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Planning your Niche Marketing Strategy before the Holiday Rush

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News ~ August 2016 ~ Volume 17, Issue No. 13

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

In This Issue:

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

  1. Planning your Niche Marketing Strategy before the Holiday Rush
  2. Why Playing Pokemon Go could be Good for Business
  3. Picking Good WordPress Plugins
  4. Understanding Bar Codes, ASINís, ISBNís, SKUs, etc.
  5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"The Sun himself is weak when he first rises, and gathers strength and courage as the day gets on." ~ Charles Dickens


Musings

Some of you may know that Iíve had a couple of health speed-bumps recently. The most recent of which is a broken arm on Sunday. Please forgive me if my replies arenít as quick as I usually like them to be. Karen tells me weíll have to delay our samba lessonsÖ again!

Iíll be selecting my cast color tomorrow and Iím thinking of a nice tartan plaid for clan McGrath. Iíll be posting a virtual cast signing party on Facebook once the cast is on. All I ask is keep it positive and pithy.  I wonít have the time to reply to any well-wishers, but know that I am grateful to all of you.


Never Wait in Line for a USPS Parcel Scan Again (Coming Soon!)

Everyone hates standing in line at the USPS to get their eBay parcels scanned in, but we all do it because otherwise we risk the tracking not uploading to eBay fast enough and getting dinged on Seller Performance Standards.

But it looks like good news is coming. The USPS is now testing a new kiosk system where you will be able to scan your own parcels without standing in line with everyone who needs to pay for postage, get a passport, etc. This is great news for busy sellers and will hopefully roll out across the country soon. You can read all about it at eCommerceBytes.


Replacement Request Not Available in eBay Returns Flow until Mid-October

This week eBay announced that sellers offering replacements must manage this through eBay Messages rather than through the returns system. Buyers will not be able to request a replacement during the normal returns process now until the "improved system" is implemented in mid-October. Click here to read the announcement


USPS First Class Parcel Rate to Increase August 28, 2016

First Class Parcels weighing 1-3oz are going up in price from $2.45 to $2.62 ($2.60 with eBay Labels) on August 28, 2016. If you sell jewelry, prints, or other light-weight items, you might check if this affects you and adjust your pricing accordingly. $0.20 might not seem like a lot, but it does add up.


Amazon Unveils Amazon One - Its First Branded Cargo Plane at Seattle SeaFair

Amazon is adding 40 cargo planes to its delivery team to meet the demand of Amazon shoppers everywhere. This is great news for FBA sellers because it increases the likelihood of same-day and next-day delivery for customers with Amazon Prime. Amazon has always been careful to meet their delivery time goals, and is one reason shoppers often buy there versus eBay or other sites. This is great timing as we move into the latter part of the year and the time when online buying really ramps up for the holidays. Full article here.


Amazon is really pushing their mobile seller app. It looks pretty handy. Here's their announcement

Manage critical tasks on Mobile with the Amazon Seller app

The Amazon Seller app available on iOS and Android lets you:

  • View your sales. See your business performance for today, this week, or this month.
  • Manage your inventory. Easily update your prices and quantities.
  • Manage your orders. Get notified when your product sells. View your pending orders and confirm shipments.
  • Create listings.
  • View your next payment. See your next disbursement amount and the date.
  • Provide great customer service. Respond to customer questions quickly with customizable email templates, or simply mark messages as 'no response needed.'
  • Find new products to sell. Check current prices, sales rank, competing offers, and customer reviews by using text search or by scanning items.
  • Receive new pricing opportunities. Stay competitive on the go when listings are close to the buy-box price, have low sales conversion, or are eligible for a fee promotion.
  • Have a question about selling on Amazon? Use the app to contact Seller Support.

In other Amazon news, they're repeating their free removal promotion. Here's what they sent me:

You may have slow-moving or low-selling inventory. Starting today, August 4, 2016, FBA is waiving fees for any removal order for inventory that is currently in U.S. fulfillment centers.

This promotion ends after August 14, 2016, after which time normal removal-order fees will apply.


I wanted to mention that I've updated The Complete Amazon Marketing System. This is a great resource if you want to sell on Amazon, but don't know how to get started. The system is a two-volume printed book. You also get a ton of bonus items and of course there's 90-day guarantee.


Ina Steiner, of eCommerceBytes, reports that eBay is starting a program to reinstate suspended accounts. You can read the article here.


With the new increases in postal rates it's important to save money wherever possible. So you'll be glad to hear that Stamps.com is repeating their special offer for my readers. You can get $5 worth of free postage just for trying their service. Click here to see the special offer.


Did you know that 46 states start their fiscal year on July 1st? That means that as of July 1st some new tax laws went into effect. The folks at Avalara have put together a useful guide that goes over these changes. What especially caught my eye is the section on state nexus laws. You can download the guide here.


Are you intrigued by the idea of a virtual assistant, but don't know how one would fit into your business? Then check out 12 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant.


If you really want to learn Digital photography, here's the best book on the market - The Digital Photography Book


Lets get started with this monthís articles:

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1. Planning your Niche Marketing Strategy before the Holiday Rush

As the summer slow season winds down, it's important to start looking towards the holidays and your inventory for the 4th quarter. Right now, back to school selling is in full swing. This can be a great way to rebrand certain items, run an eBay store sale, or even pick up supplies for your own business use, or for retail arbitrage to list after the sales are over. There's always someone who has to have that hot new Pokemon Go backpack and didn't get it until a few days before school.

The next big sales event is Halloween. Stores are popping up all over the country now and you can take advantage of sales to have inventory ready for last-minute shoppers. Amazon Prime is consistently a parental favorite for last-minute "oops my kid needs a costume" shopping. It's worth going to stores that carry costume-related pieces and see what is on clearance now. A few years ago when Pirates of the Caribbean was the previous year's big thing I wandered into the Disney Store looking for whatever might be on sale. I found Jack Sparrow wig/beard combos in the clearance section for under $10 each. I bought all of them and sold them closer to Halloween for $40 a set. I didn't go in looking for that item, but I turned a nice 300% profit on what I found.

September is a good time to visit Design Marts and Wholesale Merchandise Marts because they are bringing out Christmas inventory. Most of these places are not cash and carry. You will place an order now for delivery closer to the holidays. It pays to go now to get in on the deals and inventory before others snap it up.

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2. Why Playing Pokemon Go could be Good for Business

It's almost impossible not to have heard about the recent phenomenon that is Pokemon Go. My 10 year old granddaughter has become just as enthralled with Pokemon now as her parents were 15-20 years ago. Video games come and go, but this one is different. It requires people to get out of the house and go walk, search out Pokemon in the wild, and visit Pokestops at various locations around their area (most of which are artwork or businesses). What does that mean? It means people are getting out and congregating in easy to find locations. I have a 3-foot rule. Anyone who comes within 3 feet of me learns what I do. Pokemon Go players, for the most part, are social and willing to chat at Pokestops. Learn about the game, play with your family (you might get addicted to it too) and get out there and meet other people. It is a great way to network, and to talk about what you do, especially if you find yourself selling Pokemon Go themed items (hint: Team Mystic is Blue, Instinct is Yellow, and Valor is Red). If you have a bricks and mortar store you can run sales for Pokemon players to entice them into the store. I've seen stores offer 10% off for anyone who showed their Pokedex (their caught Pokemon in the game). I saw a bar offer a free beer to anyone who put up a Lure at their Pokestop (Lure's attract Pokemon to that location for 30 minutes, and consequently attract Pokemon Go players to that location too). Get creative! Pokemon Go is creating predicable foot-traffic in areas that never really got it before. So whether you're a bricks-and-mortar location or online-only, you can harness the predictable nature of people congregating in certain areas to increase your visibility and sales.

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3. Picking Good WordPress Plugins

By Marsha Perry

One of the great features of WordPress is the availability of free plugins. However, when a plugin goes bad it can crash your whole site. Just how do you pick a good plugin?

Maybe you found a plugin recommendation in a forum. Perhaps you were researching plugins at WordPress.org and see one you want to try. Either way, you've probably got some questions. How can you tell if it's worth the effort of testing the plugin on your site? More importantly, how likely is it that the plugin will mess up your blog or website?

For example, say that you're concerned your site has been hacked and infected with malware. (Yikes!) You'd like a plugin that will scan your site and help you with deal with the issue. Go to plugin area of WordPress.org and type "malware scan" into the search box. One of the plugins matching those keywords will be Sucuri.

This simple box gives you a lot of valuable information.

Last Updated - Look for a plugin that's been updated within the last year. Numerous problems can occur with plugins that aren't actively maintained. There could be security problems. There might be compatibility issues with WordPress software.

Rating - What sort of rating do people give the plugin?

Active Installs - Just below the number of stars is the number of active installs for the plugin. In other words, this is the number of people using the plugin. I don't know about you, but I don't like being anyone's beta tester. I start getting interested in a plugin at about 750 active installs.

Once you find a plugin that's been updated within the last year, has a good rating and a large number of active installations you're going to go to phase two of your investigation. Click through to the plugin's page on WordPress.org. Read about the plugin. Does it have the features you want? Is the description written in a user-friendly way?

In the case of the Sucuri plugin, there are several videos showing how the software works. The language is professional. (It's clear that these people mean business!) However the text isn't overly technical. That means that you won't need a computer science degree to understand the documentation provided for the plugin.

Then I take a look at the support forum for the plugin. To see that information, click on the Support tab at the top of the page or on the View support forum button on the right side of the plugin page. Then look at the problems that people have with the plugin. How often are questions answered and problems resolved?

Now that you've done some investigation you'll have a good idea about what the plugin does, how reliable it is, how easy it is to work with and what sort of assistance you can expect from the plugin developer. You've gathered the information needed to pick out a good WordPress plugin.

Marsha Perry is a website developer specializing in helping small business owners with WordPress sites. Her specialty is providing customized website services in a cookie-cutter world. You can sign up for her free WordPress Tips & Update Guide at her website.

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4. Understanding Bar Codes, ASINís, ISBNís, SKUs, etc.

If you have been selling on eBay or Amazon for a while, you probably already know most of this, but I get questions from new sellers often enough that I know there is some confusion out there. So here is an article that explains the basics.

With the millions of products available, how does a seller keep track of the inventory? In the past, businesses hire employees who manually track merchandise causing significant costs in terms of money and time. Good thing, the advent of bar codes had begun.

Bar codes, or technically called, Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN's), are unique product identifiers, which make obtaining product information across different databases and platforms easier. It's a symbol, which, when scanned, will show the unique attribute of a product.

All legitimate UPC number come from the GS1 Database and Service. You must use codes that originated from GS1. If you buy bar codes from a company that is not sourcing from there - Amazon will reject them when you try to create a listing. All of the companies mentioned below get their codes from GS1.

With bar codes, operational efficiency is realized because these entail faster and more accurate recording of information-- so time is saved, errors are reduced and all in all, costs are cut. Aside from these, putting barcodes in your products would enable you to meet business regulatory requirements, since agencies and online selling platforms such as Amazon, now require unique identifiers in products.

Bar Codes in Amazon

As a general rule, you need a UPC code in order to sell a product in Amazon. Amazon requires this in order to reduce, or even eliminate duplicate product listings and incorrect search matches, and because items with barcodes are more efficient to receive and ship to customers. So far, there are five main types of barcodes used in Amazon:

  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN)-- This is found in books, and can come in both 13 and 10-digit numbers.

  • Universal Product Codes (UPC's)-This code system was developed in the United States and has been widely used in North America, UK, Australia and New Zealand

  • European Article Number (EAN)-This is a superset of the UPC system, and is used worldwide for products that are sold at retail point of sale.

  • Japanese Article Number (JAN)-This is what product identification numbers in Japan are called.

  • Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN)-Amazon assigns its own version of barcodes to items that are uploaded into their inventory. This is a code system that is unique to the Amazon marketplace. If you know the ASIN of an item, you can type it into the Amazon search box and it will come up.

Amazon requires a UPC (or EAN) (but not the actual bar code artwork, number for almost any product you list on Amazon. If you want to sell an item that does not have a UPC number, or if you are creating a unique item such as a bundle of products, then you will need to purchase a UPC number. Note - If you are creating an item on Amazon that requires you to purchase a UPC number, you only need the number - not the actual bar code graphic. This is because you generate your own bar code label when you create a shipment to Amazon. That label identifies both the product and who it belongs to so Amazon knows who to pay when the item sells.

eBay does not currently require a UPC or ISBN, but they are encouraging sellers to use them to make your products easier to find. And them plan to make them mandatory soon.

How to Obtain Bar Codes

There are companies nowadays who sell/ lease bar codes. The one I use is NationwideBarcode.com.

Ideally, barcodes are integrated into the design of your item, so if what you will be selling is not yet manufactured, then you may want to coordinate with your UPC vendor so that the product identifier will be incorporated with the design. But if your product is already manufactured, then you can still easily obtain bar code labels.

Bar codes help you achieve operational efficiency, plus, it allows you to sell in one of the world's busiest online selling platforms.

Seller SKUs

SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit and it's a number that you generate to help you keep track of your inventory. There are several systems to create and track SKUs. Here is one way I do mine:

The first letter stands for the category of product - J for Jewelry, B for Books, K for Knives and so on.

The next letter is the month I bought the item and listed it on eBay or Amazon, so a SKU that started with B3 would be a book I sent in March.

Next I put the cost of the item. I use the simple "paintbrush" code. Paintbrush is a ten-letter word with no letters that repeat, so each letter stands for a number. A SKU that started out B3PNH would be a book, I sent in March that cost me $1.40. Then I usually come up with some type of abbreviation to identify the product. So if the book was Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October the code might be B3PHH-RO. The RO would stand for Red October. (Some other ten-letter words with no repeating letters include: Cumberland, springvale, pathfinder, monkeyspit, motherland, crazywomen and falconview).

If you tend to sell a lot of items from one supplier, another way to go is to use the initials of the supplier and the part number of the item. So for my Novobead jewelry, I might use NB4105. The advantage of this is that I can search the term Novobeads in my Amazon inventory and the SKUS will come up in order. So if I sort by quantity, I can see which beads I am out of or low on stock and I have a nice list with the part numbers to place on my order sheet. See image below:

The 6th column is the quantity I have on hand. So if I want to place an order with my supplier, I just use the SKU number without the letters NB as that is the manufacturer's part number.

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5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Since 1994 BARSKA has been a key supplier of sport optics products including binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes, microscopes, riflescopes, and accessories.

United Pacific Designs' product offerings include the best values in stationery, toys, backpacks, keychains, children's dinnerware & drinkware, photo albums, stickers & novelty items for children. Minimum $1,000 order.

Save a Buck Enterprises sell the hottest novelties, pranks and gags. No minimum order.

Holeless belt is probably one of the most innovative Men's accessory in the world.

Amazing Wholesale Scarves sells scarves, neckwear, and designer fashion accessories.

Cracco Jewelry is handmade by jewelry expert 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.

Precision Products Online offers high quality hobby tools, sport knives, magnifiers! Lowest wholesale prices! All customers welcome large and small. Very easy online ordering. Super friendly support staff.

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

Blanket Depot offers Licensed Products - Sporting Goods, Wholesale Licensed Sports Blankets, Beach Towels, Golf Head covers, Banners, and much more.

Thatís it for now. See you soon.

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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