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Are Your Backing Up Your Business?

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, July 2015 - Volume 16, Issue No. 12

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

In This Issue:

Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Are Your Backing Up Your Business?
  2. Amazon Changing Their Review System
  3. Dealing With Long Lead Time Ordering
  4. eBay/PayPal Breakup Coming Soon
  5. Five Simple Tips for Great eBay Photography
  6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary." ~ Jim Rohn


Musings

I mentioned this in the last issue but we still have the videos from the Wholesale Sourcing Conference that I put on with Jim Cockrum, Jose Calero and John Bullard. About 100 people paid nearly $1300 plus airfare and hotel costs to attend the conference, but you can see the entire conference for just $127.00. Click here to learn more and see some video testimonials from real attendees.


After Christmas, Independence Day is my absolute favorite holiday. I hope all of my readers had a great holiday and got to spend some fun time outside enjoying the 4th with your family and friends.


I recently heard about a new service called Sling Commerce It is a cloud based e-commerce solutions for online retailers selling on marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Rakuten, etc. I haven't tried it but it does look interesting and they are currently offering a free trial.


Amazon scared the hell out of thousands of sellers last week. On the last Thursday in June, Amazon experienced a system outage in Seller Central that lasted over three hours. The problem was for the first hour if you tried to log in you saw a notice on the screen that said "There is no seller account associated with that email address." This led many sellers to think they had been suspended. A little later Amazon posted a notice telling sellers of the system outage. System outages are fairly uncommon with Amazon although there was also one the month before, but all in all Amazon is quite reliable.


This is an interesting press release I received from Amazon this week.

Step Aside Black Friday - Meet Prime Day

On the eve of Amazon's 20th birthday, the company introduces Prime Day, a global shopping event, with more deals than Black Friday, exclusively for Prime members

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jul. 6, 2015-- (NASDAQ:AMZN) - More than 90 years ago, holiday shopping found its official start the Friday after Thanksgiving, eventually becoming Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Over the years, Amazon has helped make Black Friday even more of a global online shopping phenomenon. Next week, Amazon turns 20 and on the eve of its birthday, the company introduces Prime Day, a global shopping event, offering more deals than Black Friday, exclusively for Prime members in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and Austria. On Wednesday, July 15, new and existing members in the U.S. will find deals starting at midnight, with new deals starting as often as every ten minutes. They can shop thousands of Lightning Deals, seven popular Deals of the Day and receive unlimited fast, free shipping. Not a Prime member? To participate in Prime Day, Amazon customers can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Prime at amazon.com/primeday.


I mentioned this in the last issue but the offer stands through the end of July. Stamps.com is once again repeating their special offer for my readers. Sign up and try Stamps.com and you will get a free digital scale (worth $40), free shipping supplies and $45 worth of free postage just for trying the service. Here are just a few of the benefits you get with Stamps.com:

  • Get up to 49% discounted rates on Priority Mail
  • Import orders from eBay,® Amazon.com® and more
  • Save up to 40% on package insurance
  • Hide the postage amount on your shipping labels
  • Ship worldwide with USPS First Class International

If you sell in the electronics category you know that electronics have one of the highest return rates on eBay and Amazon. In most cases the product comes back with either the product or the box (or both) damaged.

There is a new company that can help you with this issue - The Marksman Refurbishment Service Center. The way it works is they completely refurbish the items and then will do one of three things. If you merchant fulfill, they will act as your drop shipper. Or you can just have the item sent back to you. Lastly if you sell in FBA you can log on, create your product labels and upload them and Marksman will send the items into FBA for you. If you do that you have to remember on thing. Since the item is refurbished you will have to purchase and enter a new UPC code, as you cannot use the same code for a refurbished item as a new one.

If you would like more information - here is a link to a YouTube video that shows how it all comes together.


If you are importing from China look out for a new banking scam. A good friend of mine who imports in large quantities from China was recently almost scammed out of over $11,000 by a new wire fraud type of scam. Here is what he told me about it in an email:

On May 14 my manager received an email request from one of our suppliers asking us to no longer wire funds to their old bank. The email looked exactly like it came from my supplier.

Then on May 17 they sent him new banking instructions which he forwarded to me and I changed the wire transfer form to reflect the new banking info.

On Tuesday we faxed a wire transfer to my bank who in turn wired the funds ($11,500.00) to the new banking address. Yesterday, my supplier said that he did not receive the money I wired.

Today I called my bank and found out that two of their other customers had lost money in the same way. One was for $60,000 and one for $8,000. By receiving an email from whom they thought was their supplier asking them to change the bank info. I immediately asked my bank to put in a recall on the wire transfer we made the day before. Fortunately we had the money returned by the afternoon.

But it turned out that my supplier did not send me. The sender's email was exactly like the real supplier as was the signature and everything. Obviously they had compromised my supplier's email account, spent time reading our email exchanges and then struck when the time was right.

Skip, had I waited one more day to recall the wire transfer, we would be out $11,500.00. Have you heard of these scams?

To answer his question; no I had not heard of this exact type of scam but I am not surprised as China is a huge center for scams, fraud and corruption on a large scale. This is one of the reasons it pays to have solid reliable contacts and a network of agents and suppliers you can trust before dealing on a large scale in China.


REMINDER - On August 15, 2015, inventory that has been in an Amazon fulfillment center in the U.S. for six to 12 months will be subject to a Long-Term Storage Fee. This is in addition to the August 15 fee assessment for units that have been in fulfillment centers for 365 days or more.

To see the age of your inventory in Amazon fulfillment centers and your estimated Long-Term Storage Fees, please view the Inventory Health Report. U.S. inventory that is subject to the six-to-12-month fee will appear in the downloadable version of the report only.

Please see the Long-Term Storage help page for additional information.


Lets get started with this monthís articles:

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1. Are Your Backing Up Your Business?

If you run an online business it is just a matter of time until your computer crashes (or your laptop is lost or stolen). Unless you are backing up your data and images a crash could really impact your business negatively. I have used hard drives, but today the cloud offers much better convenience and service. My favorite is IDrive.

IDrive has now introduced a Wi-Fi drive for added convenience and they are making a special offer for my readers. Here is what they say about their new product and service:

IDrive Cloud + IDrive Wi-Fi: The Perfect Combo

Backups don't have to be difficult or confusing. When you have the right tools, they can be simple and automatic. That's exactly why I'm excited about IDrive, and the IDrive Wi-Fi backup drive. It's a software and hardware combination that meets all my criteria for comprehensive backups.

IDrive's Universal Backup is a cloud-based backup service that lets you back up EVERYTHING -- all of your PCs, Macs, mobile devices and even social media content. It's super-easy and secure. Cloud backup is perfect for your most important documents and photos. But you need a local backup, too, for fast retrieval of files or to restore everything in case of a data disaster.

Get the IDrive Wi-Fi drive for only $59.50! Comes with one free year of IDrive cloud backup service (1TB)...this bundle is regularly $99.99!

The IDrive Wi-Fi Drive is an external hard drive with a unique feature. It's wireless, as the name implies. Why is that significant? The wireless connectivity of the IDrive Wi-Fi device enables you to backup multiple devices (up to 5) at once, without the tedious chore of connecting and disconnecting the backup drive for each device.

Let's say you have one PC desktop, a Windows laptop, a MacBook, an iPad and an a Android smartphone. (Or any other combination of up to five PC, Mac, or mobile gadgets).

The IDrive Wi-Fi eliminates the need to tote your external hard drive around, manually connecting it to each computer when it's time to do backups. Because it connects via WiFi, all your backups (PC, Mac or mobile) can run automatically. And, in my opinion, automatic backups are the ONLY reliable way to get the job done.

Got a smartphone or tablet? You can directly backup your mobile devices to IDrive Wi-Fi, using the IDrive mobile app. IDrive Wi-Fi lets you securely store your photos, videos, music and more from mobile devices, without the fear of losing it.

All data stored on the IDrive Wi-Fi is guarded with military grade security. Your data is protected with 256-bit encryption, using an encryption password known only to you. So the only person who can access your data is you, even if your data falls into the wrong hands.

I don't know of ANY other backup solution that combines local and cloud storage like this. Nor is there one that allows you to backup UNLIMITED devices like IDrive does. Both Carbonite and Mozy charge extra if you have more than one computer.

With IDrive and the IDrive Wi-Fi, all the bases are covered. Your PCs, Macs, mobile gadgets and social media accounts are securely backed up, painlessly and automatically.

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2. Amazon Changing Their Review System

On June 19, 2015, Amazon changed the customer reviews system. Their goal was to help make product reviews even more useful to customers. The enhanced system gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews from Amazon customers. The system will continue to learn which reviews are most helpful to customers and improve the experience over time. This is done when buyers click on the "Was this review helpful?"

This change will present itself in two ways:

Star rating: A product's overall star rating will now consider factors including the age of a review, helpful votes by customers, and whether reviews are from verified purchasers.

Review ranking: Similar machine-learned factors will help determine a review's ranking in the list of reviews.

So for sellers, it's now more important than ever that you work to get good reviews and work on getting bad ones removed.

I currently use Feedback Genius to boost both my feedback score and the number of reviews. Feedback Genius has a system that sends an automated email to your customers requesting them to post feedback. And in addition to feedback, you can also include a link where the customer can post a product review.

What to do when you get a poor review

Whenever I get a poor review I look at it to see if there is any way to fix it. If a customer just did not like a product there isn't much you can do. But sometimes the review is due to them receiving a broken or defective product. In that case I email the customer immediately and offer to correct the problem. And I sometimes also send them a $10 Amazon Gift card just to make up for the bad experience.

Amazon does not allow you to offer refunds or gift cards as a stated quid-pro-quo in exchange for removing the review (or feedback if that is the case). But once I have done all I can to help the customer I do email them and ask if they would consider revising the review. I find this works about 80% of the time.

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3. Dealing With Long Lead Time Ordering

First let we explain what I am talking about. Long lead time ordering occurs when manufacturers sell products that only sell at certain times of the year or have a short selling season. This would include things like Halloween costumes, Christmas ornaments and so on.

What the manufacturers of these types of items typically do is take orders months ahead of time and then manufacturer to the exact order quantities. For example, I deal with one supplier of Halloween items who only takes orders for Halloween from January to March 30th. If you don't get your order in my March 30th, you will not get any product.

The manufacturer typically ships the goods about 45 to 60 days ahead of the time you need them. So I get my Halloween items in early September and my Christmas items by early October.

One question buyers typically have about these shipments is: "When is payment due?" The answer is usually payment is due when they ship. However, there are a few suppliers who will ask for a small deposit up front - typically about ten percent and then bill the other 90% when they ship.

Now there are a few suppliers who do not require this, but frankly they can be hard to find. I do have one supplier of Christmas ornaments that I can order from in October and they ship right away. But most products of this type requires longer lead times.

If you plan to sell goods that have a very short and specific time season, here are some dates to keep in mind.

  • Valentines Day - Order by June 30th for shipment in January
  • Christmas - Order by May 30 for shipment in late September or early October
  • Easter - The exact date of Easter changes every year, but you should plan to order no less than 6 months ahead of time.
  • Halloween - Order by March 30th for shipment in September

There are a few other type of product situations that fall under this method. For example I sell several sets of specialized knives for skinning game. These obviously sell best in the Fall hunting season. My largest supplier always has a big sale in the slow summer season. What I have done is negotiate a deal with him where I place a large order during his sale season but he holds the order and does not ship (or charge me) until August.

You can do this with many products. Let's say you sell sunglasses. Yes they do sell all year around but the real volume hits in the Spring and Summer. So the next time you order sunglasses contact your supplier and enquire if they plan any sales in the offseason or if you give him an order in the offseason would he give you a discount and hold the order until the Spring. Not every supplier will agree with this but many will.

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4. eBay/PayPal Breakup Coming Soon

The eBay / PayPal split will take place on July 17th. Current shareholders of eBay stock will receive 1 share of the new PayPal stock. Currently eBay stock is going for about $61.00, but because PayPal is responsible for the largest share of eBay profits I fully expect eBay to drop significantly after that occurs. (Note - I am not giving investment advice - this is just my opinion).

The real test for eBay will come when they have to fly on their own. eBay Marketplace performance has been pretty dismal for the past few years and my personal experience reflects that. We sell on both eBay and Amazon with many of the same items listed on both sites. I have fast selling products on Amazon where I sell 2 or 3 a day. Those same products on eBay sell 1 or 2 a week.

There are several interesting facets to the deal. eBay and PayPal agreed that eBay will use PayPal for at least 80% of their payments. PayPal also did something interesting. They are telling PayPal members that buyers who raise claims on eBay will also have the opportunity to raise a claim on PayPal no matter how the eBay claim was resolved. It's going to be interesting to see how eBay sellers react to that policy. I suspect the first time a claim goes south on a seller, that seller will be looking for a new place to sell.

Another part of the agreement forbids PayPal from setting up any type of selling site and eBay from developing a rival payment system.

The best news in the announcement is that eBay CEO John Donahoe will step down as CEO of eBay and become Chairman of the Board for PayPal. Donahoe has been one of the worst performing eCommerce CEOs in the industry. Devin Wenig will take over as CEO of the new, smaller eBay. I don't know much about Wenig, but he has already announced that he is going to overhaul eBay's feedback policy and he has hinted at other changes as well.

There are still rumors on Wall Street that eBay will be sold, but I suspect eBay will make moves to make themselves more attractive before that happens.

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5. Five Simple Tips for Great eBay Photography

This is a guest article by one of my readers, Sam Butterworth

eBay is an extremely competitive marketplace. Even if you're offering some pretty obscure items, it's unlikely you'll be the only seller pedaling a particular item at any one time. With this in mind, any chance you get to differentiate your products and make your listings standout should be seized. One of the most effective methods of creating attention-grabbing listings is to take high quality photos. They don't have to be catalogue-worthy, but taking just a few minutes to make sure your items are well lit and in focus will help to attract those all important bids.

So, without further ado, here are 5 top tips to help your eBay listings shine…

Buy a light tent

A what..? A light tent. Don't worry, it might sound like a pretty technical bit of kit, but in reality it's just a small translucent cube that provides an even and diffused light. You can pick up a basic light tent for $15 or so, and in no time it will have paid for itself. If you're particularly thrifty you can even make one yourself. Simply cut out the sides of a card box and fill in the gaps with a roll of baking paper. This will diffuse the light and help you produce a professional looking photo.

Give it a quick clean

If you're going to the trouble of getting the lighting right, the least you can do is give your products a quick clean. The better the lighting, the more detail the photograph will pick up, and that includes all those unsightly marks and smears. All it takes is a quick rub with a damp cloth to really see the difference.

The magic of natural light

Natural light is a photographer's friend. A good source of natural light will make your photographs appreciably better. Simply placing your eBay items near a large window or in a conservatory will help your items look their best. Alternatively, if you're taking your photographs in a light tent, shining light through the fabric or baking paper on each side of the tent will help to create the desired effect.

If you have a tripod, use it!

The only time a tripod will not enhance your eBay product photographs is if you're shooting in bright light or using a flash; the rest of the time a tripod is essential. Not only does a tripod eliminate handshake, helping you to take pin sharp pictures, but it will also free up your hands to make final adjustments to the lens. The result is a beautifully framed, clear product picture.

Shoot from multiple angles

In most cases, one picture will not be enough the show the buyer everything they want to see. If you're confident in your products you should want to show them off, so put the buyer's mind at ease with multiple shots from different angles. If there are any accessories included with the product, take a picture of those too.

Follow these top photographic tips to give you every chance of making that sale, so happy snapping, and good luck!

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6. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Remember - some of these websites are retail sites. Just use the contact us form to ask for wholesale reseller information.

Sweet Romance Jewelry is a line of fashion jewelry that features a somewhat retro look.

Poo~Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Sprays are environmentally friendly air fresheners designed to control organic odor with essential oils and all natural odor eliminators.

Wicks N More is a new candle company with some unique designs.

Berkeley Designs sells a line of model decorative boats and other nautical themed gift products.

Abbeville Press specializes in publishing quality books on art, architecture, photography, design, travel, lifestyle, and media.

CQ Bookstore - sells a line of unique cookbooks and gift books.

Arrowcopter Inc makes and sells the world's highest-flying toy with unique space age action. Made in the United States

CompuExpert Online is a large wholesaler and retailer of video games and accessories.

Azure Green Is a large supplier of Metaphysical, Witchcraft, Pagan, Spell Crafts, and New Age supplies.

Church Imports is a Wholesale Church Supplies, Church and Orthodox Supplies Reseller Access, Byzantine Icons, Religious Icons, Christian Gifts and more.

Thatís all for now - see you again in about two weeks.

Skip McGrath
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News

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


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