All posts in “Entrepreneurs”

SCOE Philly – 3 Days Away!

SCOE LogoAre we going to see you at the Sellers’ Conference for Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE) in Philadelphia this week?

SellerEngine will be there!

Come by our table in vendorland for a demo of Sellery!

And you don’t want to miss the presentations by me or Ioan Mitrea, SellerEngine’s founder. Ioan will be talking about unique repricing strategies and ways to optimize your Amazon profit.

I’ll be talking about the $100 Amazon Challenge and how you can use it to grow your Amazon business.

Who else will be at SCOE this year?

  • Jordan Malik from FBAFinds.com, will be talking about discovering new revenue streams for you business.
  • Ian Lurie from Portent.com, will be teaching marketing techniques that go beyond basic SEO.
  • Danni Ackerman from TheDanniApp.com, will be showing you how to take advantage of opportunities on Etsy.
  • Cliff Ennico an online tax expert, will be talking about legal and tax issues for online sellers.
  • Many more experts and hundreds of online entrepreneurs just like you!

See you at SCOE Philly!

+Paul Cole

A Quick Look Back at SCOE 2013

We’re back from Seattle with another SCOE under our belts. Throughout the rest of this week, I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the most exciting presentations, events and moments, but for today, here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.

The Big News– SCOE Philly!

If you haven’t heard, SCOE will be coming to Philly this fall, from September 19th-21st. Learn more at SCOE.biz/Philly and look for more announcements coming soon.

Can’t wait to see what kind of lineup of presenters and vendors Rhonda puts together! Will you be there?

Ioan’s Keynote Presentation

Italy International ExpansionSellerEngine founder, Ioan Mitrea, gave the keynote presentation on the first morning of SCOE 2013.

He talked about how and why Amazon sellers should take over the world.

Do you want to know more? If you’d like a sneak peek at the slides he posted, leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook page.

Vendorland

Vendorland was packed again this year. It was really exciting to see so many new companies showing off their products and services to Amazon sellers.

We saw old friends like Dean from DHL and made new ones, like Ordoro. We’ll try to get some of the vendors we met to share their thoughts on SCOE in the coming weeks.

Outstanding Presentations

When I wasn’t at the SellerEngine table, I did my best to take in a few presentations.

I was especially impressed by Cliff Ennico’s presentation on taxes and legal issues for advanced Amazon sellers. I don’t want to spoil too many of his secrets, but here are three things that stood out to me:

  • “The more fun something is, the less likely it is to be tax deductible.”
  • Don’t use Amazon’s commingled, stickerless inventory program.
  • Sales tax issues are still really confusing :)
I also enjoyed Kat Simpson’s presentation on why every Amazon seller should have an Ebay, store too! There are definitely a lot of Ebay tricks I wasn’t aware of.
It was great to see examples of Ebay stores that don’t look like Ebay stores! Like our good friend Charlene Anderson’s store.

Chris Green, of ScanPower, also gave a great presentation on the future of Amazon sales. If there’s one thing that I’ll take away from that presentation, it’s that EASY WINS. Whoever makes it easiest for customers to do something is going to have the biggest success!

I also liked his point that sellers should follow Amazon’s lead. For example, they’re not just expanding internationally because they’re bored. They know that there are opportunities to make money there!

SellerEngine No Swag!

I was really excited by how interested everyone was in our No Swag promotion. I’ll be tallying up the results and posting them later this week! I bet you all can’t wait to see how  much money the Feral Cats of Oregon will be getting!

What was your favorite part of SCOE 2013?

+Paul Cole

SCOE — Less than 2 Months Away

This year’s edition of the Sellers’ Conference for Online Entrepreneurs (SCOE) is less than 2 months away.

It’ll be taking place at the Seattle Airport Marriott from May 30th to June 1st. It’s going to be the best place to connect with from hundreds of experienced Amazon, Etsy and Ebay experts, not to mention learn about products and services from dozens of outstanding vendors, including us here at SellerEngine.

The agenda is up and it’s looking great already! Check it out!

You’ll be able to demo Sellery, try out Profit Bandit and learn about how SellerEngine Services can help your business grow.

Ioan Mitrea, founder of SellerEngine Software will be giving the keynote address on International Growth Opportunities for Amazon Sellers. We’re looking forward to sharing with all of you how you can take advantage of Amazon’s commitment to global sales.

And if you’re ready to register for SCOE2013, use the discount code SELLERENGINE at checkout to receive $75 off.

Hope to see you there!

+Paul Cole

Counting Down the 5 Most Popular Posts of 2012 – Essential Resources for Amazon Sellers

Top 5 Posts of 2012

In April of this year, we launched the SellerEngine Blog and since then we’ve published 125 articles on the topics that matter to Amazon sellers. From shipping to help with our software to news about Amazon and everything in between.

Between now and the end of the year, we’re going to revisit 5 of our most popular articles and offer additional insights and updates.

Today we’re going to start with The Essential Resources for Amazon Sellers. If you haven’t checked it out in awhile you should!

I originally created this page so sellers could easily find links to Amazon’s FBA Revenue Calculator and other official Amazon resources. Since then, however, I’ve been introduced to many other amazing resources, including Thrifting for Profit with Deb Conrad and Beth Sawickie and Janelle Elms’ OSI Rockstars and Ask Janelle Radio Show.

But there’s still plenty of room for improvement! Post your favorite Amazon links here and let me know what we’re still missing. I really want that page and this blog to become the best place to go when you’re looking for help with selling on Amazon.

Don’t forget to like SellerEngine on Facebook!

+Paul Cole

Start Selling on Amazon, Part 3: The Essential Equipment

Note: This is another installment in my ongoing Amazon Fundamentals series. -JD

So, you’ve picked your product and decided on MFN or FBA fulfillment. What comes next?

Before you start selling on Amazon, you should make sure you have all the essential equipment on hand. There are plenty of really fun gadgets and toys that can make life easier for an Amazon seller, but you won’t need all of them just to get started. And I’ll probably talk about those in a future blog post.

For now, here’s what I think you need to start selling on Amazon:

  • Amazon Area - Dedicate a room or part of a room in your house or apartment to Amazon selling. Whether it’s your garage, a spare bedroom or half of the dining room, it doesn’t matter. The more professional and comfortable you feel in your workspace, the easier it will be for you to get your work done efficiently.
  • Computer – This might seem obvious, but I’ve heard about a few sellers who do all of their listing and label printing from the library or Kinkos! While this is doable, I don’t recommend it. Invest in a low-cost desktop or laptop. It doesn’t have to be cutting edge, it just has to be able to surf the Web and print.
  • Printer and/or label printer – I’ve talked about label printers in the past, but unless you can find a great deal on one, you’re probably going to be better off either printing labels on a desktop printer or having Amazon label your FBA shipments for you. While you probably have a printer at home, it might not be fast enough to keep up with you, when you’re printing labels. A new $50 or $100 printer will keep you from waiting while your print jobs finish!
  • Boxes – Love them or hate them, you’ll come to learn more about boxes than you ever thought possible once you start selling on Amazon. My favorite place to buy boxes is Uline. But, you should always be on the lookout for sources for free boxes! Ask friends, businesses you frequent, anyone who might have a few extra boxes. The savings will really add up! Just remember that boxes you ship MFN items in should be new and the boxes you use to pack FBA shipments must be free of barcodes. Also remember to use USPS flat rate Priority Mail boxes when appropriate.
  • Padded Envelopes – Cheaper to ship than boxes, padded envelopes could be your new best friend! Use them for shipping books and other small media items, as well as anything that doesn’t need the protection of a big cardboard box!
  • Stuffing – When filling a box, you’ll often need to fill in some gaps to keep products from shifting during shipping. You’re not allowed to use newspaper or styrofoam packing peanuts. Instead use brown paper; you can buy this in a big roll at a hardware store.
  • Tape - Use strong packing tape, either Duck, 3M or Scotch brand. Don’t “share” a roll with other household projects. Instead have dedicated rolls just for Amazon. Otherwise you’re likely to run out just when you need it!
  • Scissors, box cutter – Buy a strong pair of scissors and a box cutter today and thank me later! And know where they are at all times. Good scissors have a way of growing legs in my house :)
  • Goo Gone, Price Tag Peeler - If you’re going to be selling used items, these are invaluable tools. Use them to scrape off labels and old price tags. Most hardware stores carry them.

Really, that’s all it takes to get started! You can add additional tools, software programs and other equipment over time, but as long as you have product to sell and the items I’ve listed above, you’re ready to start selling!

+JD Aspinall

Understanding Order Defect Rate

Note: This is another installment in my ongoing Amazon Fundamentals series. -JD

Order Defect Rate (ODR) is one of the most important metrics for Amazon sellers. By looking at this single value, Amazon has a good idea of how you’re performing as a seller. But where does this number come from and why should you care about it?

An order is considered defective when a buyer:

  • Leaves negative feedback
  • Files an A-to-z claim
  • Initiates a credit card chargeback

Note that  an order can’t have more than one defect. For example, if a buyer leaves negative feedback and files an A-to-z claim on the same order, it only counts as one “defect.”

ODR is calculated by adding up the number of defective orders and dividing by the total number of orders in a given time period. Amazon requires sellers to maintain an ODR of under 1%. Since many order defects aren’t filed right away, Amazon usually only calculates ODR for periods of time that aren’t within the last month or so.

First and foremost, you should care about your ODR because it’s a good representation of the quality of the service you’re providing to your customers. If your ODR is consistently near 1%, or even goes above it, you should examine your business practices to see if there’s a way that you can improve customer satisfaction.

Sellers who have an ODR approaching 1% are very likely to have their accounts suspended or put on probation. Long-term ODR rates of 1% or greater are very likely to result in closed accounts.

If you notice your ODR creeping upwards, you should develop a plan to get it under control.

Problem: Are you taking too long to ship? Are you cancelling orders before you ship (you can see this by viewing your pre-shipment cancellation rate)?

Solution: List only items that you have in stock and ready to ship. Buyers expect items to be shipped quickly!

Problem: Is your merchandise different from what you’re describing?
Solution: Be accurate in your listings. Use conditions appropriately and accurately.

Problem: Are items getting damaged during shipment?
Solution: Pack your items more securely, using quality packaging materials. Trying to cut corners can cost you big time!

By identifying your problems and having a plan in place, you’ll be prepared to present your case to Amazon if you are placed under review or suspended. In the case that your account is suspended, review our guidelines for writing to Amazon Seller Support.

+JD Aspinall

Best Practices for Writing to Amazon Seller Support

Note: This post is part of my continuing Amazon Fundamentals Series.
As a seller, you’ll need to write to Amazon when you have a problem. While some issues can be resolved by simply reading through the support documentation, sometimes you’ll just need extra help!
When will you be writing to Amazon? Some of the most common situations include when:

Amazon provides a quick guide to contacting seller support. There’s also a link directly to Seller Central’s contact form (you’ll need to be logged in for it to work).

Before you start writing, organize your facts. Think of yourself as a lawyer trying to prove a case. You should know the ASIN, order number, shipment ID and anything else that uniquely identifies your situation.

Remember that you’re not writing a book report or an essay for school. You won’t get extra points for being verbose and eloquent. Instead be brief, professional, polite and clear.

When writing your message:

  • Identify your desired outcome
  • State your case
  • Ask for a response

After you’ve written your message, it’s time to edit. Taking 10 minutes to review what you’ve written and improve it can save you tons of time in the long run.

Challenge yourself to cut the length of your message in half. I use this online word count tool so I don’t even have to leave my browser! Use bullet points when appropriate — they make it easier to scan your message and will let someone from Amazon read and respond to your message faster.

Ask someone else to check your message for typos, grammar, clarity and content. You can post a message on one of the forums listed on our Essential Resources for Amazon Sellers page. Or ask someone you know. Even if they’re not an Amazon seller, they can still help. If you’re like me, you’re online all the time and many of your friends are too!

Once you’ve sent your message, relax and wait for a response. No matter how urgent you feel your situation is, sending 10 more emails asking for an answer won’t help! If after 18-24 hours you still haven’t heard anything then send a follow up message.

+JD Aspinall

Introducing the Essential Resources for Amazon Sellers

I’m excited to show you something that we’ve been working on the past few days — except for the weekend when it was actually beautiful in Portland!

There are so many resources available to Amazon sellers: blogs, forums, help documents and so many more, that I can’t even list them all here. The good news is that I can list them here:

Essential Resources for Amazon Sellers

That’s our new page (bookmark it or find it pinned to the navigation bar at the top of the page), where we’ll be adding links to what we consider to be the essential resources for Amazon sellers. I’ve started by filling it out with some of my favorite places on the web, including a few that I just found out about, but that I know will be valuable to all of you reading this.

If you’re interested in having a link added, just leave a comment and I’ll take a look at it!

+JD Aspinall

Best Practices for Amazon Images

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover… A picture is worth a thousand words…

When it comes to pictures, pick your cliche! But they’re around for a reason: pictures are important! And this is especially true when it comes to Amazon listings. Personally, I can’t remember ordering anything off of Amazon that didn’t have a picture. And there’s been more than a few times when I’ve been disappointed that a product’s image didn’t match what actually arrived in my mailbox.

If you’re adding pictures of your products to the Amazon catalog, there are some steps you can take to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward!

Know Amazon’s Policies

Amazon’s product image requirements and standards are a good place to start learning about what images you should be submitting. The technical requirements may seem confusing but JPEG and RGB are standard image formats so you probably won’t need to worry about those too much!

Follow the ABC’s of Great Images

  • Attractive –  I feel like this should be obvious, but you know that I don’t like to assume! Take pictures of flawless products: no creases, smudges, dust, dings or dents.
  • Big and Bright – In some categories (Clothing & Accessories, for example) hovering over an image will zoom in on it. For this to happen, any images you submit should be at least 1001 pixels by 1001 pixels. Take pictures against a clean white background lit with a bright light. A sheet of foam and a few clamp-on work lamps from Home Depot work make for a cheap, effective DIY photo studio. Modern point-and-shoot digital cameras are very powerful and can take excellent pictures and are well worth the investment.
  • Current - If your product’s packaging changes, take a new picture! Buyers want to see what the product looks like today, not what it looked like last year!

Edit Your Images

Your pictures won’t be perfect right out of the camera. But don’t worry, you don’t need to spend big bucks on photo-editing software to make them great! Try using Google’s Picasa to crop, resize, straighten, brighten and otherwise adjust your pictures. It’s an amazing tool and best of all, it’s free!

You can even use Picasa or another photo editor to improve any product photos that you receive from a supplier or distributor.

+JD Aspinall 

Start Selling on Amazon: Part 2, FBA vs. MFN Fulfillment

Just a quick refresher, but as I said yesterday, MFN is short for Merchant Fulfillment Network and is when you ship products that customers order on Amazon directly from your own home or warehouse. FBA stands for Fulfilled by Amazon and is when you ship your products to one (or more) of Amazon’s warehouses and then they ship your items to customers for you.

The biggest advantage of FBA is that your customers will be able to take advantage of free Super Save shipping. In addition free 2-day and $3.99 overnight service will be available to the massively increasing number of Amazon Prime subscribers. Imagine that you can ship your products UPS ground (or however you choose), densely packed to an Amazon warehouse where your customers can then have it shipped overnight to them for as little as $3.99! Some sellers report increases in sales by as much as 25%!

So what’s the catch? Well, the primary downside is that it can be expensive and it can eat into your profit margins. This is especially true for long tail items that sit on the shelves for an extended period of time before being purchased. This is because Amazon charges per cubic foot of warehouse space used each month. Additional fees apply for items that sit on shelves for extended periods.

If you’re an FBA seller, the Inventory Health Report should become your best friend. It’ll show you everything you need to know about how long inventory has been sitting on Amazon’s shelves, and can even help you to determine if you’re restocking too often or not often enough!

Other FBA charges include a fee for weight handling and a fee for picking and packing each order. Play around with this FBA Revenue Calculator to figure out how your bottom line will be impacted.

Who should sell MFN and ship orders themselves? If you already have a website or brick and mortar store and are set up to ship orders to customers daily, then you should think about fulfilling orders yourself. You’ll save on the added Amazon fulfillment fees and if you have a warehouse already, then you won’t incur any additional storage costs.

I can’t say for sure whether you’ll make more money if you use FBA or not. My recommendation, especially for a new Amazon seller would be to start out slowly with a limited inventory and to experiment with both MFN and FBA fulfillment. Over time, you’ll discover what works best for your business. Every product and every business is unique!

Later this week, I’ll try to touch on some more advanced topics for more experienced Amazon sellers.

+JD Aspinall