How will Twitter’s changes affect your tweets?

Twitter Logo

Sometimes it seems like the world of online selling is all about change. EBay constantly changes. Amazon constantly changes. Advertising on Facebook constantly changes, and now Twitter is about to have a change too.

That’s right, another change to the Internet is on the way. Although Twitter has perhaps been one of the more constant sites in the Internet sea of change, all of that comes to an end on November 20, 2015. That’s when Twitter will do away with one of it’s buttons – the tweet count number.

To be fair, the site hasn’t changed its buttons since all the way back in 2011. Twitter states that although the share counts will be gone, Twitter members will still be able to know how many followers they have, so the good news is that this part of Twitter won’t change.

Why the change?

Twitter’s explanation for the change centers around the fact that the count never was actually intended for use by members, but rather as a way for Twitter’s own use when working with web widgets. The other reason (and probably the more important one) is that they are stepping away from the data management system “Cassandra” and moving toward a real-time, multi-tenant distributed database known as “Manhattan.” Apparently, although Manhaatan will bring a bunch of improvements to the folks at Twitter, its downside is that it doesn’t support this type of counting.

If this sounds familiar

If all of this sounds kind of familiar, it may be because some marketers are comparing it to the big Google analytics change that occurred a while back. As you may recall, the change made it where search results would come up for users, but with no clear explanation as to why results show up the way they do. The general consensus is that without knowing how many times an article or product has been shared, sellers have no way of knowing if they’ve got their advertising just right, or whether they are headed in the right direction with their marketing.

How will this ultimately affect sellers?

Although knowing the number of times an item has been tweeted is a nice thing to know, it really shouldn’t affect a seller’s use of Twitter all that much. As long as you’re providing quality products or great content, followers will continue to share. If this count has been something that you monitor closely, however, all hope is not lost. You can still access some of this type of information by looking at Twitter analytics to help gauge your follower’s interest.

If you’ve like to learn more about the upcoming change, you can read Twitter’s official announcement here.

What do you think about the upcoming change? Leave a comment below.

The Business Plan: Where to go – what to do

Brainstorming business plan on a paper by drawing schemas, infographics, diagrams. Free HD video
If you’re like a lot of online sellers you may have some idea of where you want your business to go, but you probably don’t have your ideas written down. These ideas, or rather, the goals you set for your business are the cornerstone of your online business (or any type of business) and when they are written down, they are typically referred to as a business plan.

Although creating a written business plan for your online business may seem like a daunting task, in reality, it really is just simply a matter of taking those ideas that you have had floating around in your head and getting them put down on paper. This is sometimes hard to do if you are just getting started with your online business, but even if you don’t know all the numbers or exactly where the business is headed, it still is a good idea to at least do an estimate, or what you might call, an estimated guess.

So, what are the types of things you want to include in your business plan? Well, the first step is to create a goal for how much money you plan to make from your online sales. From this number, you will then want to estimate your expenses. These should include your fees, taxes to be paid, the cost of shipping materials, the actual cost of your items and so on. The amount of money you have left after these expenses have been paid, is then considered your profit and is how much you get to actually put in your pocket.

The next step for your business plan is to then decide how you will execute the plan. This is done by creating smaller goals that will help you to meet the bigger goals you have set.

Keep in mind, your business plan is thought to be fluid, meaning that it will constantly change over time. Business plans are sometimes referred to as living documents, since the goals and even the plan itself often changes over time. Initially, you may want to review your plan every couple of months and then eventually, at least once a quarter. If you find that you are getting too far away from your goals, you can then take steps to make a correction.

While business plans can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, if you plan to use your business plan to procure funding for your online business, there are guidelines you should follow. You can learn more about building a business plan by visiting here.

Do you use a business plan for your online company? Leave a comment below.

What to do when there is nothing left to do

Beach Baby
The days are getting shorter, the nights (and some days!) are getting cooler and Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re like most sellers, you’re ready for the holiday season and the buyers it will bring…but…at the moment…you’re pretty much not doing anything except just twiddling your thumbs.

What to do? What to do?

Earlier in the week, we touched on some things that you could do to get ready for the shopping season, but what if you’ve already done all that? What’s left? Well, have you thought about taking a break?

That’s right. A break. Some downtime. A fall furlough, if you will. Although it may seem like the time you have left this month should be used for getting it into high gear, the two weeks before Halloween are also an excellent time to step away from your online business.

While it may not seem reasonable or even be feasible to just shut it down for two weeks, you can limit the amount of time that you spend on your business. Modify your schedule where you check in on your business either first thing in the morning or later in the day, then use the time in between to relax and unwind.

Some things you could do with your new found time could include:

Doing absolutely nothing! Sleep late. Catch up on your favorite shows on Netflix. Except for your scheduled times, stay away from the computer, turn off your cellphone and just simply sit and BE.

Plan for next year. It may seem counter-productive to be thinking about work when you’re taking time away from it, but after a day or two of not doing all that listing and other store related stuff, you may find that you’re able to more clearly focus on what you want to do with your online business in the coming year.

Interestingly, a lot of business coaches prefer the month of October as the month to create and nail down a business plan. This way, you’ve got plenty of time to determine how you will execute your plan and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the new year rolls around.

Schedule some family time. If you’re like most people, your family is the reason you do all that hard work in the first place. Spend some family time together or catch up with some old friends who you haven’t had a chance to visit with in a while. It will not only rejuvenate your spirit, but will also most likely give you some new perspective on why it really is that you’ve been working so hard these past 10 months.

Will you be taking some time off before the holiday season starts? Leave a comment below.

Report From eCom Chicago – by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico HeadshotI just got back from speaking at this year’s eCom Chicago conference for online retailers (ecomchicago.com).

A little history: about eight years ago, when eBay started cutting back on its popular outreach programs for eBay sellers, eBay sellers starting forming their own mutual support groups called “meetups” (for a complete list of all eBay meetup groups around the U.S., see ebaysell.meetup.com).

One of the earliest meetup groups was the Chicagoland Area eBay & eCommerce Sellers MeetUp Group, founded in 2006. Today the group, co-chaired by Mark and Robin LeVine of Bubblefast.com (a leading online purveyor of bubblewrap and other shipping supplies) and Rich and Nila Siok of AppealingSigns.com (a leading online purveyor of customized signs for small businesses), boasts about 1,000 active members and sponsors the annual eCom Chicago conference in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

As new online platforms such as Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and etsy.com have come onto the scene, the conference has expanded its scope beyond eBay to include people who sell on these platforms.

This year’s event attracted over 200 sellers from all corners of the country and some of the top speakers on the national eCommerce circuit. Here are some tips and new resources I learned about at the conference:

According to Chris Green, co-founder of ScanPower (chris@scanpower.com), the latest big news from Amazon is their “merch” program (merch.amazon.com), an on-demand service that enables you to create, sell and promote your custom-branded teeshirts with no out-of-pocket costs to you. Says Green, “they have already launched a similar service for print-on-demand books (www.createspace.com), and are looking to develop other similar services using 3D-printing technology. We will soon be living in a world where nobody will have to carry physical inventory of any products – everything will be printed or created in response to individual orders.”

Thinking about selling on Amazon FBA for the first time? “Amazon FBA Launch Pad,” a new book by Amy Feierman (amy@amyfeierman.com), is a step-by-step guide for the novice seller, written in plain English.

If you need to process information visually, you can subscribe to BuyBox.club, a monthly DVD package published and hosted by Brandon Dupsky (brandon@ecommercemoney.com) featuring lectures and seminars by leading eCommerce experts (including most of the speakers at eCom Chicago).

Okay, so maybe you just want to listen to podcasts on your iPod while jogging. Ron LeBeau (ron@soyouwannasellonebay.com) hosts an eBay podcast, while Kat Simpson (www.thatkat.com) hosts one for Amazon FBA sellers.

Looking to buy tons of inventory from liquidators but don’t want to get “stung” by buying counterfeit or expired merchandise that will get you kicked off of eBay or Amazon? Bulq.com is a new service that guarantees “98% manifest accuracy, or we’ll make it right.”

The next big mobile smartphone app for online retailers (and lots of other folks) is Periscope® (www.periscope.tv), a streaming video app that lets you look at the world through someone else’s eyes. With the app, you can shoot video of your products, demos and other people (with their permission, of course) and upload the videos to social media in “real time”, according to eCommerce guru and professional actress Kathy Terrill (ilovetobeselling.com).

Did you know that if you are selling “sexual health” items on Amazon, you must ship them in a black “polybag” having certain specific dimensions? Whether you do or not, you can get these from bubblefast.com (and yes, they do come in a plain brown wrapper).

What do you do if your Amazon FBA account is suspended for violations of Amazon’s many complex selling rules, or because someone else (perhaps a competitor) has accused you of selling counterfeit merchandise? Cynthia Stine (cynthia@onlinesalesstepbystep.com), author of the new book “Suspension Prevention: Get Reinstated and protect Your Amazon Seller Account”, offers the following suggestions:

  • Review your Imperfect Orders, Returns, and Negative Feedback reports every week and take action when you see three or more issues for one of your listings during the previous 60 days.
  • Check your inventory carefully against the listing on Amazon before sending it in. Many sellers are surprised to get “not as described,” “not as advertised,” and “defective” claims because the product the customer received does not match the picture and/or description on Amazon exactly.
  • Don’t sell product you don’t own. While this advice upsets drop-shipper sellers, the fact is they are highly vulnerable to suspension. Amazon regularly suspends for shipping and product quality problems and sellers have no recourse because they don’t control their inventory.
  • Buy from authorized sources. If the authenticity of your products is ever questioned, you must provide invoices or receipts from legitimate distributors, large retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers that include the full product name and – preferably – the UPC code.

And here’s one from me: when someone (especially the manufacturer) accuses you of selling counterfeit goods, respond promptly with an e-mail denying the accusation. The message should include proof that you have every reason to believe your merchandise is genuine, a statement that you “have been advised by our legal counsel that we have every right to sell this merchandise”, and an offer to make your legal counsel available to answer any questions your accuser may have. In my experience, that e-mail will end any “bullying” and lead to a more positive conversation that should resolve the dispute.

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

4 Things That Can Help Your Amazon Sales This Holiday Season

Christmas Continued
If you’ve been selling on Amazon for any length of time, you know that the holiday shopping season is the busiest time of the year. While you no doubt are already considering how much inventory you should carry throughout the holiday season, you may be overlooking some of the other fundamentals that could affect your sales. Here’s some thing to consider trying to ensure your holiday season stays merry and bright.

Check those listings

Take advantage of the slower sales in October and early November to check that the information on your listings are all in good shape. Are the descriptions right? Are you using all the available spaces for your keywords? Watch for product language that might confuse buyers or could even affect the item’s search performance.

Send that inventory in

If you use Amazon’s FBA services, you may be leery of the extra storage cost you may incur if you send your inventory in too early. With all those Black Friday sales starting up earlier and earlier each year, however, many buyers aren’t waiting until Black Friday anymore to do their Christmas shopping. This means that you generally have a much bigger chance of losing money by being out of stock on an item than you will spend by sending in your holiday inventory a few weeks earlier at the beginning of November instead of just a week or so before the big day.

Move out that old inventory

Although you are probably concentrating on getting new inventory into your store for the holidays, don’t forget about the inventory you already have. Mid-December is the perfect time to cut the prices on the old inventory and work to move it right out the door. This not only can help increase your sales, it also helps overturn that stale inventory that has been hanging around just a little too long.

Adjust that pricing

As Christmas approaches and the days of December are running out, a pattern will usually emerge as to which items in your inventory are popular and which are not. Consider reducing the price on the more unpopular items to make them more appealing for last minute shoppers. Since these shoppers are typically buying the items as gifts to give rather than for themselves, the lower prices can help make your items stand out.

Are you ready for the holiday season? Leave a comment below.

How to manage a full-time job and an online business

New Laptop

Running a profitable online business while working a full-time job can be a challenge. While some people manage to pull it off either because they need the extra income or they hope to one day transition into selling online full-time, others seem to struggle. If you’re one of the latter or just getting started, here’s some ways that can help.

Organize your workspace

When you have limited time to work on your online business, you may be tempted to simply jump in anywhere you can just so you can get started. Taking some time to create an organized workspace will not only actually save you time in the long run, but also save you money. One way to do this is to create a designated place where you will work.

Since you have a limited time to create listing or prepare shipments, you will need a permanent to semi-permanent area where you will take photos and weigh your items. You will also want a designated place to work as your shipping station. Since everything you need is contained in one area, this allows you to get started on your listings immediately when you’re ready, instead of having to set everything up each time you want to list.

Create a schedule

Knowing ahead of time what you will be doing each day can help keep you on track during the week. As an example, you might take all your photos each weekend, then have them ready to list all through the week. If you’re very limited on the time you can devote to your online business, you may even find it easier to simply do one complete listing each night. Play with your schedule to see what method works best for you, then determine when and how much time you will devote to your online business each week.

Hire an assistant

Although it initially takes away from your profits, hiring an assistant to help with your listings allows you to not only get more done, but ultimately allows you to list more so you can have more money coming in. Hire your children to work with you to make it a family business, or in the alternative, use a virtual assistant to work on your listings while your away at your full-time job.

Give yourself some time off

While you may want to give your online business all you’ve got left after your regular job, it’s easy to burn-out when you come in from a full-time job and then put in another three or four hours in on your online business until bedtime. Scheduling days off or an hour each evening to spend time with your family (or to simply give yourself a break) can help keep your battery charged and stop burn-out from occurring.

Do you work full-time and have an online business? What tips do you have to keep it all balanced? Leave a comment below.

Back to the Future’s Pepsi Perfect Makes EBay Appearance

kat5

Back to the Future first appeared in theaters back in 1985 and starred Michael J Fox as Marty McFly. In the film, a teenage Marty travels back in time to the year 1955, where he meets what will one day be his parents only their in teenage form.

Unfortunately, Marty accidentally changes time and inadvertently becomes the romantic interest of his mother. Marty then works to repair the damage he has caused, getting his parents to fall in love before returning to the year 1985.

An 80s classic, Back to the Future then went on to spur two sequels Back to the Future II and Back to the Future III. In Back to the Future II, Marty travels forward in time to stop his son from being falsely convicted and sent to prison. The travel date for Marty’s second adventure? None other than October 21, 2015.

In honor of the impending date Pepsi announced that they would begin limited production of “Pepsi Perfect,” a soft drink which was featured prominently in Marty’s future 2015. To kick off the promotion, Pepsi made some free bottles of Pepsi Perfect that were then given away at the New York Comic Con. Attendees could win a free bottle by dressing up like Marty McFly or, in the alternative, playing a Back to the Future arcade game.

As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for the bottle to start showing up on eBay for sale with winning bids coming in at $200 and up. If you weren’t at the New York Comic Con, but still want an opportunity to own a bottle for yourself or to sell, don’t lose hope. Pepsi will produce 6,500 additional Pepsi Perfect bottles that will be for sale on Amazon.com on October 21, 2015. Sale price? Well, you can purchase one for $20.15.

Of course…if you have access to a time-traveling DeLorean, you obviously don’t have to wait.

Will you try to purchase a bottle of Pepsi Perfect? Lave a comment below.

Can Amazon Lure Etsy Sellers With Handmade Marketplace?

amazonhandmade
Well, it looks like Amazon has upped its game again. This time its going head to head with Etsy by opening a new marketplace called Handmade at Amazon. The marketplace, which went live yesterday at 3 a.m. Eastern time, boasts 80,000 items with some 5,000 sellers hailing from around 60 countries.

It really should come as no surprise that Amazon is looking to dominate yet another marketplace, especially when you consider that handmade items are hot and one of the more lucrative markets one can sell in. Consider this – the handmade niche has grown into a $2 billion a year industry and shows no signs of slowing down.

The move isn’t actually a surprise though. Handmade at Amazon has been in the planning stages since earlier in the year. In fact, this past May, Amazon began sending out invitations not only to artisans they were interested in working with, but also to Etsy’s own sellers, asking them if they wanted to participate.

Is Handmade at Amazon worth taking a look?

Well, it depends.

The fees for Amazon Handmade make it higher to list there than at Etsy ($39.95 plus Amazon’s 12 percent commission versus Etsy’s 20 cents per listing plus 3.5 percent in commission), but for sellers who have stores with 200 items or higher, they will find it cheaper to list on Amazon. Keep in mind, however, that fee wise, the 3.5 percent is going to outweigh Amazon’s 12 percent no matter how many items you list.

Still, for sellers wanting to expand into other areas this could make sense. It’s a great way to get more exposure and with Amazon’s weight behind it this could be the way to do it. Plus, the holidays are almost upon us and you know that Amazon will be out in full force promoting its newest marketplace.

Are you selling on Handmade at Amazon or thinking about it? Share your opinion about the new marketplace by leaving a comment below.

Some Tips For “Private Label” Sellers On Amazon – Guest Post by Cliff Ennico

Ciff Ennico HeadshotIf you were selling new merchandise on eBay five or ten years ago (as opposed to antiques and collectibles), chances are you are now selling that merchandise on Amazon.com.

Amazon has two programs targeting independent online retailers – Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM). An FBA seller ships merchandise to Amazon, which warehouses the merchandise, processes customer orders, charges a fee and remits the balance to the seller. An FBM merchant offers merchandise for sale on Amazon, but handles all inventory, warehousing and fulfillment itself.

The programs have proven immensely popular, especially with former eBay sellers who have rebelled en masse against changes to eBay’s business model that have been perceived as anti-seller. Approximately 2 million people and small businesses sell merchandise on Amazon, accounting for roughly 50% of Amazon’s total worldwide sales yearly. Roughly 300 of those sellers, and 20 companies providing products and services to help these sellers build their businesses, came to Seattle, Washington last weekend to participate in the annual Sellers’ Conference for Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE), the country’s oldest event for independent retailers selling on Amazon.com (www.scoe.biz).

I was privileged not only to attend this two-day event but to give three presentations on legal and tax issues affecting Amazon FBA and FBM sellers. Here are some of the new things I learned during the conference:

  • when setting up your Amazon product page, make sure you spend time optimizing it for search engines because Amazon will not do that for you – there’s only a 20% chance that Amazon buyers will look at the second page of search results, and a good product image can increase sales by 250%, according to online retail expert Lisa Suttora (www.lisasuttora.com), who added that you can “buy your way to page one” by participating in Amazon’s Sponsored Products program (http://services.amazon.com/services/sponsored-products-questions.htm?ld=SEUSFBAGOOGB);
  • are you looking for source inventory in China but are afraid you will end up doing business with a less-than-competent manufacturer or supplier? Shenzhen WinWin Technology Co., Ltd. (www.winwin-tech.com) not only speaks the language but understands the landscape, working with clients to develop and design new products, source new products, create and produce new packaging and graphics, and ship directly to Amazon by air or water;
  • as an “importer of record” from China or any other country, your business is responsible for complying with all U.S. laws relating to your products, and foreign laws also if you re-export there, according to former Amazon compliance executive Rachel Greer (www.cascadiapts.com), whose new firm offers product testing and inspection services required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal government agencies in the U.S.;
  • Zoobilee.com, a leading account management service used by Amazon sellers who sell across multiple channels, announced during the show that users of its flagship product, TheArtofBooks (www.theartofbooks.com), can now automate multi-channel fulfillment services to keep track of their inventory and orders on Amazon, eBay, etsy and other online platforms (www.zoobilee.com);
  • Keep close track of product expiration dates to avoid being suspended by Amazon, according to Peter Kearns of FeedVisor (www.feedvisor.com) – for example, a bottle of vitamin supplements with a 300 count and recommended dosage of one tablet per day has technically expired if the expiration date is only 90 days in the future; and
  • to avoid having Amazon pulling your product pages or suspending your account, keep track of your customer feedback at least daily and address any issues promptly before Amazon does, according to Cynthia Stine, author of the book “Make Thousands on Amazon in 10 Hours a Week!” (www.onlinesalesstepbystep.com).

A growing number of Amazon sellers are offering “private label” merchandise on the site. In a “private label” transaction, a reseller orders generic non-branded product from a vendor (usually in China or overseas), and resells the product using the reseller’s own trademarks, logo, packaging and other identifying features (if you have ever bought the CVS or Walgreen’s version of an over-the-counter medication or vitamin product you have purchased a “private label” product). While there is nothing illegal about “private labeling” as such, you now have all of the legal responsibilities and liabilities of a product manufacturer. Specifically, among other things, you must now:

  • make sure your product doesn’t infringe anybody else’s U.S. patent;
  • defend your trademark against copycats and knockoff merchandise;
  • make sure your product packaging, labeling and disclaimers all comply with U.S. government regulations (for example, must you have French and Spanish translations of any health warnings?);
  • test and inspect your product as the Government requires; and
  • provide and honor your own product warranties.

If you are “private labeling” merchandise you must – must – get products liability insurance in case your product injures someone, or worse. You can’t rely on your manufacturer’s insurance policy, because they probably don’t carry this very expensive coverage.

If you are sticking your “private label” on trademarked products without the manufacturer’s consent, that’s not “private labeling”, that’s trademark infringement, “misuse of trade dress,” and possibly even theft. You will get sued. Don’t do it.

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

EBay Announces More Free Listings

Sellers on eBay are usually leery whenever an announcement comes out mid-season about listings and fees, but the announcement this week was a nice big surprise. The company has announced that it is increasing the number of listings that sellers can post without having to pay upfront fees. It also stated that it will allow sellers the ability to list more items by increasing their listing limits.

It’s probably comes as no surprise that the change is scheduled to go into effect just prior to the big kickoff for the holiday season with limits officially increasing starting on October 15. Jordan Sweetnam, vice president of seller experience states in the announcement that in addition to increasing the free listings, eBay is also providing more flexibility with the free listing format and the categories as well. This means that more items should qualify for the zero insertion fee allotment.

You can see an idea of the new fee structure here:

ebay price chart

Although the change affects both sellers with and without eBay Stores subscriptions, it appears that those who currently don’t have an eBay Store will get an opportunity to see the biggest increase. Non-store sellers will get an increase in monthly allotment going from 20 to 50 zero insertion fees for both auction-style and fixed price listings. These increases will be in nearly all of the categories. Meanwhile, sellers who currently have a Basic Store will see there numbers increased from 150 to 200 zero-insertion fee on their fixed-price listings.

In addition, eBay will extend the amount of free listings that those with a store have for the auction format, so instead of the free listings just applying to Collectibles, they will include the Fashion categories as well. This means that the free listings will now also include Clothing, Shoes and Accessories, Jewelry and Watches, and Health and Beauty.

While this certainly is welcome news to sellers, some members still can’t help but wonder if this is an attempt to lure sellers back from Amazon since the the Amazon marketplace allows members to list for free in all categories. You can read the full eBay announcement here.

Will you take advantage of the increase in listings amounts? Leave a comment below.