I’ve updated my article, Twenty Tips for Selling on Amazon. It includes three good reasons that you should become a professional seller. (You can see one listed on the left.) You can also see ways to deal with negative feedback, packing tips and 17 other tips.
Selling on Amazon is a marathon, not a sprint. There are numerous factors and idiosyncrasies that play into selling effectively online, and it can take years to acquire all of the expert-level knowledge that’s out there. When deciding whether an item is worth the investment to sell on Amazon, sellers often factor the item’s existing sales rank into their decision.
Sales Rank Defined
As defined by Amazon, sales rank refers to the current selling performance of an item. A lower sales rank (higher numerical value) indicates a drop in sales for an item, while a higher sales rank (lower numerical value) denotes higher, more active sales for an item. Amazon doesn’t disclose its algorithm, but we know the retailer updates an item’s sales rank every hour in their effort to reflect recent sales trends and maintain a current ranking system. The idea of sales rank sounds simple enough, but much like selling online in general, there are complex elements that go into understanding the full scope of sales rank.
What Does Sales Rank Really Mean
Many sellers have a hard time grasping the true notion of sales rank. Some may believe it is a cumulative representation of a product’s sales standing overall, while others consider it a permanent grade that doesn’t change. In layman’s terms, sales rank can be thought of as representing sales velocity or the duration of time since the item was last purchased. A product’s sales rank will begin to rise until it sells again. The longer the period of time between sales, the higher that product’s sales rank will be. When a new sale for the product occurs, the sales rank drops—often significantly.
Sellers tend to either overemphasize or ignore sales rank. Sales rank shouldn’t be ignored because its data that comes directly from Amazon—which is hard to come by. Amazon is very selective in sharing data and anything that the marketplace provides should be taken into account. However, while sales rank provides valuable data, it only represents a product’s most current standing—not a history of the SKU’s sales position which should also be weighed.
Some sellers think that product reviews can be used to measure sales rank accuracy. The idea is that a greater number of reviews denotes a precise sales rank, while little to no reviews represents the opposite. This is incorrect. While both reviews and sales rank can technically be manipulated—reviews by sellers posting fake evaluations, and sales rank by sellers placing fake orders—reviews and sales rank still do not correlate even when neither is manipulated. Additionally, a manipulated sales rank will return to its true value over time while reviews will not.
Much like with product reviews, many sellers may be under the impression that stock quantity affects sales rank. This misconception is derived from the idea that if a seller has many of an item in stock, it may be likely that the item’s sales are infrequent. Because of all the factors that contribute to every individual seller’s replenishment methods, this is an arbitrary argument that does not contribute to sales rank at all.
Category Is Everything
One of the most important factors to recognize about an item’s sales rank, is that it is entirely relative to other items in that product’s category. In highly saturated categories like Health & Personal Care or Home & Kitchen, a higher sales rank means less competition for sales. Likewise, in a category less inundated with SKUs—such as Electronics or Jewelry—a lower sales rank can mean the opportunity for sales, but with much stiffer competition.
Paying close attention to popular sub-categories is also important. There is a general sales rank among parent departments and depending whether or not a product can be found in different sub-categories, the sales rank may change. Sales rank ties directly into search in the sense that even a good rank in a sub-category is only useful if that is how people are searching for an item. So while the fixed blade knife you’re selling may rank high (#33) in the sub-category of Hunting Knives, it can rank a bit lower (#89) in a sub-category like Knives & Tools, and much lower (#3,212) in the parent category of Sports & Outdoors.
Finding the Balance
With so many factors influencing sales rank, it can be difficult to decide how best to weigh the components that affect sales rank. We’ve compiled a checklist to help eliminate some confusion…
Understand Which Department/Sub-Categories Your Products Fits In. As mentioned, depending on the item’s department or sub-category, the sales rank can mean different things. The nature of your product will determine whether or not the parent department sales rank or the sub-category sales rank should be weighed more heavily.
Know Your Budget. What really matters is your decision to risk selling with high competition (low sales rank) and perhaps making a smaller profit, or with low competition (high sales rank) and maybe not making a sale. Deciding how much of your own money you have to spend on inventory for a specific SKU should be your ultimate deciding factor.
Use Google Trends to Gauge Public Interest. If an item has a high sales rank in a saturated department or category but you still wonder if there’s a market demand for it, you can use Google Trends to see if people are searching for that particular item. Google Trends will show recent search results, as well as results spanning years back and regional interest. In other words, if you’re an international Amazon seller and you see that the item in question is not popular in the U.S. but is widely sought after in Europe, you may choose to list it on Amazon France, Germany, Italy, UK or Spain.
This is one of the best explanations of sales rank I have seen. After reading this I felt like I had a college course in Sales Rank 101. If you are interested in learning about Appeagle’s’ repricing service, please click here.
If you would like to learn how to sell on Amazon professionally, please read about The Complete Amazon Marketing System – it’s a two volume training program that covers all aspects of learning how to sell like a pro on Amazon.
I wanted to let you know that I’ve updated another popular book. I just uploaded the January 2015 version of My Top Ninety-Nine Wholesale Sources For eBay and Amazon Sellers. As with all of my eBooks you get updated versions for life. If you’ve already bought the book just go back to the download page and you’ll find the newest version.
If you haven’t purchased this book I highly recommend it. You can have instant access to this specialized list, plus my own specialized wholesale search engine for just $4.99 –AND it comes with a money back guarantee if you are not happy with the information. You can’t beat a deal like that!
For most of us, inventory is our single biggest expense. Amazon is very simple – In general, the more SKUs you have, the more you will sell.
But under performing inventory can be a profit trap. As you go through the year, follow these steps:
– Practice Just in Time Inventory. Watch your stock like a hawk – know how long it takes to reorder and get new inventory into Amazon. Ideally you new inventory will hit FBA just as your last item sells.
-Pull an inventory report and a transaction report every month. On the transaction report, sort your transactions by SKU and create an extra column where you enter the cost of that product (including inbound and FBA shipping cost). This will tell you what your top sellers are and how much money you are making.
On your inventory report identify your slow sellers and take action such as lowering the price, rewriting your titles, keywords and descriptions, etc. Basically do anything it takes to get that inventory moving. If it just won’t move, then you have a dog product and you want to really lower the cost to get that money back to put to work on products that sell.
– Keep searching for new items to sell to replace those slow sellers.
– Don’t be a margin pig. Yes big profit margins are nice but not if the items are sitting there a long time. Lowering your price and margin will allow you to turn your inventory over more often. And, the more times you can turn you inventory over in a year the more money you will make.
-Don’t forget about the extra Long Term Storage Costs Amazon imposes twice a year on inventory that has been in Amazon over a year. Don’t get caught with a lot of that. It can be very expensive and a real profit killer.
Follow these steps and I guarantee you will see a more profitable 2015 than last year.
Just a quick note to let you know that one of my most popular books has been updated. The most recent version of Ten Little-Known Highly Profitable Niche Markets on eBaywas added to the site just this morning. As with all of my eBooks you get updated versions for life. So if you’ve already bought the book just go back to the download page and you’ll find the December, 2014 version there.
Before I get into this, I wanted to let you know I had a bad fall the other night and although nothing broken, my left arm is in a sling. I should be able to get out of it in about a week – but in the meantime I can only type one-handed. So let me apologize in advance for any typos.
Now the story – Repricing software is used by a lot of sellers to win the buy box on Amazon. Well a third party repricer by a company called Repricer Express in the UK had a glitch a couple night ago and repriced millions of items at one-penny. The glitch lasted about 3 hours but it was the busiest time of day and millions of items were sold at the price of one-penny. Merchant Fulfilled sellers were able to cancel the orders, but FBA sellers were hit hard as Amazon was shipping as fast as the items came in.
People were buying expensive items like jewelry, appliances, and even mattresses.
Since the problem was caused by a 3rd party – Amazon bears no responsibility and will not be reimbursing sellers. I saw a Facebook post from one FBA seller who said they lost 90,000 pounds (About $150,000) in three hours and that size loss may cause them to file for bankruptcy.
I had a short interview with Shmuli Goldberg, President of Feedvisor and algorithmic repricer, who said that over 75,000,000 items were sold during the time period. I asked Shmuli if he though other repricers were at risk for this type of action and he thought not. His system, Feedvisor has a 4 point checking system including a sanity check to prevent bogus prices from being sent to Amazon. He feels that other companies have similar systems and that this is not an industry wide problem. As for folks getting reimbursed by Repricer Express – they are certainly liable, but I seriously doubt that they are big enough financially and may be the first casualty. I would be seriously surprised if anyone got any money back.
Although the Merchant Fulfilled sellers were able to cancel orders before they shipped they still had some damage as several customers posted negative feedback when their orders were cancelled. Its not clear yet, whether Amazon will remove those feedbacks, but I suspect they will in time. But in the meantime, those bad feedbacks can knock those seller out of the buy box during the hottest selling time of the year.
The lesson here is when you use any third party software or any software you may design yourself –then realize the risk is on you when something goes wrong.
Today’s post is a guest post by Scott Laming and Bernd Heinisch from team at www.bookfinder.com
In online bookselling the competition is fierce. With such a vast number of books, sellers and marketplaces for a customer to choose from, it can be hard to stand out in the crowd. However simple changes in your pricing or listing information could make a big difference for your future earnings, and if you use a metasearch – like bookfinder.com - it just takes one search to compare your offers to those of over 100,000 other sellers around the globe.
How many different marketplaces do you sell on? When did you last search for your own books on any of these websites?
Last week? Very Good!
A few months ago? Hmm, things may have changed.
Never? Oh, then this is a great opportunity to do it today!
You will never be able to micromanage all of your listings, so just select a dozen of your books which you think offer a representation of your whole inventory, additionally select some truly random books. Excel has a rand function =rand(), use it. We will use these to spot check your competitiveness and listing quality.
Before you begin each test query take a moment to imagine who the typical buyer for each of your selected books might be? How would they phrase their search, what factors would be most important to them and does you’re listing explain the benefits of your listing compared to the competition…
Would the customer be a student looking for a textbook?
A student would probably search by ISBN. Also they would likely value shipping speed more than condition. Ask yourself if they would compare your domestic textbook to international editions?
Would they be a pensioner looking for an affordable price?
This customer would probably search by author and title using the full first name and surname and full title. Also overall price is probably more important to this buyer than shipping speed. Would they care if the book is new or used?
Would the buyer be a collector looking for a specific edition?
A collector might search by author and title, but will likely use keywords and all available filters to further refine their search. The more meticulous your description, the more trust this buyer will have in your listings. Also consider where this buyer might be located, collectors scour the globe looking for that rare listing; be mindful of global shipping rates for rare items. Do you mention that you can offer insurance or tracking for high value items? Which would describe your book:
Hardcover, First Edition and/or Signed
Put in the publication year (same year for Min and Max).
Even add the publisher, illustrator or other bibliographic details in the keyword field.
On BookFinder.com click on “Show more options” to see all the filter options available. Experiment a little bit with these filters and find out:
Let’s assume your randomly selected collectible book was this:
This link shows you the above prefilled search form:
If not, chances are customers cannot find them on other websites where you have listed them.
b) Are your books competitively priced across all marketplaces?
If not does it make sense to lower prices or would it make more sense to shift your focus to less competitive books? Shift focus to a specific kind of buyer? Or focus specifically on one marketplace for this kind of listing?
c) Are your books described as well, or better, than others in the search?
If not, find out how you could better describe them. Customers love good descriptions.
d) Are your books in better condition, and only slightly more expensive, than others?
If not, maybe you can think about how you could get there?
Of course these are just a few examples; you can expand on this idea on your own to tailor your marketing for your own inventory. The main message is…
If you can find your books – chances are your customers can as well. Once you have found your listing, ask yourself if you would buy your listing.
Happy hunting, for your own books!
All the Best,
Scott Laming and Bernd Heinisch from team at www.bookfinder.com
Today’s post is a guest post by Massimo Colella, the Co-founder and COO at Itly.com.
How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition that Will Sell More
When your business is selling products on eBay or Amazon, chances are with such a broad marketplace others are probably out there selling your same product. The trick here is to make your product stand out, make it unique in a way. Even if you’re selling the same iPhone 5/6 charger from China find a way to make yours unique. Market your charger as not only a charger, but also a connector to upload all of your pictures and music from your computer onto your iPhone. You can also create your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) by bundling together your products. For example, 2 for 1 or if you sell other iPhone accessories you can offer a case with the charger for a discounted price.
Your USP is what makes your business different from everyone else in the market. If you have an instantly recognizable USP you can lead the way through competitive and niche markets in your industry, but until you have your USP thought out and learn to capitalize on it you’ll just be another bird in the flock.
Defining your USP can be very difficult, especially for conventional companies. Fortunately, there’s quite a few ways you can make a name for yourself even if your product or service is swarming with competition.
USP as told by…
There’s nothing all that unique about TOMS lightweight, inexpensive, and comfy everyday shoes. Sure they’re stylish and come in fun patterns, but that alone isn’t going to make the company stand out in the shoe business. What makes TOMS unique and compelling is there USP: for every pair of shoes you purchase, they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. The story is what sticks, what people remember about TOMS is that their shoes that they bought went to help someone else in need. What other shoe company gives you this type of gratification and charitable feeling when splurging on a new pair of shoes? eBay doesn’t allow you to mention charity contributions in their listings, but you can select to donate 10% of a charity by selecting eBay’s Giving Works option.
The Mast Brothers Chocolate
The Mast Brothers literally creates every bar of chocolate themselves; every step from growing the cacao beans, through the packaging. This dedication in and of itself makes a great USP, but this chocolate has it’s own personality. It’s Rick and Michael’s (the brothers) personal style that stands out. Their style brings you back to the 18th century when craftspeople took pride in working with their hands. They even take this to the next level and travel to foreign places by ship to find the best cacao for their product. Completely over the top? Probably. But sets them apart from any other company producing chocolate? Definitely. This is something you can mention in your listings if selling that type of product. So whenever you buy a wholesale product that has a USP, be sure to use that information in your listing.
Price is not a USP
A lot of sellers think that setting their price lower than the competition can serve as their USP, but if your business practices are similar you will only end up creating a price war and further eroding your margins. Look for ways to create a USP so you can keep your prices higher. Here is an example. One of the jewelry lines I sell is made in India by individual artisans. So in my listing I say – “Designed in the USA and made in India by a woman-owned micro business. Each piece made by hand –not mass produced in a factory.” I have set my prices about 20% higher than similar products and have no problem selling items in this line. In fact two of the pieces are two of my best-selling products.
It’s important to keep in mind that whatever you come up with as your USP must be valuable to your customers. If you do good research to thoroughly understand your buyer’s persona you can gain really good insight to help you develop and test your USP. Your USP should be sustainable, but it’s not something that will last you forever, it needs to be constantly further developed to move quickly with your fast paced audience. Test your USP on various online sites and see if you get the desired effect with how many follow-ups and sales you receive.
A strong USP will help you attract and retain your customers and reduce client churn. At the end of the day it’s important to remember your USP should still represent what you’re selling and what you do, not just to make you stand out.
This is an especially important concept if you are doing private labeling. You private label products should have a Unique Selling Proposition that will set you apart from sellers of similar products.
Massimo Colella is the Co-founder and COO at Itly.com. Everyday detailed Business operations mean have every single customer happy. He loves always having challenges, hates losing them.
Several years ago I wrote a training course called How to Create and Sell Information Products. The info product market has changed quite a bit with sites like Create Space and creating info books for Kindle. Unfortunately I did not keep up with all the changes to the marketplace. Although the course is a bit out of date, I would say that about 75% of it is still relevant and one of the bonus items isPower Copywriting for The Internet. The 147-page eBook by Bob Serling that will lead you step-by-step to creating sales letters that sell. This book alone has sold for as much as $197, and is frankly worth the cost of the whole course. Another great bonus is the coupon for The Complete eBay Marketing System or The Complete Amazon Marketing System.
Anyway, I have decided not to update the course, but instead I am having a one-time, 10-day closeout sale. I have reduced the price from $47 to just $17. This offer will last just 10 days and then the sales and delivery page will be killed for all time. So just click How to Create and Sell Information Products to read about the course and decide if it’s for you. There is still plenty of value in the course to match this new low price.
Note – because of the low price I am not offering my usual 90-day money back guarantee on this course, because there is plenty of value in it for the money -but all of my other products still come with my no hassle, no-questions-asked Money Back Guarantee. So please read the sales material carefully and make sure this is something you are interested in before you buy.
Today’s post is a guest post by Eamonn Costello from XSellco Unity
eBay’s upcoming new seller performance dashboard has the potential to adversely impact your seller reputation. It implements new eBay seller standards on August 20th, so now is a good time to check your performance and understand the metrics involved before this deadline.
Review all your defects and check all your neutral and negative feedbacks to see if any feedbacks can be removed.
Handling negative feedback is pretty consistent across eBay and amazon:
Work with the buyer to resolve the issue. If you resolve the issue satisfactorily you are entitled to request them to remove the negative feedback. Note you are not allowed to coerce or bully the buyer to remove the feedback
You are allowed to publicly reply to the feedback. Only do this after step 1. Where you have made a mistake, apologise and state what steps you have taken (or will take) to resolve the situation. Be polite and to the point.
Where the feedback violates criteria set by ebay or amazon you can raise a case for the feedback to be removed (NOTE it will not be removed automatically – you need to raise a case to ebay or amazon)
XSellco Unity is a complete reputation management system for ebay and amazon sellers. It manages all your customer contact, feedback management in a single dashboard across ebay and amazon. By integrating full details of emails, orders, shipment dates, feedbacks and dispute cases, XSellco Unity will reduce the time it takes you to respond to customer queries by 50%! See http://www.xsellco.com/crm for further details.
Today’s post is a guest post by Jose Calero of LapWorks, Inc
Where else in the world can you go, except in America, to set-up an online business only to have your government subsidize your Chinese competitors so they can undercut your prices and steal your business? It makes you wonder . . . . . what were they thinking?
In 2011 The U.S. Postal Service entered into a deal with Hong Kong Post and China Post to help Chinese sellers send small packages to the U.S. at a lower cost and in a much shorter period of time than regular international delivery services. This “deal” was entered into “to promote the efficient operation of postal services with other nations” as stated in its Congressional Act. On the surface, this announcement looked well and good until it was discovered that the shipping rates given to these Chinese sellers were so deeply discounted that it gave them a huge cost advantage over U.S. Online Sellers.
Here’s the problem: to ship a one-pound package from China to any address in the Continental U.S., it costs Chinese sellers a mere $5.00. To ship the same one-pound package from the U.S. to Shenzhen, China via UPS, the cost is $58.00. Before ePacket, the high shipping costs from China to the U.S. was a strong deterrent and insulated U.S. online sellers from direct Chinese competition.
Here’s a quote from Internet Retailer Magazine from their August 2013 issue: “The Chinese have gotten smart about it – they used to sell to us through importers, wholesale distributors and mall kiosks. Now they can sell directly to the consumer. With Venues like eBay and Amazon making it possible for them to market to consumers everywhere, and globalization making international shipping and payment easier every year. This is no reason to think there will be less direct competition from Chinese e-retailers in the years ahead.”
Fortunately it’s not all smooth sailing for the ePacket program. On February 25, 2014 the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service published a report stating the following:
“Until accurate costs for ePackets can be identified and used as a basis for pricing, the risk of revenue loss for ePackets remains high.” And this: “While China ePacket revenues increased by $19.2 million between FYs 2011 and 2012, the Postal Service still lost $9.6 million in FY 2011 and $29.4 million in FY 2012.” The OIG ended its report this way: “Therefore, it is difficult for the Postal Service to determine whether this increasingly popular mail piece is sufficiently covering its attributable costs.”
What’s worse is that these Chinese sellers don’t play by our rules. Instead of creating a product listing for their product on Amazon, for example as most do, instead they identify a product that is selling well, they clone it in cheaper material and list the counterfeit product under the authentic listing at a 30% to 50% price reduction claiming it’s the same identical product. Most consumers don’t bother to see whom they’re ordering an item from, so long as they get the cheapest price for the item of their desire. So the consumer ends up with a counterfeit product that doesn’t last long or perform as described by the authentic product’s page description.
Adding insult to injury, when the consumer receives the product and realize that it’s a cheap imitation or “not as described” will want to return it. But sadly they discover that the Chinese seller does not have a U.S. return address so the product must be returned to China at a greatly inflated freight costs. Discouraged, they end up keeping the product and the Chinese seller wins.
The ePacket program is a scourge to any and all U.S. online resellers who struggle every day to make a living. And it’s a scourge to the consumers who are duped by these falsely advertised counterfeit products from Chinese sellers. The only way to fix this problem is to cut off the head of the snake –and that snake head is ePacket.
We ask anyone and everyone who reads this press release to contact their political representatives in Washington and urge them to suspend ePacket until they have had time to re-evaluate its efficacy. Because it not just about U.S. jobs . . . . . it’s about U.S. family owned businesses that are taking the hit.
About LapWorks Inc.
Founded in April 2000, LapWorks, Inc. is an online reseller committed to providing customers with high-quality ergonomic accessories for their iPads, tablets and notebooks. José Calero, president of LapWorks, will be making a one hour presentation on the ePacket scourge on Thursday, August 14, at the SCOE Conference for Amazon and eBay resellers in Seattle, Washington. Mr. Calero is producing and will post a YouTube video on ePacket by the end of August that will be found under the title “ePacket Scourge”. LapWorks has two websites: www.laptopdesk.net and www.heldtite.com
Today’s Post is a guest post by
Doron Gez from Bannerplay. Bannerplay is an advertising app for your eBay listings.
How to Effectively Manage Your Advertising Budget
By Doron Gez of Banner Play
The online advertising world is exploding. There are many competing offers out there, trying to win the heart and budget of the average small business owner: keyword advertising, SEO, display advertising, social media advertising, email marketing, affiliates – as a small online seller, which are the best methods for your business?
Google are dictating the rules of word based advertising and SEO. That is, no doubt, one of the strongest means of advertising now which almost every business uses. The main problem there for any advertiser, is that Google are in a strong enough position to reinvent the rules of the game as they go along, causing unimaginable damage to businesses like yours, large and small, including eBay itself. Did you just spend thousands of dollars and months of optimization on tweaking you organic and paid SEO to ensure top ranking? Google is telling you with their constant changes is “oh Well tough, sorry, you are just going to spend another pile of dollars (and a lot of time) to ensure you’re still at the top”.
This constant shift in word based advertising is just unacceptable, expensive and complicated. Businesses cannot succumb to the literally abusive and constantly changing market rules. Advertisers require reliable, stable, and proven services and partners. For twenty years, display advertising has delivered the right set of benefits:
Targeted display advertising using strong ad networks, delivers a much more alluring and eye capturing advertising experience and is based on stable network rules – not on the megalomaniac reflexes of a one company. Display advertising works because targeted visual advertising works. Visual content gets clicked and noticed a lot more than text based one, almost 90% more.
It is a known fact that brand awareness and sales go hand in hand. Despite being doubted as a helpful sales tool, the bottom line doesn’t lie: Banner ads drive search traffic and conversions: 27% of people who see banner ads perform search right after they see the ad, and including video in your ad can improve brand awareness by 63%. Click numbers are pretty impressive too: 58% of people ages 15-24 click on banner ads, and 71% of post graduates have clicked banner ads. The audience is driven by visual display – with today’s information overload, they don’t have time to read and they are captured by alluring pictures.
That’s why we created the Bannerplay advertising apps – to provide end-to-end display advertising service that helps sellers funnel more traffic into their online shop. We have a dedicated advertising app, designed specifically for eBay sellers on eBay applications. To create both brand awareness as well as actual traffic, eBay users can create Geo and keywords targeted campaigns to direct their audience on both external web sites and mobile devices, to their online shops. Bannerplay campaigns allow retargeting to make sure potential clients which have not completed purchase in your site originally, get to be reminded of your service and/or product until they complete purchase. In addition, the service offers vetted and stable ad network to funnel quality and targeted traffic to ensure highest conversion rates.
First of all there is nothing illegal, immoral or unethical about spying on your competitors. Its done all the time in business. I am not talking about stealing secrets or wire tapping – but learning what you can from whats in the open. In the case of eBay and/or Amazon its pretty much limited to what you can see and learn from their listings.
So what are some of those things?
Well product selection for one. What products and brands are your competitors selling?
Are they offering free shipping and/or expedited shipping?
Are they carrying complimentary products or bundling products together?
What keywords are they using in their titles and descriptions
If they are selling the same product as you, are they pushing different features or benefits or uses for the product?
On Amazon, are they merchant fulfilling or using FBA?
Is there anything in their descriptions that you are not using but you could use.
How about pricing? Are they selling for less than you or more? If they are getting more, what are they doing different than you are to justify the higher price?
Do you see any weaknesses that you can exploit?
After looking at their listings, also look at their store. Try and get a feel for what products they are selling that you might be able to source and sell to expand your line.
Do these things and you will be amazed at what you can and will learn and how it can help your sales.
The Complete Amazon Marketing System by Skip McGrath is a two-volume printed training course that shows you how to start and build a large full-time Amazon business. It comes with several free bonus items and training videos.
One of the real pains related to creating Amazon shipments to FBA is that Amazon will often split your shipments up between several warehouses – essentially doubling your workload and shipping cost. Well when I was having dinner in Las Vegas with John Bullard and his Mastermind group, I learned a little trick to avoid this without paying Amazon the 30¢ per item fee to elect just one warehouse.
Look at this image:
It turns out that when you select case-packed items instead of individual items Amazon almost always sends the entire case to one warehouse. So lets say you have 24 of item X, 12 of item Y and 16 of item Z. If you pack each item in its own box and ship that way, Amazon usually sends the cases to one warehouse. The key is you must only have one of each type item in a box –you cannot put X and Y in the same box or it does not qualify for case pack.
Today’s post is a guest post by Carlo Silva of 2nd Office in the Philippines. 2nd Office is the VA company I work with in the Philippines. visit their website for more info. 2nd Office Website
Outsourcing tedious tasks to a virtual assistant in the Philippines is the latest trend these days for Amazon, eBay and eCommerce sellers. Why outsource and why the Philippines?
If you own a small eBay or Amazon business, you’re probably wearing a lot of hats. You’re probably creating the listings, sourcing products, customer service, processing the orders, shipping the products and the accounting! I know how it is, I use to own an eBay business myself and if you keep on doing all these tasks you’ll eventually get burnt out, not to mention you’re preventing yourself from doing what you do best, growing your business.
If you’re serious about growing your business, you’re going to have to dedicate tasks that somebody else can handle. My recommendation would be to outsource tasks that take up most of your time. By passing these tasks on, you’ll be able to focus on growing your business.
Some tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant would be:
Market Research/Competitor analysis
SEO Copy writing
Tasks that you shouldn’t be outsourcing to your VA in the beginning
Making executive decisions
Strategy of the business (you need a marketing director for that or somebody with a marketing background and knows your business)
Managing your business
As you get to know your VA and start trusting them, you can start passing on more important job tasks. Of course, you will have to spend time training them. Please don’t overload your VA with tasks, if you give them more then they can handle the quality of their work will go down. Just like any normal person, a VA can only handle so much. This brings me to the urban myth of the “Super VA”.
The biggest stereotype in the outsourcing world is that a Virtual Assistant can handle “everything for you”. We call this the “Super VA”. This is not true; a VA can do a lot of things, but not everything. Every VA has a specialization and if you hire a VA that says they can do everything, that should be a red flag and I would move on to the next applicant.
When looking for a VA, you should be hiring for the “Job role” and not the tasks they’ll be doing. For example, if you need help with listing creation you should hire a VA that will focus only on listings. You don’t want to hire a VA that will do everything from listing creation, processing orders and answering messages. Most successful businesses will hire a specialist for each job role. A typical setup for an eBay business would be like this:
Job Title: Web Merchandiser
Description: The web merchandiser is an important position in our eBay business. They are the backbone of the company and will produce most of the company’s revenue. The web merchandiser is responsible for creating quality listings that exceed eBay’s standards to insure maximum exposure. Tasks:
Job Title: Customer Service Rep
Description: The customer service rep is responsible for answering any questions that our customers may have. They are the first point of contact to our business and are our brand ambassadors. Tasks:
Replying to customers inquiries in a detailed and very friendly/professional manner
Up-selling our products
Solving any customer service issues
Contacting customers to revise any negative feedback
Replying to negative feedback
Leaving positive feedback
Following up with customers
Job Title: Order Processor Description: The order processor is responsible for processing all of our orders, managing inventory on a daily basis, making sure the orders go out in a timely manner and marking orders as shipped within our eBay store. Tasks:
Inventory management, insuring quantity levels are correct on all channels
If you don’t think you have enough work for your VA on a daily basis, I would recommend that you keep the listing position as a separate job role, and you can combine any other job role to insure they have enough work for the day. You can also have a customer service rep be trained to do listings or order processing. However, I strongly recommend that you have one full time VA creating listings, because the more listings you have the more money you’ll make.
One question I often get asked is, “how fast can my VA make listings”? My answer is always, “they can be just as fast as you or faster”. With the right training, your VA will be able to create listings just as good as your or better.
Why the Philippines?
The number #1 reason the Philippines is the best place to hire your VA is “communication”. The Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking country in the world next to the USA and the UK. It is also known as the “world’s English budget teacher”. People from all over the world go to the Philippines to learn English.
Filipinos have a high literacy rate and have an “American westernized culture”.
The Philippines beat India a few years back as the #1 outsourcing destination for call centers in the world.
The Filipino culture is also another reason most people go to the Philippines for outsourcing work. They are generally very polite, well mannered, very hardworking and honest people. They are very easy to please and will do whatever they can to make their boss happy. As long as you treat them well, they will treat you even better!
Economics of scale, you can buy a Big Mac meal for around $2 in the Philippines, but the quality of work is just as good as America’s workforce. You can get a highly skilled professional that’s college educated for a little under what you would pay a minimum wage worker in America. How is this possible? The cost of living in the Philippines is much lower compared to America, Australia and the UK.
NOTE: The skills of your VA will largely depend on their work experience and training, the more experienced your VA the higher their salaries will be. Just like with most people, you get what you pay for.
Payments to your VA are all tax deductible as a business expense!
The time zone difference could be an advantage for most businesses. Why? Because by the time you wake up, everything has already been done for you!
A typical office hours shift for a Filipino is from 7am-4pm PHT, which is 3pm to 12am PST.
If you’re in California, and your VA starts at 7am it will be 3pm the previous day. By the time they end their shift, they would have already processed any additional orders and messages that you’ve gotten that day. By the time you wake up, they would of already done a full days of work! It’s like having your business operate almost 24/7. Imagine if your customer were to get a response at 11pm at night? They would be thrilled!
How to properly manage a project with your VA
The biggest mistake most people make when outsourcing something to another country is that they don’t spend enough time making detailed instructions. You have to realize that the VA doesn’t know your business like you do; if you give them “crap” instructions they will deliver “crap” work. Same goes with the data you provide, if you give them “crap data” you’ll get “crap listings” The old saying goes, “you’ll only get back what you put in”.
Before we go into creating a sample project, you’ll need to know the tools you’ll need to manage this project effectively and efficiently.
Tools of Trade
Time Doctor (www.timedoctor.com) – Time Doctor is software that makes remote management a breeze! It is similar to the same software oDesk uses. This software will take random screenshots of your VA’s computer and will even record the number of keystrokes and time they’ve spent on each task.
Teamwork PM (www.teamworkwork.com) – This project management software will insure your VA is on point with all of your tasks. It has a built in milestone function and Gantt chart. It also acts a communication hub, you can comment on each task, files and even update your status like “facebook”. It increases the productivity and accuracy of your projects so nothing is ever lost in translation.
Skype (www.skype.com) – You’ll need Skype for instant communication and a headset if you want to speak to your VA on a regular basis.
Jing (www.techsmith.com/jing.html) - Jing is a free screen capture software. This will enable you to communicate with your VA visually to reduce anything that could get lost in translation. The best way to communicate tasks to your VA is visually. It also allows up to 5 minutes of video recording. If you need to record longer videos, we suggest another software called Snagit.
Snagit (www.snagit.com) – Snagit is a video capturing software from the same makers of Jing. I highly recommend you create training videos for your VA on certain aspects of the business that you need them to know. For example, you may have a certain process you like to do with listings or market research. By creating video’s, you can train them when it’s most convenient for you.
Teamviewer (www.teamviewer.com) – Teamviewer is an all-in-one software for remote support and online meetings. You’ll be able to train your VA live and have online meetings with them. The software is free to use and works best with Skype when you need to speak with your VA. I don’t recommend using their built in voice app, it doesn’t work very well.
Microsoft Excel (office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel/) – Spreadsheet program that will enable you to pass your data to your VA for easy manipulation. Will save you hours of work when dealing with large amounts of data. Make sure your VA knows how to use EXCEL.
Magento m2ePro (www.m2epro.com) – One of the best listing tools for eBay/Amazon, it can be compared to enterprise listing software without the high monthly fee’s (thousands of dollars to be exact). This will enable your VA to list onto eBay efficiently and effectively, you can have a web site at the same time too! With this software, you’re able to import/export data using CSV files at will. Mangento and M2ePro are completely open source, so it’s free! The only investment you will have to make is setup of the software and pay monthly for a dedicated server which is around $50 a month.
SixBit Software (www.sixbitsoftware.com)- Another great software for listing since you’re able to import/export data out using excel/csv files. The only downside to this software is that its desktop based. It’s a little harder to manage since your VA is in another country, so if that’s the case I recommend that you only use SixBit for listings and not inventory management/order processing. Another alternative is to have your VA remote into your computer and they can work directly off your computer using teamviewer.
Now that you’re equipped with the tools of trade for eBay/Amazon outsourcing, let’s go onto how to properly create a project for your VA!
Creating a project the right way for your Filipino Virtual Assistant
For this sample project, I’m going to give you all the details you’ll need to successfully have your VA make eBay listings efficiently.
Let’s pretend you’re selling in the fashion category on eBay, particularly clothing. For this project to be successful you’ll need to give detailed instructions on how you want your products listed, every business is different and has their own way of gathering data, so I’m going to make this as general as possible. When creating instructions, it’s good to use the tools mentioned above like Jing for screen capturing and Snag it for videos.
Please note: this is assuming your VA is already trained in eBay listing. If they are not, you will have to do some extra leg work and train them with either videos or give step by step process on how to do things. It is always good to have training documents for your VA, in the event you need more staff or you fire your VA, you’ll have training documents already for your new employee.
Title: eBay Project 1
Project scope: In this project, we will be creating eBay listings using the data I provide you with. Below are the links to the supplier file and the template file for eBay. I need you to fill in the following missing fields from the template file, using information from the supplier file and the manufacturer’s web site.
Purpose of project: The template file will be used to populate the web site and eBay store
Note: It is always good to let the VA know what the purpose of the project is for, this will let them know why they’re doing the project is and what’s their purpose. Without purpose, there’s no passion.
I’ve already completed the first SKU as a sample you can follow. You will need to fill in the rest of the fields. Some of the images are missing, so you will have to find any data that’s not provided from the Manufacture site. If they are not available, let me know and I’ll let you know where else to look.
Step 2: Fields to fill in from the template file:
SKU * for variations SKU’s, you will need to make a Master SKU, and the child SKU’s will go below. See image below:
country/region of manufacture
Below I am using Jing to communicate my instructions and thoughts visually.
Step 3: Review the file for any errors and upload to the project management software for review. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you have any.
There you have it folks. Above is a good example on a project that will have a good output. If you notice I did the following things:
Gave detailed instructions
Provided images using Jing
Provided a finished sample listing
Let them know of any issues they might run into and how to solve them
I let the VA know that it’s okay to ask questions. One thing about Filipino people, they are shy so its good to be direct with them. But not too direct, as Filipino’s are also very sensitive to confrontation.
What to do after you receive the file?
You will want to QA (Quality Assurance) the file for any errors. This is your chance to correct anything that they didn’t do right. You will want to show them what they did wrong and show them the proper way it should be done using Jing or Snagit. Once they learn the correct process, they will most likely never make the same mistake again. A big mistake most people make is that they don’t take the time to show their VA the correct way of doing things, if you spend time with your VA they will eventually become a replacement of you.
As you learn to work with your VA, they will eventually become more efficient as they learn your business. The first week is usually the hardest as you are both getting to learn one another, but after the first month it gets a lot better! I would say it takes a good month or two before you both come up with a process that works well. I can assure you one thing, the investment of time and the money is worth it once your VA is trained for your business. Once trained, you’ll have time to focus on growing your business as opposed to working in the business.
I’m going to go into the different types of VA’s available today and what the differences are. There’s the freelancer and the Agency VA.
The Freelancer VA - The freelancer VA is the one that usually works remotely from home. They are usually stay home parents or people who don’t want to travel into the city for work. The Philippines is a heavily populated country with a population of 105,000,000 people. Most Filipino workers will spend on average 2-6 hours minimum on the commute to work per day. A good comparison would be rush hour in the cities of New York and Los Angeles. Freelancer VA’s are good for short term projects or if you’re on a low budget.
Advantages to the Freelancer VA
Cost Savings – You pay them directly, so your cost will be much lower than the Agency VA
Work/life balance – Freelancer VA’s tend to be happier to work from home since they can spend more time with their family. Although, some people do prefer and perform better in an office environment
On your terms – The working terms are between you and your VA and not an Agency. Typically, you can let go of your freelancer whenever you like. Of course, it’s always good practice to give them a 2 week notice that you won’t need their service anymore, they should do the same for you if they want to stop working for you.
Disadvantages to the Freelancer VA
Slow Internet – The internet connection is usually slow, on average most Filipinos can only afford 1-2MB internet speeds. The reality is, internet is still very expensive in the Philippines and still in its infancy. Be sure to ask your VA what there internet speed is and to have them do a screen shot. At times, I’ve seen internet speeds go as low as .06MB depending on the time of day. I know this, because my internet at home is 3MB in speed and I’m paying $25 per month.
Internet stability – The internet connection is not reliable, don’t be surprised if your VA doesn’t show up for work one day, only to tell you their internet connection was down.
Reliability - The VA could magically disappear on you. I’ve heard many people say that they hired a VA only to never hear from them again. Most freelancers take in multiple jobs, so they might either have a new client that’s paying them more or they just don’t want to deal with you. There’s plenty of reasons for this, they might think you’re business is too hard to deal with or they just have a better opportunity somewhere else. They could also be having problems at home and aren’t worried about losing their job.
Lack of eBay/Amazon experience - eCommerce is not very popular in the Philippines. eCommerce in the Philippines is like how it was back in the 1990’s when it was just first starting and nobody knew about it. If you find a VA that has knowledge about eBay/Amazon, most likely they already had a client who’s trained them previously.
Management – Since they are working from home, you will be the one to have to manage them directly and make sure they are happy. The tools I mentioned above like Time Doctor will help you in managing your VA remotely. If you’re not use to the Filipino culture, you might have a difficult time managing your Filipino VA. There is a cultural gap between Filipinos and other countries.
Hard to find A Quality VA – If you’ve ever tried searching for a qualified applicant on oDesk, you’ve probably spent hours and hours looking through profiles, only to find that the applicant wasn’t fit for your business. This is the usual story for most businesses, the hardest part of outsourcing is finding a quality VA.
The Agency VA - The agency VA is better skilled, trained and the quality of service is better. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good freelancer VA’s out there, but they are hard to find or already taken. If you don’t want to waste time looking through hundreds of resumes on a freelancer web sites and job sites, I would hire a VA through an agency. Typically, an agency will find and recruit the best candidate for your business and then help you train and manage them from their office.
Disadvantages to the Agency VA
Costs are higher than the freelancer VA, but still affordable.
Most agencies will require a long term contract of 6-12 months ** This is due to the Filipino labor code, as the Filipino labor code is very “pro employee”
Advantages to the Agency VA
Better training – depending on the agency, agencies provide basic training for your VA so you’ll have an easier time when it comes to your business. You will have to make sure you let the agency know what skills you need your VA to have and if they are able to train them once they are hired
More reliable - VA’s who work for a company usually will always be at work. If ever your VA quits, the agency will provide you with a replacement right away and help train them again.
Easier Management – Onsite managers to help you manage your VA, no need to worry about any cultural gaps
Consulting – Typically, agencies have experts who can help you grow your business. They will provide you with advice on how to grow it and manage it better. Of course, this varies from agency to agency. You want to make sure you partner up with the right agency that fits your business model.
Faster Internet speeds – Almost all agencies will have at minimum two lines of high speed internet. You won’t have any issues with internet when dealing with an agency
Employees get Benefits – Agencies are required to pay their employees SSS, Phil Health, taxes and health benefits to their employees. This is equivalent to social security and Medicare in America. This is one of the main reasons an Agency VA costs more than a Freelancer VA.
Office environment - Your staff comes into a regular office to work without the distractions of being at home. They are surrounded with other professionals who can help them grow their career and influence them to do a job well done.
Quality applicants – Agencies already have the resources to find quality applicants. A lot of quality workers won’t be looking around on freelancer web sites, freelancing is looked down upon by most Filipino people since freelancing is not known to be a well sought out profession to most Filipino parents. Most Filipinos want their kids to be doctors, lawyers or nurses and not entrepreneurs.
Regardless if you go with the Freelancer VA or the Agency VA, be sure you interview the candidates and make sure they are the right fit for your business. If you’ve never tried outsourcing before, it’s a lot hard work finding the best person for the job, but once you find them, train them, there’s no going back!
Quick Tips when dealing with Filipinos
Now, you may think I get along with Filipinos really well, since I’m Filipino right? Truth be told I’m more American than Filipino. I like to consider myself a hybrid, I can see both sides of the coin. My family moved to California when I was 3 and I basically spent my whole life in California. I grew up in a traditional Filipino Family home, so the culture shock wasn’t too bad for me when I moved to the Philippines. However, I think I’m more than qualified to give you tips on how to deal with Filipinos.
Filipinos are Shy – When dealing with a Filipino, be sure to be on point and straight forward. You also have to constantly remind them to speak their mind. Unlike the American culture where we are taught to say anything and everything, it’s totally opposite in the Filipino culture. Most Filipinos are reserved or shy. For example, most Filipinos will most likely not ask for a raise, they will expect you to see their worth and hopefully you will give them a raise. In America, we are taught to be “go getters” If you want something, go get it! This is not the case in the Filipino culture.
Filipinos are usually happy go lucky people – Filipinos are usually always happy and just want to live a simple life without any confrontations. If you feel that there are any issues, you should ask them right away. They might even deny there are any issues at all at first, but ask them again and you might get a different answer.
Filipinos always say “Sir, Ma’am or Boss” – This is their sign of showing respect. Don’t get offended, it’s just part of their culture. Anybody of higher authority or older they will always get called “Sir, Ma’am or Boss”. If you don’t like it, just let them know to call you by their first name or they’ll keep saying it!
Filipinos are Emotional – Filipinos are very sensitive and emotional people. Sometimes, you can’t be straight forward with them, because they might think they are in trouble or you’re mad at them. If you’re going to be straight forward, let them know that this is how you are and it’s normal in your culture. They might think you’re angry at them if you raise your tone of voice or type in all CAPS. As much as possible, you don’t want to affect the productivity of your VA.
Filipinos are family oriented – Family is everything in the Filipino culture. Many Filipinos live at home with their parents, siblings, and even aunts or uncles until they have enough money to move out. If they come from a poor family, everybody will just help each other with the bills. They call this “tulong”, which means to help. It’s very common for a son or daughter to work abroad and send money home to family members. If you’re hiring a Filipino VA that works from home, be sure they have a quiet room they can work in with little or no interruptions.
Filipinos are motivated by money/bonuses – If you want to motivate your Filipino VA, do so with bonuses and pay raises for a job well done. If you find that they are a valuable asset to your company, pay them higher than the market rate. $7-10 an hour is like being paid $60,000 a year from an Americans point of view.
Filipinos are very Appreciative – Letting your VA know they are doing a great job can go a long way. Give them constant feedback and they will be happy you are praising them for a job well done. If you treat them well, they will treat you even better! If you treat them the way you want to be treated, you will have a happy VA and they will produce great work for you.
Filipinos are very caring and friendly – Filipinos are very nice, friendly, polite, and very caring in general. It’s part of their culture. There is a reason why a lot of nurses are Filipinos. Nursing is not an easy job, it takes a certain individual to nurse another person back to health. If you ever walk into a Filipino home, the first thing they will do is ask you to sit down and eat. They will then start bringing you all sorts of food and drinks. They are very polite and courteous people.
Filipinos are very traditional and Romantic – Filipinos are very romantic people, they don’t believe in divorce and divorce doesn’t exist in the “Philippines”. Most Filipino women want to find the love of their life and if things don’t work out, they will try everything in their power to make it work. They are also very traditional and are big on holidays. I would suggest that you follow the Philippine Holiday Schedule so your Filipino VA can spend it with their friends and family.
Filipinos don’t know much about eCommerce – eCommerce in the Philippines is still in its infancy, much like it was back in the 1990s in America. Only 5% of the population has credit cards, so you can imagine how hard it is to buy something online in the Philippines. Almost everything is done in cash. If you’re going to hire a Filipino for eCommerce, you will have to train and educate them about the industry and what eCommerce really is.
13th Month Pay – By Philippine law, all rank-and-file employees, regardless of their designation or employment status, and irrespective of the method by which their wages are paid, who have worked at least one month during the calendar year are entitled to 13th month pay. The 13th month pay shall be in the amount not less than 1/12 of the total basic salary earned by the employee within the Calendar day. This is basically a bonus required by the govt to help Filipino workers have a better Christmas for their families. If you’re dealing directly with your VA, you’re not required to give them a 13th month pay, but its only right that you do. If you’re dealing with an agency, it’s already included in your rate depending on your arrangement.
For example: Let’s say an employee basic salary is $1200 per month and had worked for 10 months, the 13th month computation is: ($1,200 X 10 months) / 12= $1,000
I hope that you enjoyed the content and that you have a fresh outlook on how to deal with Filipino VA’s. Please keep in mind, not all Filipinos are like this, but from living and working with them you can find at least one of these traits with most of the Filipino people. By having a better grasp of the Filipino culture, you should be able to understand Filipinos better in general and hopefully you’re on your way to a great working relationship and friendship! If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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