Is your online business ready for the holidays?

By Kate Hornsby | October 16, 2014

The pumpkins for Halloween may not have been carved yet, but believe it or not, the holiday season is already upon us. In fact, if you haven’t started your holiday planning, then you’re actually running behind.

According to a survey by Experian merchant services, 70-percent of businesses were starting their holiday season planning as far back as August. Their survey even showed that some businesses even started planning earlier than that and began their holiday planning all the way back in June!

If you’re a procrastinator like a lot of sellers, however, all hope is not lost. There’s still time to get that planning done, but you better get started.

Set your holiday goals
Whether you want to have a certain number of items listed by a certain date or you want to see a certain percent increase in sales over your previous year, setting a goal for your holiday sales not only helps you keep your business on track, but also gives you a way to measure whether your marketing efforts have been effective or not.

Order your shipping supplies
Tape, peanuts, bubblewrap, and boxes. Now is the time to check your shipping inventory to see what you’re running low on. If you generally use the post office to ship your packages, go ahead and order in some of their free shipping boxes. Keep in mind that it can take a while for your boxes to arrive once you order them, so the sooner you do this — the better.

To free ship or not to free ship?
Thanks to Amazon and their Amazon Prime, there’s a lot of pressure to offer free shipping especially around the holidays. While it may not be cost-effective to offer free shipping on every item you sell, offering it on a few items or if the buyer makes multiple purchases can help meet buyer expectations. If nothing else, you could choose to offer free shipping on December 18, which is known as “Free Shipping Day” and then promote this in your email and social media marketing.

Plan those specials
Finally, most sellers know to offer special deals on certain days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you can keep those sales rolling in by planning other deals throughout the holiday season. As an example, you could offer sale items at the beginning of November to catch those early shoppers and offer another sale as it gets closer to Christmas to pick up some of those last-minute holiday stragglers.

Topics: Holidays | No Comments »

Amazon announces new policy to shipping options

By Kate Hornsby | October 15, 2014

ID-100213668If you were buying or selling on Amazon during the holidays last year, you may remember a shipping glitch that made some holiday packages arrive late last December. And in late, I’m referring to the fact that they actually didn’t make it until after Christmas, so in some cases Santa came up a little short in the gift department.

Well, this week, Amazon sent out an email to sellers who are considered “third-party merchants” or rather, sellers who do not participate in the FBA program to let them know of a policy change that is scheduled for November 13, 2014. The email, which had the somewhat ominous title “Upcoming Changes to Shipping Options on Amazon” in the subject line announced that Amazon will have stricter shipping requirements for non-FBA sellers starting next month.

While part of the change seems reasonable, such as the requirement for sellers to use USPS, UPS, OnTrac or Fed-Ex if they wish to offer 2-day shipping as one of their shipping options, the biggest change is one that some sellers may not be too happy with.

That change states that in order to ensure that buyers receive their packages in a timely manner, Amazon won’t allow non-FBA sellers to use the 1-day shipping option. The other change, which may raise some concern (or not) is that if you want to use the 2-day shipping option your defect rates must be less than 0.05-percent. At the moment, the policy simply says that the defect rate must be less than 1-percent.

Although the 2-day shipping option rule and the change of policy for the defect rate doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal, one can’t help but wonder how the inability to use 1-day shipping will affect sellers who prefer to sell from home. Will buyers automatically choose the faster shipping option or will one more day for shipping not really matter if you have what they want and the price is right?

What are your thoughts about this latest policy change? Will this change affect sales for non-FBA sellers or is this just a small bump on the road to the holiday season? Leave your comments below.

 

 

Image courtesy of [Master isolated Images]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Topics: Amazon, Amazon FBA, Shipping | No Comments »

3 Ways to Improve Your Online Business

By Kate Hornsby | October 10, 2014

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If you’re like most online business owners, you are always looking for ways to improve your business. While a good business strategy is certainly fundamental for long-term success, there are also some things you can start doing right now in the short-term that can help that bottom line.

Here’s three ways to improve your online business.

 

Out with the old and in with the new

Do you have a lot of items in your store that seem to have been around forever and just aren’t moving? Slow moving merchandise not only reduces your cash flow, it can also slow down the growth of your business. Take a good look at your inventory. If you have items that have been sitting in your store for six months or longer, it may be a good idea to think about reducing the price and having a closeout or clearance sale.

In the alternative, you may want to consider trying a different site to list them on. As an example, if the item has been for sale on eBay, try listing it on Amazon, eCrater or even your own website.

 

Consider free shipping

As Amazon has demonstrated over the last few years with their Amazon Prime option, buyers really just don’t want to pay for shipping. It may not be cost effective for every item you sell, but free shipping is something you really need to consider.

While most marketplaces don’t allow you to set specific options for free shipping, if you sell through your own website you could always offer free shipping if the buyer purchases a specific dollar amount or amount of items. Keep in mind, however, that free shipping does cut into your profit margin, so when possible try to add all or at least part of the shipping cost into your purchase price.

 

Make yourself accessible

Although a lot of sellers are uneasy about providing their phone number for buyers to call them, it really can help improve conversion rates (sell-through) if the customer knows they can easily contact you if they have a question. Consider using an phone option like Google Voice, which provides a phone number for buyers to call and then connects that number to all your phones. It not only provides you with voice mail, but when someone call yous — U.S. long distance calls are free.

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Can raising the price help your eBay sales?

By Kate Hornsby | October 9, 2014

If you’re like most eBay sellers, you’ve probably had an item that you listed that just sat and sat. You could almost see the virtual cobwebs covering the item as you waited for it to sell. After a period of time, you probably lowered the price and then lowered it some more. Still, it just continued to sit there. You might have even commented that you couldn’t give it away for free.

Sound familiar?

Yep, I’ve done it. I’ve even had an item or two that I listed below what I paid for it just so I could get it out the door and it still just sat there.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, is that lowering the price on an item isn’t always the way to go if you want it to sell. In fact, a lot of the time setting the price too low can actually backfire on you.

You see, sometimes lowering the price of an item can actually make people shy away from a product. They may begin to think that the quality of the product isn’t as good or something is wrong with it. In some cases, it may also have a negative affect where people will hold out from buying it because they think that if they wait a little longer you will lower it some more. Which you do…because no one has bought it.

Instead, try a little experiment and raise the price on the item. Yes, you read that right. Go UP on the price. You see, buyers often have the mindset that you get what you pay for. Although some buyers will go after the lowest priced item, there are plenty of buyers out there that will pay more for the exact same thing simply because in their mind the one that has the lower price must be one of lesser value.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. From experience I have found that if you’re using the auction feature on eBay, it’s often helpful to set it just below what you really want to sell the item for instead of going higher or try it one time at the higher price and then go just below what you really want if the item doesn’t sell on the first go around.

Although some sellers I know even set the starting price for an at something ridiculous, such as .99 or .01. I don’t usually recommend that because at some point, you will end up with only one bid and it’s a sickening feeling to have to sell an item for .99 when you know it’s worth 500 or 600 times that. For me, $9.99 is usually the lowest I’ll go for running an auction or $6.99 if it’s been around a while and I just want to get it out the door.

Keep in mind, I’m talking about running auctions when you don’t actually have a store. If you do have a store, I suggest trying the auction and then if you still have the item, try the higher price in the store and see if anything happens. You can, after all, always go back and lower the price if you’ve shot for the moon and the stars, but went just a little bit too high.

Topics: eBay | No Comments »

Shop the World: eBay’s New Global Brand Campaign

By Kat Simpson | October 9, 2014

By Richelle Parham, CMO, eBay North America

I am thrilled to announce today the launch of eBay’s global brand campaign, “Shop the World,” illustrating how the moments of inspiration that surround us every day can be instantly shoppable on eBay. The campaign brings to life the company’s unique position in commerce: eBay’s unmatched selection of 800 million listings paired with eBay’s multiscreen technology means people can instantly shop the world’s inspiration – anytime, anywhere.

Designed to put eBay top-of-mind with consumers during the most important time of the year for commerce – the holiday season – this campaign is a celebration of our community of global sellers and an invitation to shoppers everywhere to act on your inspiration. I hope that it inspires the entire eBay community as much as it has inspired me.

Some will begin to see our campaign on TV and online next Monday, October 13th. It will continue to roll out across the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany in the coming weeks, with more markets to come in 2015. The campaign was created in partnership with Goodby Silverstein & Partners and shows how any and every moment that inspires you – from rock concerts to street artists, classic films to marathons – can be yours on eBay.

The campaign launches in conjunction with themed collections of shoppable inventory on eBay.com. We also invite you to visit our social channels – Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.

eBay understands that the way people shop has changed. People want to buy whatever inspires them: anytime, anywhere. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces with over 800 million listings from a diverse community of global sellers – from individuals to small and medium-sized businesses to beloved brands – we offer incredible inventory: more than 80% of sold items are new; and 78% of Gross Merchandise Volume is fixed price (Buy It Now).

The campaign coincides with the release of Interbrand’s “Best Global Brands” report in which eBay is named the #28 most valuable global brand. eBay is not only one of the world’s most recognizable brands, but a rapidly evolving company and global commerce leader. “Shop the World” showcases eBay today, a modern, trusted marketplace – true to its roots of connecting a global community of buyers and sellers, while continuously innovating to shape the future of shopping.

We invite you to view the anthem here, and hope this campaign inspires you to shop the world.

Topics: eBay, eCommerce News, Press Releases | No Comments »

Go Phish: Is that online order really a scam?

By Kate Hornsby | October 3, 2014

Although the constant changes at eBay and Amazon may sometimes make you want to pull your hair out, they do offer online sellers at least a little bit of protection against unsavory buyers. When you strike out on your own, however, the only one protecting you from buyers who are trying to pull a fast one — is you.

While some scams are easy to recognize, there are some scammers out there who know how to push all the right buttons. Here are some things to watch out for:

Orders that seem too good to be true. You may be thinking “ka-ching” if a buyer contacts you and says that they want to order a 100 pairs of socks, but take a moment to think about it before you process the order

Although there may be some legitimate reasons out there for a buyer to purchase a large quantity of something, most buyers would probably turn to a wholesale company if they needed to buy hundreds or thousands of a similar item. If the item is is something that is highly resalable and hard to trace, you are probably dealing with someone who is trying to scam you.

The buyers asks you to use a third-party to ship their item. It’s not uncommon for someone to ask you to ship their item through the post office instead of using UPS, if they only have a p.o. box, but beware of the buyer who asks you to use a shipping service that you’ve never heard of before. Not only do you run the risk of them saying the item never reached their destination, but the “shipping company” may actually be part of the scam too.

This type of scam usually involves the buyer saying that you should pay the shipping costs to the company they have selected and they will handle the insurance, duties and other expenses that you might normally would have. There is also usually a request for you to ship the items to a foreign destination. It will all initially sound great to you because in your mind you are saving money, but at the end of the day — you’ll probably not only be out the money you thought you saved, but out the money for the items and shipping costs too.

The grammar and punctuation used in the email you receive is just way off. Strangely, it’s not just the ecommerce industry that receives these odd little emails. I’ve received them in the past when I owned a pet sitting business.

The emails start off friendly enough and usually asks a question about an item or a service you provide. It all sounds good, but the language is a little off (maybe a bit too proper) and words are often misspelled. No big deal there, you think…after all, we all know people that just aren’t that great at writing emails…but…and this is where you need to pay attention…these emails are a little vague at first about what they want, but they are really quick to tell you that they want a large amount (or want to use your service for a long time) of whatever it is that you sell.

In some cases, they may offer to send you a money order. Strangely, if you agree to this you will find that when the money order arrives that it’s for a higher amount than what you agreed on. The buyer will then ask you to send the overage back since they were unaware you made a mistake. By the time the whole thing is over, you will discover that the money order is fake and you’re not only out the money for the items, but you sent even more money to them too.

As you can see, these scams are easy to fall for if you’re not watching for them, so if something even seems remotely off, it’s always best to take a step back and think about it before you agree to the deal. Also, keep in mind that these types of scams usually go out to sellers everywhere, so if you mention the emails on a ecommerce board, there is usually a good chance that someone on there has received the exact same email or one similar to it.

Have you ever received one of these emails or had an experience with a scammer? Leave a comment below.

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EBay to Spin Off PayPal in 2015

By Kate Hornsby | October 1, 2014

Apparently, all the rumors you heard were true. Yesterday, eBay announced that they will indeed spin off PayPal and make it a separate entity. As I mentioned after the rumors began spreading back in August, this is an extreme about face for eBay’s CEO John Donahoe, who was initially strongly against the idea. His comments when he was first questioned about it were that PayPal was essential to eBay’s business and that a split didn’t make good business sense.

Now, the official announcement on eBay’s website is that there will indeed be a spin off and it will occur sometime before the end of 2015 (the announcement says it will take about 12 months to finalize all of it). Apparently, Donahoe and CFO Bob Swan will oversee both companies during the separation and then plan to serve on the board for both companies as well.

Meanwhile, eBay is getting a new CEO as Devin Wenig takes the helm after the split, while Dan Schulman will become the new President of PayPal. Actually, as of yesterday, that part about Schuman has already happened.  He will then move up and become the new CEO after PayPal becomes its own company.

Although this move sounds like a good idea for PayPal, sellers at eBay aren’t quite as convinced that it’s the best thing for the online marketplace. In fact, if you check in on several of the Facebook pages that are devoted to selling on eBay, quite a few sellers are speculating that eBay has started circling the drain. Whether it has or not, the general consensus seems to be to ride it out through the holiday season and then start looking for other venues to sell on (if you’re not already).

While no one knows for sure how all of this is going to play out, if you look at how investors are viewing it, it really is a scary thing. EBay shares dipped after the news came out. Most investors think the move is good for PayPal because they can pair up with the competition and places like the Alibaba Group or even perhaps Amazon. They aren’t as favorable about the spin off, however, when it comes to eBay. In fact, Moody’s (Investor Services) actually downgraded eBay saying they felt that without PayPal the online marketplace will have weaker credit making it a bigger investment risk.

What’s your opinion of the spin off? Do you believe it’s the beginning of the end for eBay or a fresh new beginning? Leave your comments below.

 

Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A Loving Tribute to My “Original Authority Figure”

By Kat Simpson | September 29, 2014

cliff ennico[My mother, Ruth Frenz Ennico, passed away earlier this year at the age of 85.  The following is taken from the eulogy I delivered at her memorial service last week.]

It’s never easy to lose your Mom.  No matter how old or ill she was, no matter how prepared you think you are for her passing, the actual event always comes as a shock.

A friend of mine explained it best shortly after hearing of Mom’s passing:  “virtually all of our early childhood memories are memories of our mothers.”

My Mom, like me, was an only child.  A member of the Greatest Generation, she lived and suffered through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War as they all did.  But in my Mom’s case that suffering went much, much deeper.  My Mom had a childhood that can truly be described as Dickensian.

My Mom’s early years were spent in a fourth-floor walkup apartment in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood.  There were four apartments on that floor, with one shared bathroom.  One of my Mom’s earliest memories was of her father going into that bathroom early in the morning and stamping his feet so that the rats would run for cover.

In 1936, when my Mom was eight years old, her father abandoned her and her mother, taking to the rails as an itinerant worker (translation: hobo or bum), never to be heard from again.  Her mother could no longer afford the Harlem apartment, so she and my Mom packed up and moved in with a relative in the South Bronx.  Mom had to give away all of her toys, dolls and clothing except for two or three outfits that would fit into a single desk drawer, because that was all the room available for her possessions.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for an eight year old to lose her father, her home and her possessions all at once, without any warning?

This is a sad story, but I tell it because it explains so much about my Mom, the woman she became, and the things she loved.  Often, especially during her last decade, she would behave in ways that were eccentric at best, exasperating at worst.  Whenever she did, I always tried to remember that little eight year old girl, and I always tried to cut her some slack.

So what were the things my Mom loved?

She Loved Her Possessions.  When my Mom got hold of something, she never, ever let it go.  Everything in my Mom’s apartment – over 12,000 items at the time of her death – had a deep personal meaning to her.  She wouldn’t part with anything, and if you accidentally broke something in her apartment, she wouldn’t talk to you for weeks.

Whenever we would go to a restaurant to eat she would bring a huge empty leather purse, into which she would empty the entire contents of the salad bar.  I know it sounds funny, but remember that eight year old girl.

She Loved Shopping.  When I was a boy I dreaded shopping for clothes with my Mom.  If there were 32 pairs of slacks available in my size, I had to try on each and every one to make sure I was getting the best possible pair.  When my Mom bought you a gift, she would spend hours, even days, looking for that single, perfect gift you would cherish forever, as she herself would.  I never saw her give a gift certificate to anyone, ever.

She Loved My Father.  My Mom and Dad shared an amazing 50 year romance.  They argued and squabbled just like anyone else, but they also made it a point to demonstrate their love for each other each and every day they were married, until my Dad’s passing in 2000.  There was no way my Dad was going to end up riding the rails.

She Loved Me.  I cannot say that I was spoiled the way many only children are.  Mom expected much from me, and believed (I think correctly) that kids don’t push themselves to excel unless someone pushes them first.  At the time I misunderstood her pushing as coldness, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t.

She Loved to Talk.  My Mom loved to talk, for hours, on the telephone to people she hadn’t seen in years.  If she felt she had a captive audience, she wouldn’t let you go.  She could take a trip to the grocery store and turn it into an Icelandic Saga, talking for hours, without pausing for breath.

Today I speak about 40 to 50 times a year to business and professional groups throughout North America.  I am known for my storytelling skills, my podium humor, and my ability to explain things so that a sixth grade child can understand them.  Gee, I wonder where that came from?

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.  Rest in peace.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

 

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PayPal announces update to user agreement

By Kate Hornsby | September 26, 2014

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If you’re an online seller, there are probably some days that you think you are fighting a losing battle in the marketplace. Amazon makes policy changes and it become a little harder to sell certain types of items. EBay makes policy changes and suddenly sellers have to worry about how defect rates will affect them. Now, PayPal has decided to change its user agreement and sellers have that to worry about too.

Changes you ask? Well, last week PayPal announced that as of November 18, 2014, buyers will now have up to six months to file a claim for “Item Not Received” or “ Significantly Not as Described.” That’s a pretty significant time increase since as of now buyers have 45 days and the change in November will give them 180 days.

If you’re wondering if this is something you really need to worry about, well — yeah, you probably should.

Basically, this user agreement change gives buyers the ability to use the item they bought for six months and then ask for their money back. As you can imagine, when this policy change was announced in the U.K. back in June it went over like a ton of bricks.

Speaking of the selling across the pond, if you’re a seller who accepts international buyers, you’ll also need to acquaint yourself with the policies PayPal has in other countries. They’re tweaking that section of the user agreement too and it now basically states “PayPal’s Seller Protection and Buyer Protection policies may vary from country to country. If you as a seller, sell an item to a buyer from another country, you will be subject to Buyer and Seller Protection policies applicable to your buyer’s country.”

PayPal is also making a small change to the protection they are providing buyers for custom-made products. The coverage for custom-made products will now include claims for “Items Not Received,” but thankfully, it will not apply to SNAD or rather “Significantly Not as Described.”

Finally, there is a little good news in the fact that there are still some things that won’t fall under PayPal’s Purchase Protection. As an example, intangible goods aren’t covered and that includes digital goods. Real estate isn’t cover either, nor are vehicles, services or airline tickets.

You can read about all of PayPal’s announced changes here.

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Kabbage Launches Karrot: Personal Loans Made Simple

By Kat Simpson | September 25, 2014

karrotKabbage, Inc., the leading online provider of small business loans, announced today the launch of Karrot Personal Loans, the only fully automated personal loan marketplace in the industry. Karrot will provide consumers with the same simple and streamlined access to loans for which Kabbage is known. Karrot’s launch enables institutional investors to directly fund consumers through its new marketplace lending program.

Today’s announcement validates the extensibility of Kabbage’s technology and data platform as it continues to serve more customers. Kabbage is the only company in the financial services industry to expand internationally and grow to serve both consumers and small businesses in less than four years since its launch.

Karrot personal loans range up to $35,000 with a 36 or 60-month term at http://www.karrot.com. Fixed rates are as low as 6.44% APR* for the life of the loan, representing significant savings over rates offered by many credit card companies which average 21%. Karrot’s automated platform enables a customer to go from application to approval in minutes, with delivery of funds as soon as the next day. Multiple institutional investors are already funding loans through the platform.

“When we launched Kabbage, we created an entirely new way for small businesses to access capital and, in the process, made it simple and intuitive,” said Rob Frohwein, Kabbage co-founder and CEO. “Today we have extended this elegant process to the personal loan category to provide low-cost personal loans to consumers seeking access to less expensive credit. We will continue to innovate beyond today’s announcement, delivering real and robust technology solutions to the financial services industry.”

About Kabbage
Kabbage, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia has pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide fully automated funding to small business in minutes. Kabbage leverages data generated through business activity such as accounting data, online sales, shipping, and dozens of other sources to understand performance and deliver fast, flexible funding in real time. Kabbage also offers simple consumer loans through its automated platform under the brand http://www.karrot.com. Kabbage is venture funded and backed by SoftBank Capital, Thomvest Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, BlueRun Ventures, the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, TCW/Craton and additional investors including Ron Conway’s SV Angel, David Bonderman, founder of TPG Capital, and Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc. All Kabbage and Karrot U.S. based loans are made by Celtic Bank, a Utah-Chartered Industrial Bank, member FDIC. For more information, please visit http://www.kabbage.com and follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.

Topics: eCommerce News, Kabbage, Press Releases | No Comments »

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