Holiday Season Selling Tips
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, October 2015 - Volume 15, Issue No. 17
Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Online Sellers
Well the hot 4th Quarter selling season is here. Are you ready? Our first article has a few tips to help you maximize sales.
Last year at the ASD trade show, I put on a Wholesale Sourcing Conference 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 $67 for a few days only. Others have paid $467 for these videos but we are putting them on a very short term sale until October 20th. This is the last sale. After October 20th the price will go back up to $467 permanently. Click here to learn more and see some video testimonials from real attendees.
In the last issue I told you about Jenni Hunt's annual Holiday Toy Guide that shows you what the hot toys are for the holiday selling and where to get them. Jenni has been publishing the Holiday Toy Guide for over ten years now and her customers swear by it. Also - even if you don't buy the toy guide, the web site has several great free reports you can download.
Well, Jenni has another thing going on this time of year as well.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest within driving distance of Portland OR, she it putting together TAG: Take Action Group Day Event on October 26th from 9:15-5:30pm (This is in conjunction with the annual Portland Coffee Fest so if you are a coffee lover it's a great twofer).
Jenni Hunt & Ryan Reger are hosting and leading the event along with special guests Jason Miles and Eric Hardwick. Click here for more info.
Come mingle with like minded local sellers while Ryan and Jenni teach three sessions walking you through business strategies that you can apply to your online business immediately.
You have all probably heard of the off-the-books taxi services like Uber, where regular folks provide low cost taxi services using their own cars. Well, Amazon recently announced they are going to try something similar where regular folks can use their own cars to deliver packages for Amazon. Here is a link to the story in eCommerceBytes.
In another item in eCommerceBytes eBay: Restructures Fees and Increases Seller Limits.
eBay announced a series of moves on Monday designed to boost the number of listings on its marketplace in advance of the holiday shopping season. One change - a fee restructuring - offers some good news for sellers who prefer to list in the auction format. You can read the story here.
Are you worried about loosing your Amazon account? Cynthia Stine who runs a reinstatement service has written a great book to help you keep from getting suspended and helping you get reinstated when you do. It's called Suspension Prevention - Get Reinstated and Protect Your Amazon Seller Account. I recommend this for all sellers.
A few months ago I discovered a new service that allows sellers to purchase products from Amazon that are all new goods, never sold.
Have you ever gotten a reimbursement notice from Amazon where they said the warehouse lost your product? Well it might surprise you that with over 60 warehouses and millions of product arriving every day, this happens to the tune of about $30 million per month. That is such a stunning number its hard to comprehend - but its true.
But there is another side to the story. Amazon also finds many of these goods. In some cases, they return them to your inventory and reverse the reimbursement, but in most others Amazon just puts them in a storage bin.
You can imagine that these bins get full and since these are all new products Amazon doesn't simply want to throw it away, but storage costs add up. So what Amazon does is sell these goods in the liquidation market.
The company I discovered that Amazon sells these goods to is 888 Digital. When they buy the goods from Amazon they arrive on pallets in containers with all different categories mixed up together. A box might contain a mixture of clothing, health and beauty, jewelry, toys, electronics and sports equipment. What 888 Digital does is sort the products by categories and create lots for sale by category.
The last time I recommended this company, dozens of sellers tried them out and the feedback I got was really positive. Click here to learn more and see the products for sale.
As I was working on the newsletter I heard a news item on the radio that Amazon is launching a new site to compete with Etsy called Hand Made at Amazon. I don't have any info on the site yet, but will be looking and might have something in the next issue.
This might seem like a strange recommendation for online sellers, but I strongly recommend any of you who are selling online get the following book - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything.
I don't have the space here to fully review the book but please believe me, I learned more wisdom, life lessons and success techniques that I could put to daily use than anything else I have read in the past few years. It is available in Paperback and Kindle.
Has Amazon changed the buy box algorithm? It used to be that I could price my item about 1%, or even 2% higher than competitors (including Amazon), and Amazon would still rotate me into the buy box. Lately I have noticed that this is no longer true. If I want the buy box, I have to price my items at least a few pennies lower. I have asked a few other sellers if they see that and they have told me they are seeing the same thing. I wrote Amazon and asked them and they answered that they do not share that kind of information but advised me that its always best to have the lowest price if you want the buy box.
PayPal recently scored a huge coup. The department store chain Macy's will now accept PayPal in all three of its selling venues - Mobile, Online and in the stores. In-store customers will checkout with a Payment Code on their PayPal app, or use a Macy's app. I was on Macy's website a couple of days ago and the PayPal was still not showing up as a payment method so I am not sure when this will be rolled out.
Every year at this time I always attend the SCOE Amazon sellers conference in Seattle and then write about it in the newsletter. Unfortunately, this year I took ill right before the conference and could not attend (that is also why this newsletter is a few days late).
But I will be gathering information from others who were there and going through the vendor lists and presentations and putting some info in upcoming issues. But as this issue goes to press, I just haven't had time to do that, so please be patient. (And just as an FYI - I am feeling better now).
Lets get started with this monthís articles:
October 1st is the first day of the 4th quarter and the official start of the holiday selling season. Last year the 4th quarter was responsible for 49% of our total sales for the year. Most of that comes in November/December but October was still a pretty good month also.
So what are some of the ways to maximize your sales during this period? Here are a few of the things we do.
I could go on but those are my biggest tips. I hope all of you took the advice I wrote in this newsletter a couple months ago and really stocked up on goods to sell. Its late now to get stuff in but not that late. If you ship a ton of goods to FBA in October, you will have a great November/December.
Almost all of the big box retailers and the US Chamber of Commerce have ganged up on online sellers and given millions of dollars of lobbying money to our congressmen and Senators to get them to pass a bill that will make it mandatory for all online sellers to collect and pay sales tax in all 45 states with sales tax.
If these bills pass, online sellers (eBay, Amazon, your own website, etc.) would have to register and get a sales tax certificate and number from all the states that charge sales tax (the 5 states with no sale tax are Oregon, Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire and Delaware). And to complicate matters, several states have numerous taxing districts, each with their own sales tax rate. And any of the states could conduct audits of your tax collections.
Currently, you only have to collect and pay sales tax when you make a sale that is delivered to your own state, or a state where you have a physical presence (this is called a nexus). But if an internet sales tax bill passes you will have to collect and pay sales tax on every sale to a sales tax state.
There have been several bills floated in congress over the past few years, but the two current bills with the most support are the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA) and the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). The MFA has already been passed by the Senate and is being considered by the House of Representatives. But the RTPA is a house bill -not yet passed but is by far the worst of the two bills. The RTPA was introduced by Jason Chaffetz who announced Sunday he is running for Speaker of the House to replace John Boehner who is resigning the end of this month.
The RPTA does have a 3-year exemption for small sellers but when that ends the bill is much more onerous for online sellers than the MFA which is also not that great.
Currently eBay is the one online company strongly fighting the bill (Amazon is doing essentially nothing). This issue is way too complicated to discuss the ins and outs of each bill here, but eBay does have some great information and a link to contact your congressperson and Senator to state your views. Here is a link to the info. I strongly recommend all of you read it and contact your congressperson and Senators to make your views known. If either of these bills pass it could kill the business of thousands of online sellers.
There is still time to fight this. The congress has been trying to pass a sales tax bill since 2002 and they have run into a lot of opposition. As small sellers we can't match the lobbying power and money of the big box retailers, but politicians do listen to their constituents as they like to get re-elected. So don't wait to make your voice heard.
It used to be that affiliate marketing was a license to print money if you had any kind of online presence. You can still make money with affiliate marketing, but it's a little more work today than it used to be.
I am sure most of my readers know what affiliate marketing is, but just in case you don't, here is a short synopsis.
Affiliate marketing is where advertisers pay you to send people to their websites. These payments happen in one of two ways: Some advertisers pay for visits and others only pay a commission when a sale is made. The way it works is, you join the advertisers affiliate program and once accepted you access a web portal where you grab a coded web link (URL). You can put that link in an email, on Facebook, or your website or blog. When people click on the link, it sets a cookie in their computer so that if they buy something the advertiser knows that from the cookie and pays you a commission.
There are literally thousands of companies that pay affiliate commissions. These include eBay, Amazon and Wal-Mart and all the credit card companies along with thousands of others. Some of these companies (like eBay and Amazon) run their own affiliate system through their own websites, while others use large affiliate networks. (the largest is Commission Junction at www.cj.com). Affiliate systems are easy to join and you can still make money doing this, but you have to do it right.
The single best way to make money from affiliate marketing is if you have a list. This could be a newsletter list like mine, or a list of people who have opted in to receive your emails. (If you send out spam or buy lists to mail to, most of the affiliate companies will cancel your account, so you want to have your own dedicated list).
Probably the next best way, is if you have a blog that attracts traffic where you can build up a following. The best type of blogs are those that are focused on a specific topic where there are products related to the topic. For example, if you have a blog about cooking, you can do reviews of cooking products. Then those reviews would contain an affiliate link to the product on Amazon or another seller of that product that pays affiliate commissions (Here is an example of a blog about baby strollers with affiliate links to Amazon). This particular blog is not that great but I suspect it does generate some income.
That blog contains mostly product reviews which is one way to do it, but I prefer blogs with content that attracts repeat readers -not those that only attract someone when they are looking for products. For example, if you have a really informative blog about fly fishing, you will attract readers on a regular basis. This following allows you to create a list such as an opt-in newsletter and you could use that to send out offers and do product reviews.
The most important thing to remember about blogging (or newsletter promotion) is relevancy. The product you are recommending should be relevant to your blog. If your blog was about fly fishing you would not want to recommend a wine club or credit cards -you would want to stick to promoting travel to fly fishing lodges or reviewing fly fishing equipment.
The key to getting your product reviews to work is to have a mixture of useful relevant content mixed in with the product reviews.
Social media sites are another opportunity to create readers who you can influence with affiliate offers. But here again -useful and attractive content is the key. If all you do is promote all the time you will lose your audience. With Facebook besides promoting your own page another way to go is to set up a Facebook Group. I am a member of Jim Cockrum's group, My Silent Team.
This group already has over 20,000 members. Jim doesn't use it very often to sell things or recommend affiliate offers - instead he concentrates on providing a service and good information to his members. This way, when he does recommend something, he has a lot of credibility with readers and they tend to take his recommendations at a high rate.
This brings me to the last issue which is honesty. My policy is I will not promote an offer unless I am willing to recommend it to my sister or my mother. I get about 50 to 60 affiliate invitations every month and I turn most of them down. If I look at the product and don't think if will benefit my readers then I just don't recommend it.
My favorite affiliate program is Amazon. I have a few blogs and websites where I recommend products. When someone clicks on a link it takes them to Amazon. If they buy the item, then Amazon pays me a commission. And even better, the Amazon cookie is good for 24 hours so if they buy anything else on Amazon during that period I get a commission on that also.
If affiliate marketing interests you, I have two good books on the subject:
If you decide to purchase both of them, please email me using the contact form on this website and I will refund you $10 of the purchase price of the second book.
I have written about this before, but it is one of the topics I get a lot of questions about so I though I would cover it again.
The first rule to follow when contacting a potential wholesale source for the first time is professionalism. You don't want to pretend you work for Target or Wal-Mart of some big company but you do want to be businesslike and let the wholesale source know you are a real business.
In every issue of this newsletter for the past 15 years I have listed about a dozen wholesale sources. Invariably some of my readers contact these folks in ways that will just not work.
Some of the sources have emailed me with the contacts. Here are just two examples I found in my old records:
Now if you were a manufacturer and got an email like one of those, what would you think?
One of the ways I find good products to sell is by searching for products that are selling well on Amazon and then finding the manufacturer's website. When I get there I look for the Contact US form and send an email that goes something like this:
A polite businesslike email like this will work about 90% of the time. If it doesn't that is OK -just move on and do it again with another company. Notice that I say I am a "retailer." That is correct. Anyone who buys goods at wholesale prices and marks them up and resells them, is a retailer. I don't volunteer that I am an online retailer, although if they ask me I will tell them. In most cases when they see that email they will make the assumption that you are a storeowner and they will send you the information even if they don't like to deal with online sellers.
A few years ago I was constantly running into companies that would not deal with online sellers but today that happens less and less often. I currently work with over 50 different wholesale suppliers and all but one or two of them know that I sell online and they are fine with that. There are over a million wholesale suppliers in the US and many more overseas. Even if 20% of them do not want to work with online sellers there are still many more who will. So don't be discouraged if you run into that.
Once you find a good wholesale source the next thing you want to do is develop a good relationship with them. This will pay off in many ways including your ability to negotiate discounts. Here is an example.
One of my top suppliers of a health and beauty product had a 10% off plus free shipping during the entire month of September. I was pretty full on stock but wanted to take advantage of it so I waited until near the end of the month. But I somehow forgot about it until October 5th and missed the promotion. I sent the order in on the 5th and my sales rep who I have cultivated a good relationship with emailed me today and told me about missing the promotion but since I am such a good customer she is going to give it to me anyway.
Some of the ways to build relationships are quite easy to do. One thing I do is ask them for advice. Everyone likes to have their opinion considered so doing this can earn you points. The easiest question to ask is "Can you tell me which of your products are your best sellers now?"
Another thing I like to do is add some personal information to any email orders I send it. I have one supplier in California and in my last email I expressed concern and asked him if any of the California wild fires were near them. When he sent me my invoice for the order he mentioned it and thanked me for asking.
As I said above, one of the benefits of developing a relationship can show up in your pricing. That same supplier in California was charging about 10% more for his product that a different distributor. But I like buying from this company because they are closer to me and therefore the shipping is cheaper. So I sent him a screenshot of his competitor's pricing and asked if he could match it. He not only did that -he took an additional 3% off the 10% I asked for so now I am really ahead. The other thing this same rep does is to make sure I get first shot at new products. I can often be the first one selling it on Amazon and have it all to myself for several weeks.
Lastly another benefit of building relationships is that I have managed to get four of my suppliers to label and ship the products I buy direct to Amazon for me, which saves me a ton of time & money. All I do when I place an order is email him a PDF of the product labels. When he tells me the size and weight of the box I email him the PDF of the shipping label and he puts it on and ships it for me.
Two of my suppliers do this for free and the other two charge me 25¢ per piece, but even with that fee, the money I save on shipping I still come out ahead.
To summarize - be friendly yet businesslike. Act like a business -not someone working at home in their pajamas. Over time you will see this pay benefits.
NOTE: Many of these websites are not the actual wholesale website. When you see this use the Contact form on the website to ask for wholesale information.
BULQ.com is a sustainable platform for returned and excess inventory, connecting buyers and sellers worldwide. they just launched their new B2B e-commerce marketplace last week -- where businesses can buy overstock, open box, refurbished and excess inventory directly from retailers - in bulk! ( One note - they offer both returns and new goods. Be very careful buying returns as often if the boxes are damaged you cannot sell them as new).
Waterwell Planters sells a line of planters that are self watering.
Novalay LLC makes and sells matte ceramic dinner plates and side plates in many unique colors
Pink Tulip Handbags sells a very nice line of very unique ladies handbags
Sol Art Studios sells carved coconut shell necklaces, earrings and bangles. One of a kind designs, made after the ocean and outdoor lifestyles.
Carolyn K is a British Beauty brand based in London and LA. A one stop shop for all beauty accessories, cosmetics and nail paints.
Detti Originals Crystal Jewelry - hand crafted in the USA & guaranteed. Personalized names, sayings, designs. SPEC pins for your eyeglasses
ICE Cubes Inc. makes and sells Ice Trays Created Especially for Those That Serve and Protect! ARMY - FIREFIGHTERS - MARINES - DON'T TREAD ON ME - EMT - NAVY - PARAMEDIC - POLICE - AIR FORCE - COAST GUARD.
Lockum makes and sells patented locking license plate and registration tag security frames. Their frames are made in the USA of light weight ever lasting aluminum.
American Linens sells a wide range of linens from table cloths to sheets and other linen products.
E Silk Flower Depot features Wholesale Silk Flowers, Artificial Flowers, Fake Flowers and is the largest silk flower wholesaler/importer in the US.
CottonAge has a Great Selection of Bathrobes, Towels, Bags, Duffel Bags, Cooler Bags, Tote Bags, Apparel, Shirts, Slippers, Head Wear, Pool Towels, Body Wrap and more at wholesale prices.
Thatís all for now. See you again in about two weeks.
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
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© 1999- Harry McGrath, Inc., DBA Skip McGrath, Auction Seller's Resource and Vision-One Marketing. All Rights Reserved.
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