Tune Up Your Listings for 2017
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News ~ December 2016 ~ Volume 17, Issue No. 18
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Independent Online Sellers
I apologize if there are any typos in this issue. I recently broke my arm. I finally got the cast off, but it has not fully healed yet. So I am still typing one handed.
This was a post from a Facebook Group I belong to. Its about something I have written about before. I also added a few points to expand on the poster's information. It has some really great advice about using reviews to grow your business..
"You can use reviews to not only see what is wrong with a product, but to learn how your customers talk about your product.
Scan all the reviews for a product. You can see what words buyers are using to describe the product and what they use the products for. You can then use their language --and their words in your copy for your listing. This will help you speak directly to your customers and connect with them by using benefits not features.
If you read carefully you can also pick up some keywords you can add to your listing
I sat down with a notebook and went thru all the reviews for two products and I wrote the words they were using to describe the product and the benefits of using the product. This can help you write a good listing that will attract the exact customers for your product.
We are getting close to our cut-off date and wanted to remind you about our Christmas discount on my books at Skipmcgrath.com.
Through December 31st, I'm offering $20 off most of my products! (Products costing less than $20 are excluded from this offer). Just use the coupon code SAV20SKIP. Please use this coupon code on the checkout page. After you enter the coupon, be sure and click the button that says APPLY, or it will not give the discount. (Look under the Training tab in the navigation bar to find my books)
Also, my shopping cart cannot apply a coupon discount to more than one book at a time. So if you wish to buy more than one book, be sure and do each of them as a separate transaction.
How did Black Friday and Cyber Monday work out for online sellers?
For a start, Online sales were greater than Brick and Mortar sales for the first time ever (non-grocery items only).
Several research firms estimated that online sales from midnight, Thanksgiving day through Midnight the following Monday, were between $3.2 Billion and $3.6 Billion.
I know a lot of my readers are importing - or interested in learning how to do it. Here is a great article by Kim Ellis on the Jungle Scout site that you should read.
I was having trouble sleeping a few days ago and my business phone line rang at 4 AM. I looked at the caller ID and it said Amazon. So since I was already awake, I decided to answer it.
The caller was an Amazon support rep from Costa Rica. He was calling about a case I had opened the day before and wanted to fix it for me. Now, don't get me wrong -I do appreciate fast service -just not at 4AM! Amazon has done this at other times -usually they call while I am having dinner, or later while I am watching a favorite TV show at 9 or 10 PM.
So this time, I opened a new case and complained, and got an email answer within a few hours telling me they would fix this, and I would not have to worry about it again. Of course this also happened a few months ago, and all was OK for a while until last month. So I will see how it goes this time.
A few days ago, December 7th, was Pearl Harbor Day. (My dad was there on Dec 7th).
I am a history buff and thought there are a few things about the attack --and America's actions, that could help eBay and Amazon sellers.
Let's consider a few facts:
So what can online sellers learn from this?
To the point, that there is plenty of information out there. That is also true for online sellers --you just have to look for it --bit most importantly, you have to use the information.
The knowledge that an attack might happen. If you spend any time on message boards, or in Facebook groups for sellers, you will often see warnings of big changes coming to eBay and Amazon. It is important that you take them seriously, and prepare for them. Not all of them will happen, but its best to be ready for those that do.
Then next item is about clear communications. This one is easy. Be very clear, precise, and complete in communications with everyone involved in your business --Suppliers, employees if you have them, customers and Amazon. Clear, complete and precise communications will prevent confusion and misinformation.
Lastly is the fact that the Army and the Marine corps had all of there fighters lined up next to each other where they were highly vulnerable to mass destruction.
This is analogous to putting all your eggs in one basket. Market changes such as a new large competitor, or Amazon restricting a brand you have been selling, can really hurt you if you have a lot of inventory (and money) dedicated to that situation.
One of the largest wholesale trade shows in the US or Canada is the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market, January 10 to 17 at Americas Mart in Atlanta.
Those of you who live on the East coast should consider attending this. Don't be put off by the word "Gift" in the title of the show. The word "gift" covers a lot of products from toys to fashions and jewelry, Health & Beauty to small home furnishing items and much more. This is one of the largest wholesale trade shows in the world.
Another big wholesale trade show coming up ASD Market Week, March 19 - 22, 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Click here to get more information
Sales Tax Deadlines Coming Up in January
When most people think Tax Day they generally think of April. But did you know nearly every online seller will have a sales tax due date in January? That's right, January.
Fun fact! How often you file and remit sales tax is based on volume. The higher the volume you sell in a state, the more often that state will ask you to pay sales tax. If you're a high volume seller, you'll probably find yourself filing monthly sales tax returns. If you're a small seller, you may only be required to file and remit sales tax once per year, but that due date usually falls in January.
At TaxJar, we call January the "Sales Tax Perfect Storm" and we've put together lots of resources to help you file and pay sales tax.
For questions about sales tax in a specific state, check out our State Sales Tax Guides. For general info, try our TaxJar's Sales Tax Education page. And you can also ask a question over at the Sales Tax for eCommerce Sellers Facebook group.
NOTE: I am NOT an affiliate of TaxJar.
It pays to verify your fulfillment orders for multi-channel fulfillment. Two weeks ago, I sold an item on eBay I had listed with Joelister (A service that creates eBay listings from your Amazon listings, and automatically fulfills the orders as a Multi-channel fulfillment order).
The customer paid for standard shipping on eBay which means Joelister told Amazon to ship the order standard service the next day. Well after about 7 days passed, my wife, Karen, who handles shipping and customer service, told me that Joelister had not entered a tracking number into eBay.
I went to Joelister, found the order, and looked the order up on Amazon. At first, I had assumed that Joelister had screwed up, but that was not the case. The order was sitting on Amazon, but Amazon had not shipped it to my eBay buyer. The order said it was unshipped and there was no tracking info displayed.
I opened a case with Amazon -and after 9 days they could still not find the order (even though I gave them the order number, and they could not tell me if it was shipped or not. Finally, I gave up and shipped the customer a replacement via 2nd day air. After complaining several times over several days, Amazon did reimburse me for the product.
So the lesson here is, whether you use a service like Joelister, or entered the order manually, be sure and follow up the next day to make sure Amazon has shipped the order and provided the tracking.
eComEngine and Feedvisor recently presented a great webinar on Strategies to Win the Buy Box. Here's a link where you can register to see it.
Looking to add some pizzazz to your holiday emails? aWeber has got some free GIFs for you.
Private label sellers - If you are at a wholesale trade show and you see a product you would like to sell. You can ask them if they would private label. Some will say yes -and some will say no. The problem with the ones that say yes is they will want a minimum order that is quite large to cover the cost of packaging.
When you run into this -just ask if they would mind if you provided your own box, and just inserted their product into your box. You will be amazed at how many will say yes -and this way, you can start out with an order of 100 or so instead of 5,000. Of course, you will have the cost of the box design and printing, but that is a lot better than taking a risk with thousands of an item before you know it will sell.
Note: This edition of this newsletter provides several wholesale sources that will private label.
Lets get started with this month’s articles:
There are still a few days left in the 2016 Christmas selling season, but 2017 will be here before you know it. I always use the months of January and February to review and update my listings and to clear out slow moving inventory. Let's take a look at each of those:
Slow Moving Merchandise
Pretty soon you will start getting notices from Amazon about removing your excess inventory -or pay a penalty Long-term storage fee.
How do you find these? First - click on Manage Inventory in your Seller Central Page. Now look at the top right of the page and you will see a link to Inventory Dashboard. Click on that and you will see a ton of helpful information, including a box that shows you the number of SKUs that are slow moving -and a way to link to them (See image Below).
Once you click on the button that says Create Removal Order, you will see a panel that looks like this:
Notice that the far right button says Create Sale. If you click on this, it will bring up a box that looks like this:
I usually create my sales with most of my products starting about December 15th so they have time to sell before the February cut-off date to charge the Penalty Long-term storage fees. (Some may think it is silly to put things on sale during the Christmas season, and you are right, if you only have one or two of something. But, when you have a quantity of slow-moving goods, it's best to get rid of them for two reasons:
Review and Update Listings
I have been doing this for almost 17 years, and no matter how careful I am, I still make mistakes. Sometimes its just a typo, but more often it's that I stated something incorrectly, or made a serious grammatical error.
Here is an example of a mistake I just caught in one of my long term items. My listing said: " Multiple comartments to keep your gear - Opens om the top for easy access…"
My correction said Multiple compartments to keep your gear organized - Opens from the top for easy access
Also notice that the word compartments and the word on were misspelled, so I corrected those also and corrected the main statements with new words that were more clear.
The next thing I like to do is update my keywords. I use a third-party keyword service called Merchantwords, but there are other tools out there including a Google keyword tool which is free. If you want to try Merchantwords, use this link, as my readers get a substantial discount.
Another thing I check are my FBA fees to make sure Amazon is charging me correctly. To do this you have to look in two spots. First, look at the listing in the Buy Box on Amazon. Make sure the size and weight is correct for that product. Why is this? Well Amazon sometimes makes a mistake. And, since Merchant Sellers (MS) get a fixed shipping based on the size and weight, some MS sellers will inflate the size and weight so they get more money from Amazon.
For example, I sell a branded Christmas stocking that is 19 inches long and 7 inches wide. At that size, Amazon considers it oversize and charges you an excess handling fee. However, when I pack and skip the stockings, I fold them and Polybag them to a size of 6"x 7" x 1.5". But whoever created the listing put the size at 19 x 7 inches which incurs high handling fees
So how do you correct this? You would think you could take a photo with a ruler in the picture and send that to Amazon. That is how they used to do it, but now they tell you to let them know when you have inventory in stock, and a warehouse worker actually weighs and measures your product. This can take a couple of weeks, but it does work. I have had over a dozen products so far this year, where I have had my fees lowered because I corrected them.
Lastly, you want to check that Amazon has reimbursed you for refunds given by Amazon when the product was not returned and that you were reimbursed for all the products that were lost or damaged by Amazon. I use Refunds Manager for that.
I have written about this topic often, but it bears repeating as I get a lot of questions from readers that indicate they are spending too much time doing low value tasks.
Almost any aspect of your business could be outsourced, but I think it's best to look at all the activities and duties of running your business and dividing them up into high-value and low-value tasks.
I keep the high value tasks for myself and outsource the low-value tasks.
Every seller is unique, and only you can decide what the difference is, but here is my list:
This is by far not a complete list, but just the ones that come to my mind first.
There are three ways to outsource some of these activities.
For example, on the low value list, creating shipments and packing boxes can easily be done by a part-time or contract employee (We use a high school student who comes in after school and works for two hours). Or, you can use a service like John Bullard's My Inventory Team (MIT). I can have my wholesale goods delivered to John's warehouse. His team will pack, label and ship my goods direct to Amazon's FBA warehouse. (There are several companies that do this. Just Google "Amazon pack and ship."
For product photography I send my products to Danny Lee who is an excellent photographer and charges a very reasonable fee. (Danny Lee Photography). You can email Danny at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use my name as he gives a small discount to my readers. (Be sure you tell Danny the photos are for Amazon so he knows to put them on a white background and make them Amazon compliant).
For things like data entry, bank statements, paying bills, like that, I pay a contract Bookkeeper. She comes in one or two days a month that I pay by the hour.
For soliciting feedback and reviews, I use FeedbackFive for Amazon and Vendio.com for eBay. Before I started using them, I was averaging about 1% of my buyers leaving feedback. Now I am close to 10%. Also, if I get a neutral or a negative, I get an immediate email so I can take action to remove it. With Amazon's new restrictions on soliciting reviews, FeedbackFive can do this without breaking Amazon's rules.
Lastly, for multi channel fulfillment orders I use a third party service
Sellbrite. What they do is when
something you have in FBA sells on eBay, Sears.com, Rakuten or New Egg, they automatically create the fulfillment order and when Amazon releases the
tracking info they will automatically enter that too.
So sit down with a pad and pencil. Start analyzing your tasks and try to figure out what you should keep and what you can farm out. Freeing up time to perform the high value will help you grow your business faster and make it more profitable.
This is a guest article by Richard Gilbert, General Manager at Payoneer. A lot of online sellers have learned that PayPal is not the only game in town. Lot's of sellers are adding Payoneer as well.
Click here to learn more about Payoneer. (Note - Payoneer will give you $25 for signing up, once you deposit $100 to your account).
Go International and cash in on the benefits
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