I know I’ve not covered the ins-and-outs of this topic thoroughly and I’ll be revisiting this either here or with you when ProjectE goes public.

One topic that I have clearly avoided is how to to duplicate these sales channels, this is where the line kinda-goes-grey for many reasons, however the biggest one is that it directly competes with ProjectE.

However there are two points I feel is important to add. The first is that if you make a direct clone of your main eBay ID, then its unlikely to add any huge value to your customers, the channel and ultimately the business.

There are normally many “threads” (verticals is the correct term, you’ll probably understand ‘product ranges’ more easily) that can be followed to create the new ID with and the second is that duplicating Amazon should be given a wide birth for the reasons covered in the earlier article here. Everything else is fair game.

The 3 Ways to Increase Your Online Business Part 1: Efficiency

time-warp-spiral-clock-face

As far as I see it there are are three core ways to increase your online business, this is pretty much universal across all the marketplaces and yes, I am blatantly ignoring some of the “traditional methods” in this article.

The first of these three ‘ways’ is “efficiency” and I’m looking forward to detailing the following two in the next few days or so, but for now, lets get right into ‘efficiency’.

Efficiency

Efficiency in general describes the extent to which time or effort is well used for the intended task or purpose. It is often used with the specific purpose of relaying the capability of a specific application of effort to produce a specific outcome effectively with a minimum amount or quantity of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. “Efficiency” has widely varying meanings in different disciplines. Wikipedia

This article has two spurs, the first is internal efficiency and the second is external efficiency. They are quite different and I’m looking forward to showing how they differ and what they mean for you.

Internal efficiency

What I mean by this is making the processes you use each day more efficient. This could be the implementation of software products like eSellerPro, ChannelAdvisor, Linnworks, 247TopSeller etc… What you’ll not be openly told, is that such tools add processes and normally the gains made by using such software stem from a single source, which is…

Efficient Processes!

None of these tools (yes they are tools, they are not the be-all & end-all) are not quick to learn, however if you’re migrating from one to another, then they are generally all very similar, they just have different interfaces, features and dare I say it quirks too. But the underlying factor in them all, regardless of design, is that they enforce processes onto the business and typically they are a lot more efficient than the processes the business was using before.

This might be inventory creation, unifying the data that is created, so that it can be ported across many sales channels, courier rules to match orders to the most cost/time efficient service or just simple order processing of orders from multiple channels in a single place.

The list goes on, however ultimately, these tools are designed to automate the labour intensive tasks and this is where the one of the largest gains can be made by a company, because after the initial learning curve** (see note), strict (ish) processes are in place and the bi-product of efficiency here is time gained, which typically goes into three places:

  1. Sourcing & creation of more stock
  2. Greater focus “on” the business
  3. More leisure time (lol, I had to add this one, I’ve only seen one do this thoroughly and I envy them greatly)

** This varies greatly from not only one software product to another, but to person-to-person also. Noting that some people just fail at this stage, its typically tied to either the person not being capable (through lack of applicable skills) or through their unwillingness to let-go of certain tasks.

Outside of “software products” that add obvious efficiency gains, focusing on the processes that are used to do the following, all allow extra efficiency to the business

  1. Sourcing stock & supplier relationships
  2. Managing accounting
  3. Managing staff (internal and external)
  4. Create new, better products (and/or inventory data, if not a manufacturer)
  5. And so on…

Internal Efficiency Summary

Internal efficiency is everything that happens inside the business, this could be the use of software “tools”, that typically give the biggest gains or becoming more efficient with accounting, so that the funds that are in the company move quicker (or slower) or even developing better relationships with your suppliers to then leverage a greater buying power outside of pure monetary forms.

External Efficiency

To define what I mean here by “External Efficiency”, this is everything that happens on sale producing platforms and not internally related (such as accounting or sales order processes). I know these are directly linked, but if you simply think of the internal efficiency as everything you do in your offices and the external efficiency as everything your customer sees.

As the majority of readers here are focused on three areas eBay, Amazon and Website commerce, I’ll keep to these three areas.

eBay.com LogoeBay Efficiency

Starting with eBay, I am implying that gains can be made through more efficient listing practices & styles. This could mean using more item specifics data, reworking your listing titles, especially if you consider that the titles on eBay are going from 55 chars to 80 chars soon, why not rework your current titles now, but also rework them so that you add-in the extra characters later, when the longer listing titles have been launched.

Note: I’m thinking reworking listing titles now using market research, but also keeping track of the current title in excel, the new title (to be changed now) and a longer title that is ~80 chars long, all with the custom title, so that they can be updated through the said third party software, or if you are not using these, then something like eBay File Exchange to update them en-mass later.

Adding of cross-selling modules to listings, better product images, reworking item descriptions that you know are poor or have caused numerous questions and so on…

I could (but I’m not going to) go on a bender here with regards to eBay, however, let me pose you this question and leave you to make your own decisions:

If you were starting from scratch and could change anything you wanted about your current eBay set-up, what would you change?

Now change them.

Amazon Efficiency

Focusing on the external side to Amazon, when was the last time that you looked to see if there were any duplicates of your products on Amazon and listed against those as well?

While Amazon is supposed to have a single record for a single product, with so many merchants creating inventory on Amazon, you’re bound to find duplicates across your product range and you could leverage these to gain extra sales and sometimes for more money too as there are less competitors with these records.

This is just one area of many that can be employed with Amazon, the other two note-worthy tasks in relation to Amazon is to increase your exposure across the other Amazon sites, as Amazon have recently enabled UK accounts to sell across Europe and the second is FBA.

Have you looked at Fulfilment By Amazon yet?

If not, do so now here http://services.amazon.co.uk/services/fulfilment-by-amazon/features-benefits/ oh and this tool is well hidden, I only found it a few days back, here is Amazon’s FBA calculator! https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/fbacalc/fba-calculator.html

Website Efficiency

Perhaps the biggest opportunity, yet the biggest challenge for online businesses. With eBay & Amazon, the marketing fees (yes eBay and Amazon fees are MARKETING FEES, not a fee for being party of a community and drooling over feedback counts), its hard for merchants to comprehend that they need to spent more on the promotion of their website than they do with either of these channels.

Its a common complaint, that they[merchants] do really well with regards to the other two channels but fail completely when it comes to their website channels. If you’re focusing 99.9% of your time & resources on eBay & Amazon, its no wonder that they account for 99.9% of your sales. What would happen if you flipped this on its head, do you think you’d make a pretty hefty dent in the 99.9%?

I’m over a thousand words at this point, so if you’ve got this far you’re doing great. This topic deserves hundreds of thousands, but I’m going to cut it short to stay on topic and detail a few ideas you could focus upon to make your website more “efficient”.

  1. Look at page load times
  2. Improve categorisation
  3. Add better category descriptions
  4. Create backlinks in forums
  5. Create a email marketing campaign
  6. Create a blog
  7. Do some article marketing
  8. Add tracking counters (or set events/funnels) for critical pages, such as home, category, item detail, add to cart events, cart, checkout stages and the cart final page. So you can measure them and then make changes to improve them and have quantifiable data to measure the impact.
  9. Try some simple A/B testing using www.google.com/websiteoptimizer
  10. Set up a Google Adwords campaign, if you already have done so when was the last time you looked at the ad groups or where you were gaining links from, could you create some targeted backlinks on the content sites that are delivering click through’s?

Efficiency Summary

While both mutually dependent & a little tricky to get-ones-head-around to begin with, internal efficiency is everything that happens in the background and external efficiency is everything that the customer sees. In both cases there will need to be efforts made to improve efficiency, some will be simple and quick to do, while others are much longer term.

Reading

I’m inclined to include two books for some light reading here (both aff links) and the full list of my reading materials can be found in my library:

  1. 4 Hour Work Week
    The first is the 4 Hour Work week by Timothy Ferris whom takes the concept of efficiency and smashes it to pieces (also introduces you to a concept of dreamlining, but that is quite a shocker and you need to read the book to at least comprehend this, its why I sat in the sun all day yesterday with the kids & friends enjoying a picnic)
  2. e-Myth Revisited
    The second is another personal favourite, E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Sarah and ‘All About Pies’, I can vividly imagine the manager of the hotel taking the file off his shelf and showing him the processes, the walk from the reception to the restaurant & the orchard.The last chapter is rubbish compared to the rest of the book, but if you need (and I’m guessing you do, because I did) a easy step into the franchise model, even if you have no intention to ever franchise your business, this is a fantastic starting point. Oh and when you’ve read the book, I have the managers hat on currently, whom is whipping my technician in to writing this article.

This concludes this section of a three part article on “The 3 Ways to Increase Your Online Business”. The next two… I’ll release in the next few days, but for now, did you find this useful?

Amazon: Navigate the Cloud at AWS Summit 2011

amazon-web-servicesThe UK Summit is in London on the 14th June 2011 and Navigate the Cloud at AWS Summit 2011 registration is currently open and there are also events in New York on the 10th June and 21st June in San Francisco.

The full details are below.

Navigate the Cloud at AWS Summit 2011

Whether you are new to the Cloud or looking for more knowledge to take you to the next level, these full-day conferences will provide the information to successfully navigate the Cloud. These regional events will feature a keynote address by Amazon.com CTO, Werner Vogels, customer presentations, how-to sessions, and tracks specifically designed for new and experienced users.

Reasons to attend

  • Gain a deeper understanding of Amazon Web Services, including best practices for developing, architecting, and securing applications in the Cloud.
  • Hear how AWS customers have successfully built and migrated a variety of applications to the Cloud.
  • Learn how Solutions Providers from the AWS community have helped businesses launch applications in the Cloud, utilizing enterprise software, SaaS tools, and more.
  • Discover how AWS’s services can help your organization meet growing business needs while reducing overall IT expenditures.

Who should attend

  • Developers and Engineers, System Administrators, Architects, IT Specialists, IT Managers and Directors, and Business Leaders.
  • Find sessions that meet your needs in our three tracks:Trailhead for those new to the Cloud, Base Camp for experienced users, or the Guided Trek to help you discover Cloud solutions.

Agenda

8:30am–9:30amRegistration & Solutions Provider Expo
9:30am–9:45amWelcome
9:45am–10:30amOpening Keynote: “State of the Cloud”, Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon.com
10:30am–11:20amCustomer Presentations
11:20am–11:45amCustomer & Q&A Panel
11:45am–12:45pmLunch & Solutions Provider Expo
12:45pm–4:30pmBreak out Tracks:
Trailhead
Base Camp
Guided Trek
4:30pm–5:00pmClosing Keynote: “How Amazon Migrated to AWS”, Jon Jenkins, Director, Amazon.com
5:00pmNetworking/Cocktail Reception

Where/When

June 10 – New York
Roosevelt Hotel
45 E 45th Street
New York, NY  10017
Register for the New York event

June 14 – London
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre
Broad Sanctuary, Westminster
London SW1P 3EE
Register for the London event

June 21 – San Francisco
Westin St Francis – Union Square
335 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA  94102
Register for the San Francisco event

Making Sense of the Pending eBay UK Updates in May 2011

If you’ve not heard yet, you have now, there are some stellar changes coming up for eBay UK in the May 2011 update. You can read the full update here and in the next few minutes, I’ll be discussing what this means for you and your business.

As far as I see it there are two options

#1 You cry like a little girl

girl-cryingThis option is normally chosen by merchants that are on the edge or so rammed up the whole idea of selling on eBay arse, that they get stuck, throw toys around and eventually burn out. Lets hope your competitors either do not twig there is an update at all or select this option.

If you would like to select this option go to the eBay community boards and start ranting how eBay ruined your life.

#2 You fully embrace the changes in advance

This is what smart merchants to. They analyse what the landscape is going to look like knowing what the updates are and work out how it affects them and how they can change to leverage this to their advantage.

If you would like to select this option, read on.

The Updates

I’m going to follow the structure in the update page from eBay, but give you the spin you need to turn this into plain English and see where its going to hurt and where there is potential and where work possibly needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition.

‘Value for Money’ Fee Updates

I’m just not seeing how the ‘Value for Money’ part is going to be interpreted by merchants, all I’m seeing is almost a universal hike in fees. Yes there are a few winners, but overall, expect to be paying more after this lands.

Fact: eBay UK will become more expensive that it is currently.

I would like to point out that eBay is amazing value for money, even at its higher closing rates the amount of exposure you gain to customers is immense and its never been so cheap to sell on eBay and the barrier to entry for new merchants is extremely low.

Remember I come from the era of SIF (Shop Inventory Format) where we paid 20p for 30 days/GTC and had no exposure, now you can pay a few pence or nothing (with an Anchor eBay shop) and gain access to the main listings and all its exposure as a normal listing. Bargain.

Summary of Fees Update

pound-coins

The ‘simplified final value fee’ is a bit of a hoax, yes it makes working out what you will end up paying easier, but I’d like to point out that sellers did not care before with the multi tiered final value fee approach, as they relied upon eBay to calculate the different levels of fees and it was absolutely no issue for the seller.

Lets be brutally honest, anchor shops are poorly marketed, so sellers who have them either have not worked out this or have more inventory that makes it more economical for them to upgrade. If you’re at this level then the 1p to free listings make little difference and again with the Basic to Featured shop upgrades, the lines are so close, you’re better off going for the featured shop as soon as your’re allowed to.

If you’re selling technology based products, then there is a fair chance you’re going to be much better off if you have a ASP of under £100, over this you’re going to be paying more, with a 200% increase on sales of £600 or more.

Parts sellers are going to have a mixed experience, again ASP’s come into play, if you’re sub £30 going to see a 1.9% saving, over this due to the ‘simplification’ you’re going to be loosing out to the tiered fee structure that was in place before the update.

CSA (Clothes Shoes & Accessories) sellers are worst hit, this to me personally sucks somewhat, as its CSA that has seen the largest growth for the past year and now eBay are ‘tapping it’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, there are updates that if actioned properly and effectively will give us an advantage over slower moving clients (or those that ‘rant’, I’m just making a little point, remember option #1?).

PowerSellers: Focus on quality

I’ll be quite open, I read this part of the update as blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, blah. Again, taking my own advice, I am not inserting a rant about DSR’s, I’m just going to point out they are flawed as indicated in a previous article I wrote How to add icing to your competitors Christmas on eBay: Top Rated Seller Flawed?. Ultimately upping the standards of sellers has to be a good thing for the overall community.

eBay Express is Back!

Whoops, sorry its called ‘eBay Shopping Basket’, silly me :X

new-ebay-checkout-1

The New eBay Shopping Basket

If you’ve not heard or seen this, go to this page immediately, print it off and read it thoroughly, this is a critical update you need to know about.

In the update, its described by eBay as having these attributes:

  • Faster and easier shopping
  • Better value
  • Fewer fixed price unpaid items
  • Make payment simpler
  • Bigger orders

Let me translate these for you, the duplicates are not typo’s:

  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payment
  • You can offer them more stuff in more places and eBay will probably charge you for this later on
  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payments
  • Buyers are (almost) forced to pay with immediate payments
  • You can offer them more stuff in more places and eBay will probably charge you for this later on

Now we know eBay buyers are not the brightest of bunnies and quite scared creatures too. So it is a sensible suggestion by eBay that you re-think your postage strategy and start with a free option and then expedited options at sensible (lucratively cheap) values. You’ll also want to check on your postage discounts and ensure that you are using them where ever possible.

New Feature Bundles

Well almost, all that has been included is a sniff at the bundle feature that certain sellers are using in BETA currently. This is one feature that has been sorely been missing from eBay for a long time. Expect this to be rather similar to that automatically created by Amazon.

Item Specifics Updates

For CSA sellers, this is either going to be a huge task for sellers with large inventories and no back office tool, or a bit of a bind for more technologically advanced sellers. As I have a conflict of interests here (due to me publicly showing I work with My1stWish on LinkedIn yesterday), I’m just going to boast I have a tool that will tell me which records are affected and I’m not prepared to share it.

Being slightly more constructive for other CSA sellers you’ll need to check the table that shows the requirements in the May 2011 update, hopefully these should not be too painful and there are bulk editing tools such as this.

Electronics Category gets Amazon-Fied

Have you tried buying ‘tech products’ on eBay lately? Its a nightmare, Amazon is so much easier imo, eBay should be better by this time next year.

The requirement of EAN’s and matching existing records has been around for quite a while now, there are many reasons why I believe this is a good change overall, such as cutting down on the clutter on eBay and more transparent pricing for buyers.

Stellar Update – Variations!

ebay-variations-1

An Example of Variations. Just note the sales volume to the right. Yes that really is 12,686 sold!

Rather excited about this one and you should be too. Multi variation listings have been around in the CSA category for ages now. There are again many reasons why you should be using these, the biggest is because they are common place now and make it easy for customers to select goods that are available in variations (such as colour or size), however there is a distinct benefit for best match search too (whoops did I say that?).

If you’ve never sold with variations before, then see this help page on eBay and also it would be a wise move to have a scan through the CSA category on eBay also and see how they are used by sellers in a category where its been a feature from when they were first implemented.

If you’re using a tool such as eSellerPro, 247TopSeller or ChannelAdvisor, dealing with multi level variations differs and I strongly suggest if this your first interaction with them, to start by manually listing an item as a variation in one of the clothing categories and then making the correct inventory structure (with the tool’s support team if needed) so you know how to prepare for this type of listing.

Its critical that you realise also that you cannot form a new multi variation listing from existing listings and you will loose the best match history on old items when moving from single items to variation styled listings. To be brutally honest, the sooner you move, the better.

Duplicate Listings Removal

Now this is a smart move by eBay and its going to catch out quite a few sellers that are perhaps bending the rules a little too far. To see how you are impacted, eBay have released a tool that identifies possible duplicates and allows you to download them as a spreadsheet.

I tried this today on a few eBay accounts, amusingly none were true duplicates, it just highlighted the lag in the tool we’re using to deal with some listings that were ended.

The wording around what is a duplicate is a little sketchy, because it does not account for fashion items where one week you may get a “black lace dress” and the next another “black lace dress” and chances are you’re going to describe it in almost the same manner. I only hope that eBay has been vague on purpose and are looking at the item specific attributes for a more informed view on whether an item is a duplicate or not.

On a side note, if we think about what eBay are possibly doing here, they are indexing key attributes for each listing and then comparing them for similarities and rejected some that are matching too closely. Now this by itself is quite simple, do this for millions of sellers, over possibly trillions of listings everyday, now that is truly amazing.

Global DSR Updates

This is quite a nice move by eBay as they are relaxing the standards for international sales and also giving sellers back the information they need to identify problem areas with international orders.

I have a saying that I previously shared, which is quite simple, but works very well for me:

A mistake or an error
=
An unexpected outcome, but none the less, an outcome. Knowing its a mistake or an error is critical!

Knowing, really is everything and this is a fantastic move. You can see the new global performance standards here.

Other Updates

There was an update to the Listing Analytics tool, some information about conditions for media items, buyer email spam was cut down with the removal of some duplicate emails from SMP, tracking numbers can now be taken for all couriers and also some category changes coming in April 2011.

In Summary

For me, the sole area for leverage as a merchant is to jump on the multi variations as soon as possible. Yes fees are going up, there are some other changes blah, blah, blah.

Variations are were your attention need to be, screw everything else in this update, go learn about variations immediately, they are going to change the dynamics of your almost ALL the categories you sell in.