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Why Multi-Channel Selling May be Necessary to Your Online Business Survival

The Online Seller's News, February 2014, Volume 14, No. 3

Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Why Multi-Channel Selling May be Necessary to Your Online Business Survival
  2. How To Build and Protect Your Amazon Feedback
  3. Niche of the Month - Antique Keys
  4. Understanding Amazon Sales Ranks and How to Use Them
  5. New Wholesale Sources For eBay and Amazon Sellers

"Average people have wishes and hopes. Successful people have goals, plans and take actions." ~ Skip McGrath


Musings

If you are a member of Online Selling Coach be sure and join our private Facebook group. This group replaces the forum and although we only have a few folks who have joined, there is a lot of activity and this is a great place to get advice and your questions answered by experts and other members. It's a great resource.


I often get questions from readers who live overseas who want to open a US Amazon account. One of the barriers is having a US bank account. Well there is a new banking service called Payoneer that allows you to open a US bank account in over 50 countries. This would also be a good bank for American sellers who want to sell on Amazon UK or any of the other worldwide Amazon sites.


Amazon just tightened up their rules on UPC codes. Here is what they said:

As of February 19, 2014, Amazon will begin requiring valid UPCs, regardless of any previous exemptions, for new and existing listings for designated brands in Hardlines, Softlines, and Consumables.

New listing submissions will always require a valid UPC in order to create an ASIN or to match to an existing ASIN. Submissions without a valid UPC (missing UPC or invalid UPC) will be rejected and the seller will receive a listing error

Existing ASINs missing UPCs or that have invalid UPCs will be suppressed from search and browse. Sellers will have to provide a valid UPC in order for the listing to reappear. These ASINs will be visible in the Fix Suppressed Listing filter in the Manage Your Inventory tab and also the Listing Quality and Suppressed Listing report in Seller Central.


Want to know if the sales rank of your product is good? FBA Toolkit is a site that shows an interactive chart of each Amazon category. You place your cursor along the line and it shows the sales rank and how many items will sell per day at that rank. Personally my goal is to always be in the top ten percent of any category sales rank. One way to determine this is pull down a category in the Amazon search box and type in two brackets.


eBay is finally starting to get back in shape. They still have a way to go, but things are looking up. Here is what eBay is bragging about now:

Last year's seller successes - the numbers are in! 2013 was a banner year for eBay sellers! Just check out these stats:

  • Between October and December of 2013, the number of active eBay users was over 128 million globally - that's a 14% increase compared to the same period in 2012.
  • Globally, eBay sellers - including vehicles - made $83 billion in sales volume!
  • Mobile is huge for sellers! eBay Marketplaces generated $22 billion in Mobile Commerce volume globally in 2013.
  • Between October and December of 2013, 55% of U.S. transactions included free shipping.
  • eBay Top Rated Sellers continue to deliver a great experience, accounting for about 47% of sales volume in the US.
  • Fixed price listings now account for 73% of sales volume on eBay around the world.

Best of all, 2014 is promising to be an even bigger year for eBay sellers.

Let's hope they are right.


You have probably heard that FedEx, USPS and UPS rates are going up. All three carriers recently announced a number of changes, affecting both domestic and international services. The shipping calculator, eBay labels, and PayPal labels have been updated to reflect these changes - make sure your shipping costs reflect these new rates as well. For more information, visit the USPS, UPS, and FedEx sites.

This change brings some bad news for my customers. We had recently tried shipping via Priority Mail but with the new rate increase we are reverting to UPS ground, so its now going to take 5 or 6 days to get delivery on our books. We had an option to raise the prices or change the shipping and we decided to keep our prices where they are.


I will be attending and speaking at the ASD Wholesale Trade Show in Las Vegas again this year. My talk is about taking your Amazon business to the next level - Tips and Techniques to grow your sales and profits. My talk will on Monday, March 17 at 10:30 AM. If any of you come be sure and hang around after my talk and introduce yourself as I always like to meet my readers.


If any of you blog or if you have bought my book, How To Make Money Blogging From Home, I have just finished a new FREE eBook, 25 Tips to Grow Your Blog. It's free and you can download the PDF by clicking here. Did I mention it's free?


Jonathan Tombs has written a great little eBook that sells on Amazon for only 99¢ in Kindle. It's called Enhance Your Amazon Seller Reputation: 17 Tips for Better Feedback .


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1. Why Multi-Channel Selling May be Necessary to Your Online Business Survival

There is not a week that goes by that I don't get an email from a reader who had their account cancelled or suspended by eBay or Amazon. Many of these folks were long time sellers with good reputation but maybe went through a bad patch with DSR scores or feedbacks.

When this happens if you are only selling on eBay that can be a disaster to your business and your finances. It used to be easy to create two accounts on eBay or Amazon or to open a new account with different information when you were knocked off. However, both eBay and Amazon have drastically tightened up their systems and although not impossible, it's very difficult to do.

The best solution is to sell on multiple platforms, so if you get kicked off of one you are not shut down. There are dozens of small auction sites, but in all honesty, all of them combined do not equal eBay's traffic and sales. The best choices today are eBay, Amazon, Sears.com, Bonanza, Etsy and Rakuten (formerly buy.com). I have also heard some folks having good luck with Webstore.com, but I don't have any personal experience with it.

A couple months ago I introduced my readers to InfiniteBuyer.com. They are still too new to have a lot of volume, but I am hopeful the market will react positively to their strategy of a Make and Offer selling method.

Once you start selling in multiple channels your biggest challenge is inventory control. I don't know of any system that addresses all channels, but there are two you should look at:

  • I have been using Vendio for quite a few years. Vendio used to work on eBay and Amazon platforms, but there was no listing inventory coordination. However, late last year they introduced new functionality. You can now launch listings from your inventory in Vendio on both channels and Vendio will automate your fulfillment if your products are in FBA. And, Vendio has just announced they are adding additional channels to their system.

    When something sells on eBay, Vendio will automatically create a fulfillment order with Amazon and when Amazon releases the tracking info, they will automatically enter that into eBay for you. And if you have an item listed on both eBay and Amazon and the inventory runs out, Vendio will cancel your eBay listing so you don't sell something you can't deliver.

  • The other system is www.automcf.com. AutoMCF does not have the listing and inventory control features that Vendio does, but it supports more channels. Basically they do the auto-fulfillment and send tracking to the other channels. Here is a screenshot that shows all the channels AutoMCF supports.

Now having said all this, one word of advice. If you are a fairly new seller, take this slowly. Master one platform at a time and then add other platforms as you go. Don't jump into several at once or you will be overwhelmed.

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2. How To Build and Protect Your Amazon Feedback

In the early days of eBay over 50% of buyers left feedback. Today it's closer to 20%. And on Amazon is closer to 10%. Building your feedback total number is critical because both eBay and Amazon can suspend you for a poor feedback score and when your number is low even one negative feedback can give you a really bad score. For example, if your total feedback is only 20 and you get one negative that gives you a score of 95%. But if your total feedback score is 200 then your feedback score would be 99.5%.

The first thing you have to learn about building feedback is that you have to ask for it. Here is an email that goes out to all of my Amazon buyers:

Thank you for your order of "European Bead Charm Travel Jewelry Organizer Pouch By Novobeads. Fits Pandora, Biagi, Troll and All Other Bead Lines".

View Order on Amazon.com

It was delivered a few days ago, so I hope that you've had a chance to open up the package and make sure that everything is in order. Please let us know right away if there is anything wrong so that we have an opportunity to correct it. If anything is wrong - we guarantee to make it right.

If everything has gone smoothly, we would really appreciate it if you could take just a few seconds to leave feedback for my company. We are a small Mom & Pop business and it really affects our ability to sell and be successful. One of the things that make Amazon such a great place to shop is the feedback system and active participation by buyers like you.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/feedback/leave-customer-feedback.html/?order=106-0719758-9909832&pageSize=1

Thank You,
Skip & Karen McGrath

I recommend two services that will do this for you. One is FeedbackFive.com and the other one is Feedback Genius. The email above was automatically generated by Feedback Genius. The type in green color in the email are hyperlinks that are automatically inserted by my Automatic feedback program.

There are a few Auto-feedback services. Feedback Five is an excellent service.

On eBay we send an email to every buyer timed to arrive about the time the item is received. In the email we say we are following up to make sure everything was received. We ask them that if anything is wrong to please give us a chance to fix it and if everything went well, we ask them to leave feedback for us.

This does work. Our feedback participation on eBay is in the range of 30% to 40%, which is much higher than the eBay average. And on Amazon after our first 5 years our feedback total was less than 60. A couple years ago I started using an automated system to ask for feedback and today our total score is over 1,400 and our score for the past 12 months is 829.

Now what to do when you do get a negative; the short answer is to apologize and beg - but the trick is how you do it. Both eBay and Amazon prohibit offering any incentive to change feedback, but you can do several things.

If the item is fairly low cost, the first thing I do is offer to send a full refund and they do not have to return the item. If they did return the item or it's an expensive item then I send them a $10 Amazon (or eBay) gift card by way of apology, but I do not ask them to change the feedback then because that is against the rules. What I do is wait to hear back from them so I can gauge their reaction and then in my next email I point out that we are very sorry for what went wrong, we take responsibility for it but that we have gone to great lengths to make it right and then we ask them to change the feedback. So far my experience has been that this works about 75% of the time. Sometimes you just get a really unhappy or unreasonable person and they want to jam you up no matter what you do.

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3. Niche of the Month - Antique Keys

I don't know how many people collect antique keys, but it must be a lot as they are a huge selling item on eBay. Take a look at some of these recent sold results:

The first question people have is "where do you find them?" When I used to be in the antique business my best sources were small town auctions and flea markets. I could often find a box of keys that a flea market dealer was selling for $1 each. I would count the keys and then offer him half price for the whole box and 9 times out of 10 he or she would accept. Small town auctions were even better. I once bought a box of really nice 18th and 19 th century keys for $30 and when I got home I counted over 90 keys in the box. That worked out to 33¢ each. And I got another surprise. Under the keys were two old brass padlocks with their keys. Each of those was worth over $20.

The other way to find keys is to advertise for them. Take out a small wanted ad that says something like "Collector pays cash for old and antique keys. Call 360-555-1212.

A couple things about selling keys; clean any dirt off of them, but don't polish or take the finish down to the bare metal. Collectors want the keys to look old. If you polish a key down to the clean metal, it will lose over half its value.

There are some keys that are quite rare and in case you come across one of these you want to recognize it. Unfortunately, antique keys are one of the few collectibles that no one has written a collectors value guide to. But I did find a page on eHow with some good information. Here is the link.

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4. Understanding Amazon Sales Ranks and How to Use Them

There is a lot of confusion about Amazon sales rank. Amazon actually has two sales ranks - the first is by general category and the second is by sub or sub-sub category. Here is an image of an item in the Arts, Crafts and Sewing Category:

Notice that this set of knitting needles has a rank of 11, 223 in Arts, Crafts and Sewing but is #14 in the sub-sub category of knitting needles. I looked and there are over 9000 items in that particular sub-sub category, so that is an excellent rating. There are over 1.5 million items in Arts, Crafts and Sewing so the general rank of 11,223 puts this product in the top 1% which is also excellent.

How do you find the numbers of items in a category so you know what percent you are in? Easy -just select the category from the pull down menu next to the Amazon search bar and type in two opposing brackets like this []. Now hit "Go" and you will get this:

As you can see there are 1,532,210 results in this category. So any sales rank under 153,221 would be in the top ten percent of the category and any number under 76,610 would be in the top 5%.

One thing that is important to know about sales rank is that it is a measure of sales over a recent time period. Every time an item sells it moves up in sales rank, but if it then sits there and doesn't sell again fairly quickly, it will start moving down. For example, almost all my sales ranks are lower now that they were in December when things were selling more quickly. And sales ranks also reflect seasonality. Here is a product I sell with an very good sales rank this time of year.

Before Christmas the sales rank on these was under 70,000 which is excellent in that category, but has now drifted down to the 276,000 area which still gets me about 1 sale every three or four days, but as the weather warms the sales rank will fall to around the 1 million mark and then start climbing again next Fall as we get back into cold weather.

If you want to know if the sales rank of your product is good, FBA Toolkit is a site that shows an interactive chart of each Amazon category. You place your cursor along the line and it shows the sales rank and how many items will sell per day at that rank.

Personally my goal is to always be in the top ten percent of any category sales rank. You can determine that by the method I showed you about with the bracket search or using FBA Toolkit. I often use FBA toolkit if I am thinking of creating a bundle or selling an entirely new product without a current sales rank. What I do is search for similar products and check their sales rank against the chart and it helps me make a decision about that product.

Deciding what sales rank products to carry is something you should give some thought to. If I have a low margin product then I really want it to have a high sales rank so I am turning that inventory over often. But if a product has a higher margin then I am more patient. I have one product where I make about $3.50 on each sale, but that product has a sales rank in the top 2% of sports and outdoors, so I am fine with that. I have another product where I make over $60 on each sale and those sell about once every week or ten days -so I am good with that too.

It is far more important to watch the time an item sits without selling than the sales rank. If you have items in FBA sitting there for 50 or 60 days, you might want to consider lowering the price to get rid of them and putting the money into something that sells faster.

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5. New Wholesale Sources For eBay and Amazon Sellers

Selling really cheap items is somewhat problematic due to the eBay and Amazon fee structure. But what does work is selling multi-paks or bundling these items to reach a higher average selling price. A number of large sellers do this very successfully.

Here are some suppliers of low-cost goods that lend themselves to that strategy:

Dollar Days is probably the largest dollar store wholesale product distributor online. They sell closeouts, clothing, toys, candles, junior apparel, gifts, housewares and much more in bulk quantities at fairly cheap prices.

Axiom International offers a wide range of products with an attractive ratio of quality to cost. They are a direct importer of value priced everyday merchandise.

Dollardealshopping is an online dollar store & wholesale general merchandise seller and dollar items store wholesaler with sources of mixed wholesale gift products delivered right to your door.

Dollar Store Supply wholesales general merchandise and dollar store items. They have thousands of items in stock. Visit website or call 800-992-8261.

Mother's Day is coming up soon and jewelry is a huge seller during that time. Unfortunately if you are not already registered, jewelry is still a closed category on Amazon but you can sell it on eBay and Etsy. Here are a couple of good suppliers.

CRACCO JEWELRY is all handmade in Brazil and has been on the market for 30 years. The company carries between 5,000 and 10,000 different jewelry designs, including bracelets, earrings, pendants and necklaces, for children, teens, ladies and men. Ladies' pieces in general and earrings in particular make up the largest proportion of stock.

Dlux Jewelry is a source Of High Quality Sterling Silver Jewelry in business since 1987. They have been a source for Retailers who sell to fashionable, stylish shoppers who want to sparkle without breaking the bank. They feature jewelry for all ages.

Tool Logic sells Compact, high quality, multi-function tool kits, including wholesale survival knives with unique and unusual gifts for birthdays and men.

KA Swords is a manufacturer and wholesaler of self-defense, knives, swords, airsoft, sporting goods, camping & outdoor gear, martial arts, and gift items.

Summer will be here before you know it (can't come too soon this year). Seabreeze Wholesale Beach & Pool Accessories

Wholesale Distributors of Sun care & Beach Items. Sunblocks, Sunscreens, Bronzers, Sunless Tanning Lotion, Ultra Swim Shampoo, Pool Toys & Inflatables, Swim & Dive Gear, Sand Toys and more.

Military Outdoor Clothing wholesales military surplus from various countries. Including BDU, pants, Tactical gear, EMT supplies, camping, bags, tents, canteens, and boots.

DryCASE is a patented waterproof vacuum case for cell phones, mp3 players or digital cameras. DryCASE Tablet is a waterproof case for your iPad or any E-Reader Tablet. They also make dri-bags.

Precision Products sells good-quality hobby tools, sport knives, magnifiers. These products really lend themselves to creating unique kits that no one else has.

That’s it for now. See you again in a couple of weeks.

Skip McGrath
The Online Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.








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