Simplify Holiday Returns

Young depressed girl wearing Santa's hat is in the living room surrounded by Christmas presents.

We’ve explored how to lure in buyers by offering free shipping and you’ve read about all the great reasons to offer a flexible return policy. Now we’d like to introduce the OpenSky Hassle-Free Return Program—another tool you can use to entice shoppers this holiday season.

Why Offer Extended Returns?

Our Holiday Series has been aimed at helping you prep for the big day. No, not Christmas (though, that’s, of course, a big one, too)—we mean Cyber Monday.

“More than 126 million Americans plan to shop online” on that day, so it can be a big day for your selling season. In 2014, the average shopper “completed 52.9 percent of their shopping as of December 10,” reports the National Retail Foundation.

If you’re only offering a 14-day return window, and your shoppers have completed half of their shopping before December 10, then the return policies for half of their purchases will expire before they’ve even had the chance to give their gifts!

Offering extended returns gives your shoppers peace of mind and reassurance that, even if their gifts aren’t perfect the first time, they can return them after the holidays and try again.

The Details of Hassle-Free Holiday Returns

By opting in to the Hassle-Free Holiday Returns Program on OpenSky, you’re making the returns process super simple for all of your shoppers this holiday season! When you opt in, shoppers who buy from you between October 15, 2015, and December 31, 2015, have until January 31, 2016, to return their products.

And don’t worry, items that you’ve set to Final Sale will stay that way, even if you opt in to our program. Your participation only affects products that are currently set to the 14-day return policy.

Enrolling is Simple

Participating in the Hassle-Free Holiday Return Program is easy. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Visit your “Marketing” tab of your Merchant Toolkit and select “Settings.”
  2. Under “Holiday Returns,” click the checkbox that says “Enable Holiday Returns” and save your settings.

Then all of your products marked with “We accept returns up to 14 days from the date the order was delivered” will be updated to reflect the extended return window. You can edit products individually, but as long as you are opted in, you will only be able to select “Holiday Returns” or “Final Sale.”

Give your shoppers that boost of confidence—and give yourself a boost in sales—by offering extended holiday returns.

Holiday Series: Make Your Listings Buyer-Friendly

blog-holiday-variationsYou’re ready. You’ve talked to your suppliers and identified new products your customers are sure to love this holiday season. Now that you’re ready to upload them to OpenSky, be sure to make your storefront as shopper-friendly as possible.

Review Your Variations

Shoppers expect to see every option available for a particular product in one place—so it’s important to have every size, color or pattern for a particular product set up within the same listing. Follow this tutorial to set up variations.

If your product comes in different colors or patterns, it may be not be perfectly clear which label refers to which product. For example, if you’re selling a shirt that comes in shades of blue called Sky and Navy, you want it to be perfectly clear that Sky is light blue and Navy is dark blue. Make this process easier by assigning specific photos to each variation. As a shopper selects each variation, the featured photo will change accordingly.

Customized Products? We’ve Got You Covered!

But variations don’t work for everything. If you sell customized products with monograms, names or color combinations, then Customization fields are the way to go. You can enable this field on the “Product Info” page and include text about what information you need from your shoppers.

Tip: There is a limit to the number of variations a product can have. If you find yourself with a product that has a ton of variations—maybe a necklace where a shopper can choose an initial for a pendant as well as one of 10 gemstone charms—using customization will work best.

Check out this tutorial for more info on setting up the Customization field.

Put on Your Sorting Hat

Retail stores are constantly rearranging their displays to keep customers interested, and OpenSky allows you to do that, too. Put different products in your top 10 for a few different reasons:

  • If you’re enrolled in the Co-Pilot marketing program or opted in to certain promotions, featured products will be chosen from this top 10.
  • Place your top sellers at the forefront to continue to drive sales toward your known winners.
  • Use those coveted top spots for products that you’re almost out of so you can make way for new items next season.
  • Feature items that are overstocked and taking over your warehouse in order to clear them out.

Read more about sorting products within your OpenSky storefront.

By using these features you make it easier for your shoppers to help themselves, leaving you more time to fulfill orders and meet shipping deadlines. Happy selling!

Holiday Series: The Lure of Free Shipping

free-shipping-blogHoliday shoppers love free shipping. In fact, in 2012, 20% of them said it was the most important factor they considered as they browsed online that year, according to FreeShipping.org. And search agency CPC Strategy reports that 44% of shoppers will abandon their online shopping carts—potentially abandoning your products—if shipping costs are too high. Ouch!

So you may want to offer free shipping when the holidays hit. Shoppers will seek it out. But don’t worry. Catering to these bargain hunters doesn’t have to make you go broke.

The Keys to Success

One option is to build your shipping costs into the price of your products. Part of your holiday season prep should be knowing exactly how much it will cost to ship each of your items. Use that data to slightly increase your product prices.

And don’t forget to include the cost of your packaging materials! Bubble mailers, packing tape, and Styrofoam peanuts generally aren’t free and should be factored into your costs.

Reward Your Followers

Another option for offering free shipping on OpenSky—without changing the settings or pricing on all of your products—is to create a Coupon Code specifically for your store. Check out this tutorial for instruction on creating a special Code to share with your followers on OpenSky, social media and your email list.

Going this route allows you to test how shoppers respond to free shipping offers compared to percentage-off discounts. By measuring your results, you can weigh the costs against the benefits, and decide which types of promotions are right for your business.

Finding a Happy Medium

If you sell products in a variety of sizes and weights, it may be beneficial to offer free shipping only on certain goods, for instance, light weight items.

You can safely ship them using USPS First Class Mail in small padded envelopes. Costs are minimal for both postage and supplies, and First Class Mail is a quick and easy way to ship smaller products.

Try Tiered Shipping

OpenSky also offers an option called “Tiered Shipping” that allows you to offer discounted shipping rates to shoppers who purchase multiple items from you. In the shipping section of a “Product Info” page, you can set the shipping price in the first column (the price for shipping the product if ordered alone) and the “With another item” price (the price for shipping if the item is ordered along with something else).

In the example below, you can see that this particular product ships for $5.95 when ordered by itself, but ships for free when another item is ordered:

tieredshipping

Click here to find out more about how to adjust your tiered shipping settings.

As you can see, free shipping doesn’t need to be a big hassle during the holidays, and there are ways to effectively cut the costs of offering it (while still keeping customers happy).

Happy shipping!

Holiday Series: Prep Your Shipping Plan

holiday shipping seriesIf you’ve ramped up your inventory and added new products recently in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, be sure to have the right packing materials on hand! Yes, you want to prepare now (before orders start coming in) to avoid a last-minute scramble.

Here’s What You’ll Need

The type of packing materials you use depends largely on how fragile your products are.

  • Poly mailers: Poly mailers are unpadded plastic sleeves meant for products that can withstand the shipping process on their own. Use these for clothing, which generally doesn’t need any other protection, and for products that are already in sturdy packaging.
  • Padded envelopes (also called bubble mailers): These are perfect for products like jewelry, certain electronics (like charging cables), and phone cases—products that may have their own packaging and need a little added padding but not the strength of an exterior box.
  • Boxes: Available in a variety of sizes, boxes are best for shipping your breakable products or larger items. Think coffee mugs or shoes. Pair boxes with padding like packing paper or bubble wrap to ensure safe delivery.

You can get most of your shipping supplies in bulk online, but another option is the free shipping materials provided by USPS. If you ship via Priority Mail through the U.S. Postal Service, you can order envelopes and boxes straight from the USPS website. Your mail carrier will even deliver them for free!

Please note: These free materials must only be used for packages sent via USPS Priority Mail to avoid violating federal laws.

Other basics to have on hand include packing tape and a tape dispenser, packing fill like Styrofoam peanuts, and plenty of paper for printing out shipping labels and packing slips.

Invest in Some Equipment

One easy way to de-stress the shipping process is to purchase a shipping scale and weigh your products before you even publish new listings. If you offer free shipping, this allows you to build an accurate shipping cost into your prices. If you charge for shipping, this helps you avoid over- or under-charging your customers.

You will also want to invest in a good printer. Toner for inkjet printers gets pricey, so consider purchasing a black-and-white laserjet printer. While initially more expensive, you will save money in the long run with the cheaper toner costs. And don’t forget to pick up a spare ink cartridge so you aren’t caught short!

Location, Location

As they say in real estate, location is everything. After you’ve gathered all your supplies, you’ll want to set up a dedicated area for setting up your shipping station. Whether it’s a corner of your office or a section of your garage, you’ll want a nice flat space to lay out everything you need. Some tips:

  • Make good use of vertical space with tall cabinets or wire shelves to store packing materials and spare supplies.
  • Work through your shipping process several times to figure out what you’ll need to have handy. Things that are less obvious like scissors, a utility knife, business cards, or markers might be essential to your flow and you’ll want to have those nearby.
  • Have a dedicated area where outgoing packages are always placed to ensure no products get left behind.

The key to staying on top of the busy holiday shipping season is being prepared before the orders start rolling in! For more information about how to handle your OpenSky sales, check our Shipping, Returns and Fulfillment tutorials.

Holiday Series: Compose Descriptions that Sell

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You’ve customized your OpenSky storefront, fine-tuned your promotion settings (and maybe even opted into the CoPilot marketing program!), and have stocked up on inventory for the upcoming holiday season.

But have you applied that same polish to the descriptions attached to each of your products?

Online shoppers only have 2 ways to learn about your products: through the beautiful photos you’ve taken and the informative descriptions you provide. Your customers aren’t in a brick-and-mortar store where they can come up to you and ask their questions, so you will have to anticipate those questions beforehand.

Here are Some Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What is the product for and how is it used? Some products, like earrings, might be straightforward, but others, like phone chargers, might be a bit more confusing. Make sure that shoppers who have never seen the product will be able to understand how they would use the product and how it will benefit them.
  • What comes with each order? Clearly state what is included with each order, especially if your photos include other items in the background or if you’re offering a buy-1-get-1-free promo.
  • How big is it? List the dimensions of each product so shoppers can be sure products meet their needs. For example, furniture may need to be within a certain size to fit in a shopper’s home. With clothing, it’s helpful to include a size chart with the measurements of every size to ensure customers are happy with their purchases.

Don’t Forget the Details!

Each OpenSky Product Info page offers a section that makes it easy to provide basic information about your products. In the Product Details section you can list facts, like where a product was made, what it weighs, its ingredients or available colors.

On the “Product Info” page, scroll down to the section labeled “Product Details.” Enter the label of the fact under “Detail” and the information under “Description.” Click “Add detail” to add more than one line.

product-details

Finally, Add Some Flair

Descriptions are dull if all they include are facts about the product! Product descriptions are a great place to add in a bit of your shop’s personality. If your products are handmade, talk about the techniques you’ve used. If you source locally, use only organic ingredients or donate a percentage of your sales to charity, include that info, too!

You don’t have to write a novel to help your shoppers feel a personal connection with your products and store, but giving them a little insight will help you stand out.

Some Info Doesn’t Belong

That’s a lot of info that you should include—but there are also things that shouldn’t be in your descriptions! OpenSky product pages have separate areas for shipping costs and your return policy, so there’s no need for that information to go in your product descriptions as well.

Handmade products are the exception. If you handcraft your products on demand after they are ordered, make sure customers are aware that there may be a slight delay before products are shipped.

Refer to this tutorial in the Merchant Help Center for more ideas on how to perfect your product descriptions. You’ll want to be at the top of your selling game before the holidays hit!

Holiday Series: Be Picture Perfect

photo-2We don’t have to tell you: The holiday season is a huge time for online merchants, like you. It’s the time when shoppers are busy making their lists, checking them twice—and buying like crazy.

For you, that can mean lots of sales. (There’s a reason why the last part of the year is the most lucrative for merchants.) And with all that potential traffic headed your way, we put together this 2015 Holiday Series to help your products look their best—and to help you have a very merry holiday season. Our first topic? Product photography.

Really, You May Need Help

Take a hard, critical look at the photographs you use to represent your products. Even if your suppliers offer stock images for your products, you’re better served taking your own pictures. This makes your photos stand out in search results, especially if other merchants are selling the same products.

Setting Up Your Studio

Getting the perfect shot doesn’t require a huge investment, but there is certain equipment that will help bump your photos from so-so to totally pro.

  • Your camera: While your phone might be great for snapping shots of your family at the zoo, having a camera dedicated to product photographyand taking the time to learn to use all its featurescan boost the quality of your photos. Whether you go with a DSL-R or a smaller point-and-shoot, look for one with built-in flash and rechargeable batteries.
  • A tripod: Everyone occasionally gets shaky hands while taking photosavoid this by finding a tripod that fits your camera to ensure steady shots.
  • Lighting: Natural lighting or the flash on your camera will most likely be all you need, but for smaller products you should invest in a light box (or you can make your own) to eliminate glare and make sure your products look their best. 

Products Should Take Center Stage

When you’re staging photographs, be sure your product is the focus of the shot.

  • Backgrounds: Your backgrounds should be a solid neutral colorbeige or gray for exampleto avoid distracting from the product. Use rolls of smooth paper (available at your local craft store) or a plain colored wall around your house. Even your bathtub (assuming it’s clean!) could provide a white background in a pinch!
  • Accessories: If you include other items in your shots (say you’re selling a table and you stage the table with a lamp or books), include a note in the product description clarifying that the other items shown are not included or may be available separately.
  • Watermarks: Avoid using watermarks or other branding items (whether added digitally or not). These distract from your product, which should be the focus. Also, images with watermarks are less likely to be shared on social media—and you want your shoppers to share your products as much as possible.

Find OpenSky’s Next Top Model

Lifestyle photography—or images that show the item being used in a real situationcan drive more clicks than photos taken on plain white backgrounds, so hire or enlist someone you know to be your model for a day.

  • Keep it Real: A model wearing a fitness watch should probably also be wearing running clothes or yoga gear, not a business suit or little black dress, while the opposite is true for fine jewelry. Make sure your model’s entire outfit fits the product.
  • Does it Fit? You may need to enlist the help of more than one friend to make sure the clothes you’re selling fit your model in an appealing way. Clothes that fit Jane well may not fit Susan the same way, and you want your products (and your friends!) to look their best in your photos.
  • It’s all in the Details: Consider including your model’s measurements in the product description so people can get an idea of how your clothes should fit them. This is in addition to fit notes like “slim fit” or “runs true to size.” And, of course, if your friend is modeling rings or bracelets, make sure their nails are clean and neatly manicured.

Tech Specs

After you’ve done all your hard work, make sure your photographs fit OpenSky’s technical requirements. Ideally, your images should measure at least 544 by 544 pixels, but to enable the zoom on the Product Page, they should be at least 1,248 by 1,248 pixels. Save them as .JPG or .PNG files, and make sure they stay under 5MB each.

See OpenSky’s technical requirements here and get tips on touching up or resizing your photos before you upload them here. Need some inspiration for lifestyle photos and backgrounds? Get it here.