Who Won The Christmas Selling War – eBay or Amazon?
The Online Seller's News, January 2014, Volume 14, Issue No. 1
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
This issue marks the first issue of Volume 14 – the beginning of our 14th year of publication. We started out in 2000 as the eBay Seller’s News. After a few years we saw that eBay sellers were branching out into multi-channel selling on sites like Amazon and even their own websites. So in 2007 we changed the name to The Online Sellers News to start covering topics of more interest to multi platform sellers. And in 2010 we went from a once a month newsletter to twice monthly.
Now we cover not only selling on eBay and Amazon, but we also write about other methods of online marketing including affiliate marketing, website marketing, blogging, selling and promoting via Facebook and other topics that come up from time to time that we think will benefit our readers.
Our newsletter has always been free. I have had many people tell me over the years that they would gladly pay for it, but my theory has always been “If I give away really good information for free, then folks will not hesitate to purchase my paid products.” And over the years that has worked well so I don’t plan to change.
One thing you, my readers, may have noticed over the past few months is that I have been writing more about Amazon and other selling channels than I have about eBay which has always been my main focus. Our first article may help you understand why this is so. Don’t worry –I am not giving up on eBay, it’s just no longer the only game in town and as time goes on I think all of you will realize why.
50 Shades of eBay – My wife took care of most of the shopping this year for the rest of our family. A few nights before Christmas, while having dinner she was filling me in on what she bought everyone. My daughter-in-law happens to be a vegetarian and my wife found a cookbook entitled 50 Shades of Kale. We chuckled over the title, and then from out of nowhere, I blurted out – “Maybe I should write a book called 50 Shades of eBay.” We laughed at that, but then Karen said, “Why not?”
The week between Christmas and New Year is a pretty slow time for us, so I did. OK – the title is tongue-in-cheek, but the content is solid. Basically, 50 Shades of eBay is a collection of 50 tips to help you dominate your competition. I am only charging $2.99 for it –and like everything I sell, it comes with my standard 90-Day money back guarantee. But there is a way to get 50 Shades of eBay for free and that is by joining WWW.OnlineSellingCoach.com where members can get a free download of 50 Shades of eBay.
Here is a link to the order page for 50 Shades of eBay . I didn’t write a sales letter, as there isn’t much else to say beyond what I have written here, so the page contains just a simple order form.
My regular readers will recognize a handful of the tips from my 77 Tips for eBay Sellers, but when I used any of those in the newer title, I updated them. There are also plenty of new tips and techniques including tips about increasing your conversions for those shoppers using mobile devices.
If you were listening to the news right after Christmas there were a lot of stories about UPS and Amazon not being able to handle the volume of deliveries in time for Christmas. Amazon came out with a statement that they would accept the return and pay return shipping on any item promised before Christmas Eve that did not arrive in time and those customers would also receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card.
This made me wonder: “What if any of those items were mine, would I suffer the return charge or fee on a returned item?”
So I wrote Amazon, asked that question and got the following answer.
That is the answer I was hoping for, but as you know stuff can fall through the cracks, so I suggest all FBA sellers look at your customer returns reports for the reason items were returned and if you see any that came back related to this issue, look at the order and make sure you were not charged any return fees or shipping.
If you are into affiliate marketing you may be interested in a super conference taking place in Las Vegas on January 15th. (Sorry for the short notice but I just heard about this). The conference is put on by Clickbank, and although will focus mostly on selling Clickbank products, what you learn can be applied to any affiliate marketing. It’s not a cheap program, but they have incredible speakers and you can learn a ton from the main speakers, the workshops, and rubbing elbows with some hugely successful affiliate marketers. Here is a link to read about the program.
Lets get started with this month’s articles:
After the 3rd Quarter when eBay and Amazon released their quarterly financial results Amazon was ebullient with predictions for a great holiday season, but eBay was more circumspect, saying they were not so sure.
We won’t know the total sales, or financial results of both companies for a few weeks, when Amazon and eBay report their results for the 4th Quarter, but from my perspective, I can say that both companies gave accurate predictions. Our sales on Amazon blew the doors off, while we had one of the worst Decembers ever on eBay.
December was the biggest month in sales for us on Amazon since December of 2007 right before the financial meltdown in 2008. On eBay our sales were far less than Amazon and even down from December of 2012, which was also not a great year for us on eBay.
What seems to be going on? I can only attribute Amazon’s success to their continued investment in distribution and technology and their far better treatment of sellers. eBay, on the other hand, has been doing some really strange things and still suffers from incredibly bad management that started with the hiring of John Donohoe as Chairman and CEO. Since John succeeded Meg Whitman, eBay has been in a downward spiral. They have continually tried to reinvent themselves without much success.
Their latest debacle is the Cassini search engine that was prematurely released quietly last July. I don’t know if he resigned or was fired, but the creator of the Cassini search engine quietly left eBay a couple of weeks ago. The word from eBay is that the back end of the Cassini engine is up and running but the full functionality of the front end has not been released and will appear sometime in 2014. By that I think they mean the engine is built but the actual planned search functionality is not yet working and will roll out sometime later this year.
I have heard from dozens of sellers who saw their business fall with the introduction of Cassini, and eBay secrecy and lack of seller communications around the project has not helped seller confidence or performance.
The other strange thing eBay has done is some type of strategy designed to remove many sellers from the platform, and put selling limits on others. Long time, very successful sellers with excellent track records on eBay have reported on various message boards and forums that they have had selling limits placed on them with no explanation from eBay. Other sellers, also with long records of successful selling on eBay, and good scores on feedback and DSRs, have suddenly found their accounts canceled when they received a slight blip in downward DSR scores.
eBay’s strategy seems to keep recruiting more and more large companies to sell on eBay and move away from small independent sellers like myself. I cannot for the life of me think how this benefits the company. One of the strengths of the eBay platform has always been the incredible variety of merchandise available. And when you get rid of sellers, that variety diminishes.
Amazon has always realized that more sellers means more competition –and more competition means lower prices, which attracts more customers.
eBay, by limiting competition, will eventually force prices up, which will result in fewer sales. And the problem with losing the small to medium sellers and replacing them with giant corporations is that eBay will lose the personal touch. As a seller I have a critical interest in keeping my customers happy, whereas an employee of a large online box store is just that – an employee. They have no personal interest in the customer –only in their paycheck.
As I said I don’t know what the financial results will show for the 4th Quarter, but I am betting I am right and Amazon’s performance will far exceed eBay’s.
Whenever I write an article that is critical of eBay, I get email asking me if you should leave eBay. The answer to that is NO for two reasons. (1) Although my eBay sales are lower than Amazon, the incremental extra sales are still profitable, and (2) I think eBay is still the best way to get started in online marketing. OK –it’s not as easy as a few years ago, but still well worth the effort. And, I believe eBay will eventually get its act together. It might take new management or maybe the current crowd will figure it out, but they do seem to be trying.
January can be a busy month. Lots of folks received gift cards for eBay and Amazon and there are always people who return things and use the money to shop online. But it’s also an important time for sellers.
January is the month where I reboot my business. Let’s face it – the world of online selling changes rapidly and constantly, and if you don’t keep up, you will pay the price in lower sales and profits.
The first thing I do in January is to download all my sales reports from eBay and Amazon and put them into an excel spreadsheet. (Actually I download my info every quarter and do this, so I already have the spreadsheets started and just need to add the last quarter. Now – here is what I do with my spreadsheets.
Excel allows you to sort your data by columns. My first data sort is by SKU number. I go through my sales and tally up what were my biggest sellers. Those are the items I want to make sure I keep in stock and they may also be candidates for raising prices. That is something you want to test. I have tried raising prices on my fastest selling items. In some cases it did not affect sales at all, while in others it killed or slowed sales down.
Now look for your poorest or slowest selling items. These are items you may want to think about eliminating from your inventory altogether. I know that is not always practical. For example, one of the product lines I sell is pistol holsters. I sell large quantities of holsters for certain popular weapons, but sales for those unique or less popular ones are not as fast. They still sell so I stock them, but I just want to make sure I am not carrying too large a quantity of the slow sellers that my profits are sucked up by storage fees and cash tied up in inventory.
The next thing I look at is my profit margin. Which items are making high margins and which ones are low. I can tolerate a low margin on a product that turns over quickly, but if my slow moving items are also realizing low margins then I want to either raise the price or get rid of them.
The other thing I do is create a list of all the merchandise I ran out of by December 15th. I file this list until next September/October when I do my Christmas ordering. These are the items that I will increase the order size on to make sure I do not run out again next year.
Here is an example: One of the items I carry is a foot-care gift set that I sell in the Health & Beauty category which is always a hot category around Christmas. My cost on the set is $18.50 and I sell it for $47.95 and net $37.75 after fees. That is a profit of $19.25 on each sale. Last year they sold pretty well, so I doubled the size of my order from 24 to 48. It turned out not to be enough. I was out of stock by December 5th. They were selling so fast I could have sold close to 100, so I will really be stocking up on those next year.
Once I complete my sales analysis I look at what is still left in stock that did not sell well. I have a pretty good feel for most of my merchandise, but there are always a few products that just didn’t sell. So, I go through Manage My Inventory, and put these items on sale to get rid of them. This frees up cash to purchase merchandise for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day sales periods coming up over the next few months.
The next thing I do is review all of my returns for the past year. I am looking for products where I got repeat returns and the reason for the returns. Because returns really eat into my profits, these are products I may consider dropping or finding a different vendor to source from.
Then my last project consists of going through all of my listings. I look at my photos, text, bullets and my keywords to see if there are any errors or missing information. I have been doing this a lot of years and am pretty good at creating listings –but believe me, anyone can make mistakes –and I do.
Reviewing all my listings actually takes several months as I have over 900 listings. But I start the process in Mid January and am usually finished by March. As careful as I am when I create listings, you would be amazed at how many listings I find that contain typos, inaccurate or incomplete information.
Fixing these is critical to your long-term success. And sometimes when I find a listing with errors or missing information, I cross check that against my slow sellers. It just could be that is why the item was selling poorly, so maybe I will not drop that item from my inventory until I test it with the corrected listing.
Last month I told you about a new eCommerce website I have been involved in for the past year. Quite a few of you signed up to take advantage of the free three-month offer and I heard back that a few of you made some sales. There are now thousands of items listed on Infinite Buyer, so now the focus moves to promoting the site and pulling in customers. The folks at Infinite Buyer are now gearing up for this effort. This is where you can help. One thing all Infinite Buyer sellers should do is announce the site in your Facebook and Twitter accounts and even put links to items you have for sale. A lot of inbound links from the large social media sites will help Google index the page higher in search.
With any new site there is a learning curve, so the founders and I have exchanged a few ideas. I asked Brian Grega, the CEO to write up what we leaned in the form of selling tips and best practices. Here is Brian’s article:
Infinite Buyer Selling Tips
by Brian Grega, CEO, Infinite Buyer
At Infinite Buyer, our mission is to perfect the free market, where both buyers and sellers benefit in a transaction.
Our focus is to create a community where buyers and sellers transact at varying price points for the same item, with the transaction price largely influenced by the buyer’s perceived value of the good or service. It is important to realize that the perceived value of a particular good or service will vary from person to person.
Therefore, it is important for our registered sellers to understand, the majority of Infinite Buyer consumers are looking for a particular item, so the initial action for our registered sellers to take is to list as many items from your inventory, as possible.
As such, it is important to continue to add listings, as the Infinite Buyer consumer is looking for a particular item, if it is part of your inventory, but not listed on Infinite Buyer, you will miss an opportunity to transact, as the consumer is ready to buy now.
One important piece of feedback we received from multiple consumers is that they would prefer to have some indication of the MSRP for items listed on Infinite Buyer, to help them determine their offer price.
Realize, by including the MSRP, or Suggested Retail Price in your listing, while it may be setting a ceiling on the offers you can expect to get for that item, it is likely to bring in offers at a more reasonable price point, which increases the probability that the consumer’s offer will either be accepted or countered to your “Accept” price.
So, if you are an Infinite Buyer registered seller, consider including a “Suggested Retail Price” in both the title and description of your listings. Here is an example:
Here are some additional best practices to increase your sales on Infinite Buyer:
It is important to realize, Infinite Buyer is attracting consumers who are looking to “make their deal”, they are not shopping, they are in a buying mode, making offers and ready to transact. These consumers are not looking to pay retail, they are a small, but rapidly growing community of consumers who recognize that buying online saves them money, now they can save time buying on Infinite Buyer.
This is why Infinite Buyer needs to be part of your multi-channel distribution strategy, as these consumers are not looking to pay retail on Amazon, they want to create their deal, which Infinite Buyer provides. As such, you should post links about your listings on Infinite Buyer on your Facebook page and your Twitter account.
I always get questions about setting up eCommerce websites, and I recommend Site Build It. It is an excellent resource for setting up an eCommerce website. But there is another option to consider – and it’s free! Most of you are familiar with WordPress as the standard for creating blogs. But most people don’t know that you can also set up a fully functional and very attractive eCommerce website with WordPress (as well as excellent Amazon affiliate websites).
You may need some help setting up your first one, but once you do, it’s very easy to maintain with minimum technical skills and easy to replicate. And best of all, the WordPress installation program is free. If you set up a WordPress site, your only costs will be your monthly hosting.
My Webmaster, Marsha Perry, besides being an excellent Webmaster, is also an expert on building, maintaining and running WordPress Blogs and eCommerce websites built on the WordPress platform. She has recently published a free eBook, WordPress Tips and Update Guide. So if you have a WordPress site, or are thinking of setting one up, you really want this free guide. Marsha is also available to any of you who want to set up a website or blog using WordPress.
Marsha charges a competitive hourly rate, but she works so much faster than other webmasters I have used, that I find I have saved a lot of money over the years by using her services. The other thing I like about Marsha is she is the only Webmaster I have worked with over the years who actually took the time to understand my business. She is always coming up with suggestions and catches things that I just have not thought of.
If you are interested in any of Marsha’s services, go to her Blog, Perry Internet Consulting, sign up for her free newsletter and that will also get you the free handbook. If you want to speak with Marsha about doing work for you, just use the contact form on her website and Marsha will set up a free consultation phone call with you.
Do you sell toys online or would you like to get into Toys?
Jenni Hunt, author of the annual Holiday Toy Guide has teamed up with Lance Wolf to provide a Private Niche Group for online toy sellers on Facebook. Here is a description of her program.
“We have been having so much fun in the private Facebook page for the Holiday Toy Guide this year that we decided we need to do this all year! It has PROVEN to be INVALUABLE to online toy sellers.
So, we have teamed up to offer a private Facebook page where we will be posting regularly about new and used toys… what to be on the look out for, where you can find them… tips on listing, posting, and selling… and more.
Not only that - but we are pulling together MORE experts to join in and be available to help you be successful in this niche. Seriously… super excited about this resource!
There is nothing like having a small group forum where you can bounce ideas around and gain insights into the market you are involved in.
Here is how it works:
The Private Niche Group for toys is offered in a 3-month session and only to 100 people.
Limiting the group to 100 sellers helps create a safe environment for online sellers. It is a small forum so you don’t feel like you are sharing your hot finds with the whole world.
Limiting to a 3 month session allows us to manage the group more efficiently - and as an online seller, you can rest assured that people are not coming and going from the group… these people are committed for the 3 month time period.
After the 3 months are up, we will start a new session – giving first access to those already in the group.
There is a code of conduct we require all members to follow - but it is simply common sense and courtesy to the other members. Ready for it?
Ready to jump in? Sign-ups start TODAY!
Remember - only 100 members will have access to this Private Niche Group for online toy sellers.
Remember, many of the websites these listings link to are the retail websites of the company. But all of them sell wholesale. When you see this, just use the Contact form to contact the company, tell them you are a reseller and are looking for wholesale information.
Swanson Christian Products is a 73-year-old manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of Christian gifts, framed art, apparel, novelties, church supplies and custom logo items for Christian retailers and ministries.
Craft Hobby Wholesale sells craft art, scrapbooking and teacher supplies. Wide selection of crafts, beads, kits, paint, and tools at low wholesale prices.
Photo Jewelry Supplies sells Photo Jewelry Supplies and Italian Photo Charm Bracelets
Motorvicity Distribution is an Import Tuning Wholesaler Located in Madison Heights Michigan. They stock parts from Sparco, AEM, ACT, Eibach, Tokico Apexi and many more.
Scholtens Inc. Wholesales the Cottage Country Brand: A complete line of candies, nuts, dried fruit, trail mixes and chocolates.
Alabama Socks wholesales a large variety of socks consisting of regular socks, cotton, Wool, men’s, athletic, women’s, children's, silk.
The Lingerie Center sells wholesale lingerie, bras, panties, corsets and more They also carry a full line of lingerie and plus size lingerie - including bras - all wholesale.
Alberto Collections is the world's largest supplier of distinctive and fine tanzanite jewelry. (Use the contact form for wholesale information).
Wholesale Wedding Jewelry wholesales wedding to jewelry retailers Free Shipping - Tiaras, Hair Accessories, Necklaces, Bracelets, Bridesmaid Jewelry. (Use the contact form for wholesale information).
A2Zimporter is a wholesaler of radio control toys (RC Toys) and gift items. They have been supplying retailers throughout the United States since 2001.
CHH Incorporated is a manufacturer, importer, and distributor of quality products including Traditional Games (Chess, backgammon, etc), Time Pieces, Geographical Globes, Lead Crystals, and other Fine Gifts.
Yetts Fashion is a wholesale fashion designer and manufacturer. Click on the register link to register and see the wholesale pricing.
Telebrands Wholesale supplies original As Seen On TV products.
Hang It Perfect was one of the coolest tools at the National hardware Show. This website is retail, but use the contact form to get wholesale reseller information.
Jupiter Wholesale welcome Amazon & eBay auction sellers. They provide wholesale electronics, novelties, leather, ASOTV items. They offer free dropshipping but I would use that with caution.
Pocket Plus is a portable pocket that was designed to attach over your waistband and stays secure with magnets, no need for a belt or belt loops. Pocket Plus will attach around the handlebars of a bicycle, strollers, walkers, wheelchairs and even golf carts or bags.
Well that’s it for this week. I hope all of my readers had a great holiday season both in your selling activities and with your families. You have our best wishes for success and happiness in the New Year. See you again in about two weeks.
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
© 1999- Harry McGrath, Inc., DBA Skip McGrath, Auction Seller's Resource and Vision-One Marketing. All Rights Reserved.
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