If it fits, it ships – in an eBay box that is!

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EBay sellers may have sold around $82 billion in items through the online marketplace last year, but you really wouldn’t know this by simply looking at the boxes and envelopes that sellers send through the mail each week. Unlike Amazon’s FBA program, which delivers items to buyers in boxes depicting the Amazon logo, eBay sellers are free to use any type of packaging they wish – and they usually do.

If eBay has its way, however, all of that may soon change. EBay has announced that they will soon open a supplies store that will give sellers the opportunity to buy quality boxes, envelopes and tape in an assortment of sizes, all featuring the eBay logo.

According to eBay, they will provide a license to a third-party fulfillment partner, who will then have the ability to sell items with the eBay logo. The store will initially provide boxes for sale in 10 different sizes, as well as bubble mailers and polyjacket mailers. They will also sell premium quality shipping tape.

Although the store is not really expected to affect eBay sales in a big way, it does seem to be a push for the company to become more “Amazon-like.” The question for sellers, however, is this something sellers will really want to embrace? Many Top-Rated sellers rely on their own branding to help increase their sales and they aren’t really interested in pushing an agenda for eBay.

Still, eBay states that the move is because this is something that sellers actually want and that they are willing to pay for shipping supplies sporting the eBay logo if the price is right and they are convenient items to order. How about you? Will you be purchasing eBay shipping materials? Leave a comment below.

How to put a little extra jingle in your pocket with expedited shipping

Christmas presents

Can you believe it’s only fifteen days until Christmas? As an eBay seller, this means that you have made it through both the pre and peak phases of this year’s holiday shopping season. You may be letting out a big sigh of relief right about now, but it’s not time to be resting on your laurels. There are still two phases left for holiday shopping. The “last minute” phase, which runs from about the 15th to the 24th and the after Christmas phase, which runs from December 26th to about the second week of January.

Today, let’s talk about the “last minute” phase and how you can use it to make a little extra cash for the holiday season.

Although many buyers shop early to get the best deals, there will always be those who haven’t quite gotten into that holiday spirit yet and generally don’t even start thinking about buying for the holidays until the last possible moment. Here’s how you can cash in on those last minute buyers.

Offer expedited and/or overnight shipping. While last minute buyers are still on the lookout for those last-minute deals, these types of buyers aren’t as worried about getting the lowest price, they just need to make sure that what they buy will arrive before the big day. Offer expedited and/or overnight shipping to help ensure that their items make it there by Christmas Day.

Promote that you offer expedited shipping. Use social media to let buyers know that you have what they need and you are ready to ship it quickly. You may also find it beneficial to offer promotional shipping as a way to get the buyer to spend more in your store. As an example, you could offer free expedited shipping to buyers who purchase at least $100 in your store. You can find out more about running these types of promotions on eBay by visiting here.

Keep an eye on carrier deadlines. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. At some point, there will be a cutoff point for the carrier you use and any items shipped after that cutoff point are not going to make it before the big day unless Santa stops and picks it up from you himself. Knowing these dates and letting buyers know them can make the difference between a merry Christmas and having to deal with a disgruntled buyer who doesn’t understand why their items didn’t arrive even though they paid for the expedited shipping.

Do you offer expedited shipping for last minute buyers? Leave a comment below.

If it fits, it ships – unless it’s Media Mail

Mailbox

The other day I took two packages to the post office to mail. Since they weren’t eBay related and I really didn’t want to take the time to try to run the postage through PayPal, I decided to just stand in line and let the post office figure the postage out (besides I needed stamps…).

The woman that waited on me knows that I sell on eBay, so when she saw the way my two packages looked, she asked if they were books to go by Media Mail. Unfortunately, they were magazines, which is a big Media Mail no-no, so I ended up using Priority shipping instead.

The reason that I’m telling you this is that with Christmas just around the corner, a lot of sellers will be relying on Media Mail to lower their shipping costs. The problem is, not everyone knows what type of items qualify for Media Mail, or even how Media Mail actually works.

Although Media Mail is a cheaper class of mail, a lot of buyers (and sellers!) don’t realize that it can take as long as three weeks for the item to reach them. This means that if a buyer wants the product for Christmas and orders it the second week of December, it may or may not make it by the big day. If you plan to use Media Mail this holiday season, it is generally considered best to use it as an option for cheaper shipping, but make sure to also offer Priority or First Class as a faster way to go. That way, the buyer can choose whether they want it to ship for a cheaper price or whether they want to receive it faster.

The question then becomes, what exactly can you ship through Media Mail? Some items may seem like they would qualify for this type of shipping, but actually don’t. This means that if you use Media Mail and the post office discovers you’ve shipped non-media items, they can charge the buyer with the additional postage fee that are due on delivery.

So, what can you ship through Media Mail? The post office states that approved media items include:

Books
Printed Music
16 mm films
Printed educational and test materials
Sound and video recordings

Interestingly, one of the main items that cause problems for sellers is magazines (as I mentioned earlier). While you would certainly think that a magazine is a type of media, it actually doesn’t count because they typically contain advertising. Other items that seem like they would qualify include, empty CD, DVD, or VHS cases, scap-booking supplies and notebooks. Even empty notebooks are considered a no-no.

Interested in learning more about Media Mail? You can visit the USPS website here to learn more.

Will you be using Media Mail this holiday season? Leave a comment below.

Shipping: To recycle or not to recycle

250-365 (Year 6) Boxing Day
Recycling shipping materials is a funny thing. On one hand, you’re helping to save trees and the environment by reusing packaging items. On the other hand, some sellers aren’t happy when the item they bought arrives in a box with a popcorn or cereal logo on the outside of it.

Although there is nothing wrong with recycling and truthfully, the world would be a much better place if everyone did it, you still need to do some thinking before you decide to mail something in that old cereal box that you were about to throw away.

For one thing, not all boxes are created equally. Some boxes are just too thin to withstand all that tossing and throwing about that they may receive, not to mention they may end up at the bottom of a big pile of other heavier boxes. Other boxes may actually be so thick and padded that they actually add weight to your shipping cost and you certainly don’t want that.

The other problem you may run into is the perception given to the buyer when their treasured item arrives in a box that formerly held bologna or baby diapers. Although it’s cost saving and the item may perfectly fit, the presentation of the package may make the buyer question whether to purchase from you again.

On the other end of the equation is using boxes and mailers that were designed for shipping, but then may have traveled back and forth one too many times, or arrive stuffed so full that it’s amazing the whole thing didn’t burst open at the seams. In other words, sometimes that old USPS saying of “if it fits, it ships” gets taken just a little too literally.

So, the question is, just because you can use recycled materials for shipping, does it actually mean that you should use them? Well, perhaps yes and no. First, if you’ve sold an expensive item, it really deserves to have its own packaging. This will not only make the presentation look better when it arrives, but it keeps you from attempting to put something into a box that is too little or too big just because it is a recycled box that you have on hand. If you’re selling an older and fairly inexpensive book, however, there is nothing really wrong with using an old mailer to ship it in.

One word of caution though – avoid turning the bag or box inside out if it’s from a different carrier. As an example, you received something from UPS, but want to ship something else in it through the post office. Not only is this a gray area with the carrier services, but it rubs some buyers the wrong way.

Do you use recycled material for your shipping? Leave a message below.

Amazon announces new policy to shipping options

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

Huge Changes to FEDEX and UPS Ground Dimensional Weight Shipping Charges for 201

Last week UPS made the official announcement that they would follow FedEx in making a significant change to the way billable weight is determined for small (<3 cu feet) packages beginning in 2015.

Currently dimensional weight is a factor for large packages but is not a factor for packages measuring less than 3 cu feet (length x width x height < 5184 inches).

If a package measures 12” x 12” x 12”, for example, the “billable weight” (the number you have to look up on a rate chart to determine shipping fee) today is whatever the package weighs. Easy to calculate. A 6 pound package is billed as a 6 pound package.

Beginning on 1/1/15 for FedEx Ground and 12/29/14 for UPS Ground things get a lot more complicated and for many packages significantly more expensive.

Here is the new rule. The SIZE of the package will be a factor in considering billable weight for ALL packages.

Billable weight for ANY package shipped by FedEx Ground or UPS Ground will now be the greater of actual weight or a number calculated by the following formula:
Package length x Package Width x Package Height / 166

Here is an example. Let’s say you are shipping a large 5 pound teddy bear in a box that measures 18” x 18” x 12”.
Actual weight is 5 pounds.
Weight according to the formula is 18x18x12 / 166 = 23.4
The 5 pound package will now be billed as a 24 pound package.
With current rates a package shipping from Chicago to Los Angeles (without regard to fuel surcharge or any ancillary charges) would cost $10.21 today or $23.05 in 2015. Huge increase!!!

The most significant change will be for relatively lightweight packages that are less than 3 cubic feet in volume (since dimensional weight is already a factor for larger packages). Some examples of effected products are pillows, stuffed animals, lampshades, rolls of bubble wrap, diapers or floral arrangements.

So now you know the new rules. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??

Here are our top 5 tips for dealing with the new billable weight factor.

  1. Educate Yourself – Now is the time. Before the busy shipping season is upon us, take the time to familiarize yourself with the new rules. Take a look at any package you currently ship via FedEx or UPS Ground and figure out what the shipping costs will look like with the new billing system. If you are purchasing inventory for re-sale, make sure you take the possibility of dimensional weight shipping charges into consideration when calculating your potential margin. Be particularly careful when offering items for sale including “free shipping”. For example, if you are selling that teddy bear referred to above and choose to offer FedEx Ground or UPS Ground as an option, make sure that your selling price can absorb the cost of shipping a 24 pound package across the country.
  2. Make sure that your box is not any larger than it needs to be. Anything you can do to make your package smaller will decrease the billable weight of the package. There are a couple of things you can do to your boxes to accomplish this. Consider using multi-depth boxes. These are boxes pre-scored to allow the sides of the box to easily (and neatly) be folded down to the appropriate height. Purchasing multi-depth boxes allows you to purchase a bundle of one size box that you can use for various products without having expensive empty space at the top. Another way to re-size any box is by purchasing an inexpensive box sizer tool. This is a handy tool that will allow you to score the four sides of any box so that you can (again, easily and neatly) fold the sides down to create a more compact package.
  3. Carefully evaluate what you are putting into your box. If the contents of your package can in any way be safely flattened or deflated this will be to your advantage. Definitely don’t scrimp on padding where it is needed, but try not to overpack. If you are packing clothing don’t swaddle your item in layers of bubble wrap. You have probably all received one of those packages containing a tiny item and a mountain of air pillows. Don’t do that!! If you are accustomed to filling your box with large air pillows, consider bubble wrap or some other less bulky void fill product.
  4. Consider other shipping providers or services. You may find that FedEx Ground or UPS Ground is no longer a viable option for your particular product. There are other choices. If you haven’t explored the options before, now is the time to look into various USPS options such as First Class Package, Regional or Flat Rate Priority Boxes, Parcel Select/Parcel Post. Note that while dimensional weight is a factor for some Priority Mail packages, it is not a factor for Express Mail. In some cases USPS Express Mail may be less expensive than FedEx or UPS Ground. Both FedEx and UPS also offer hybrid services (FedEx SmartPost and UPS SurePost) where packages are picked up by FedEx or UPS but delivered by the Post Office. These services are generally slower than regular Ground service but dimensional weight is NOT a factor and savings can be quite significant. Local or regional carriers are also available in many areas and may not use dimensional weight billing.
  5. Negotiate. Don’t wait until December. If you currently have a FedEx or UPS account or are considering having one in the near future, NOW is the time to get contact your representative and try to negotiate the best possible rates for your business. You might want to contact both companies and see who is willing to provide the best rates for you.

These tips were compiled my Robin and Mark Le Vine, of Bubblefast, a family owned business providing shipping supplies to the online community since 1999. Please feel free to contact us at robin@bubblefast.com or (877) 599-7447 if you have any questions or would like further clarification.

Saving Money Shipping Using eBay’s New Calculator

Love it or hate it, free shipping is the “in” thing right now. While sellers may grumble and complain, let’s face it, free shipping or at least low cost shipping is often a necessary evil if you want your item to stand out over the competitions. Even if you refuse to play along, buyers are still watching those shipping fees and those with no shipping costs or lower shipping costs are the clear winners. Fortunately, whether you’ve been playing around with the idea of trying free shipping or simply want to lower the cost of shipping, there are some ways you can reduce those shipping costs and keep some money in your pocket.

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Compare shipping companies. While you may still have to do a little homework to know who has the best price if you sell on Amazon, Etsy, or your own website, eBay has recently launched a new feature on their website that lets you know how USPS, FedEx, and UPS compare. While the United States Post Office is still usually the way to go when you have an item that doesn’t weigh very much, costs could be considerably cheaper with one of the other guys when you have a heavy item or need to ship an item quickly.

 

Compare shipping dates. Sometimes you can save money by asking the customer when they want the item. Okay, eBay pushes it’s “one day” agenda for shipping and Amazon isn’t much better, so you may not always have a choice of when you want to ship, but if you sell on your own website or an online site such as Bonanza or eCrater, you actually have some better options. Just as it can actually save you money to ship an item through the post office by Priority mail instead of Parcel Post, in some cases choosing to ship overnight or in two days instead of 5 or 7 might actually cost less. This is particularly true when you ship heavy items or use freight companies to ship items in bulk.

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Another way to save on shipping costs is to order your shipping supplies from the place that you plan to mail your items from. USPS, UPS, and even FEDEX supply SOME free supplies. While with UPS and FEDEX this is pretty much limited to EXPRESS packaging, with the USPS all Priority Mail supplies are free and this can be a substantial savings, even making it worth using Priority mail vs. First Class in some cases.

 

 

 

 

 

How can Shipstation Help Your Amazon Business?

If you are one of the few people who hasn’t heard about Shipstation, then sit down and let me tell you all about them because this cloud-based shipping solution can save you a lot of time, money and trouble, especially if you sell a bunch of different items on a lot of different websites.

kat4Shipstation debuted in October of 2011. It was initially created with the purpose of helping sellers with small to medium sized businesses, specifically those who sell products across multiple sells channels. Shipstation knew that a lot of people were looking for ways to make extra money on the Internet and wanted to sell products online, but they didn’t have the time, money, or knowledge to handle everything on their own. Shipstation helped change that.

So, how does it work? Well, Shipstation imports orders from everywhere online that you sell and then assists you in creating batch labels for shipping. It communicates with your customer telling them that the item has shipped and also sends the tracking information to the marketplace that the order came from. Simply put — it takes all the information about everything that you sell and puts it into one place where you can keep up with it.

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One of the things I really love about Shipstation is that since it imports your orders it eliminates you having to sign into each site to print out your postage. In fact, it lets you do batches of shipping labels and you can do up to 500 at a time. It will also do this in as little as 85 seconds! Shipstation has Shipping Presets, Product Profiles, and Default Shipping Settings. If you are a volume seller, it can save hours off your processing and shipping times.

But wait! There’s more! Now, comes the exciting part that I think you are really going to like. In January, Shipstation began offerings direct integration with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). That’s right! Shipstation now imports the order information, transmits it to Amazon, then waits to hear from Amazon that the order has been fulfilled. Once this occurs, it not only lets you know that Amazon has completed the order, but it communicates the information to your buyer as well. As Shipstation says, it’s almost as if you shipped the item, but without all those time-consuming manual steps.

Stay tuned to That Kat Radio for an upcoming interview with the owner of ShipStation, Curtis Mitchell, which will concentrate on the Amazon FBA integration!

 

 

 

 

Holiday Mailing: When Free Shipping Isn’t an Option

The other day I was asked about my opinion on free shipping. Well, I can honestly say that when it comes to free shipping, I am a 110-percent for it. Not only do I think that it attracts buyers to the items you are trying to sell, I think most buyers are starting to expect it. I also believe that it’s going to be a big deciding factor for buyers this holiday season as both Amazon and eBay are expecting to see a large increase in online shoppers looking for the best deals.

 

Still, there continues to be a debate on free shipping. Some sellers think it’s a good thing and some sellers don’t. Regardless of how you personally feel about free shipping from a seller’s point of view, however, you have to admit that the buyers love it.

 

The problem I hear most often about free shipping is that it often isn’t practical when the item you are selling doesn’t have much of a profit margin to begin with. For some sellers, they say that by the time they buy the item, sell it at a reduced cost (to match other sellers), and then offer free shipping — they find that they are actually in the hole and have made almost no profit at all.

 

If this is your dilemma, you may find you can’t offer free shipping on all your items, but there are some other things you can do that might steer the buyers your way.

 

First, offer to upgrade the way you ship the item for “free.” Since the package will arrive there quicker, buyers may overlook that they are paying the shipping if they know they can get their item fast. As an added benefit, many savvy eBay sellers have realized that in most cases Priority Mail is not only faster, but it is also cheaper. Offer Parcel Post to your customers on your listing, but then upgrade them to Priority Mail and it becomes a win-win situation.

 

Take advantage of flat rate shipping. I recently learned that Bubblefast is offering a new box product called “The Scotty Stuffer.” This box fits as snug as a bug in a rug into the USPS flat rate padded envelope. Just put your item into the box, stick the box into the envelope and as you know —if it fits,it ships. If you sell coffee mugs this box is really a godsend, as it is just the perfect size for shipping a coffee mug and you can still give the mug a little more security by  wrapping it in bubble-wrap.

 

Shop around for the best price. Although I have found that USPS is generally the cheapest way to ship, keep in mind that eBay is now allowing sellers to print labels for FedEx right off the computer. You may find that heavier items actually ship cheaper when you use FedEx or UPS. Do some research before you list your item to find out which way is best.