Here Come the Holidays, Part 1

here-comes-the-holiday-part-1-os

Most people have plenty of time before they have to start thinking about the holidays, but you and other online sellers just have a few more weeks to get ready for that jolly time of year.

“Hopefully, you have already purchased and planned your holiday season inventory,” says Larry Phillips of 4stampsales.com when we asked him for advice about what e-merchants should be doing to get ready. Anyone who takes on the role of “holiday provider” will tell you that the first step is planning. The next step is getting the house in order.

Trusting that you already stocked your shelves, we’ll turn our attention to ordering and structuring those shelves—and every other part of your operation—in this 2-part series. Let’s get started.

First, the physical

“Go through your inventory,” recommends longtime eBay seller Cie Bay. “Make sure everything that is listed can be quickly and easily found. Make sure your listings are up to date.”

With your inventory in order, Cie Bay recommends focusing on shipping supplies and processes. “Stock up!” she says. Boxes, tape, poly bags, whatever items you use to get your items to your customers should be in your house very soon if they aren’t in your home already.

“If you use inserts, thank you notes, etc., make sure you have plenty on hand,” she continues.

Dimira Teneva of Metrilo.com offers consulting services to online retailers. She recommends planning the details now.

“Make arrangements for guaranteed shipping with your partners well in advance,” she suggest. “Get on the same page about the absolute latest time possible for placing an order and getting it delivered before the holiday.”

Cie Bay also suggest looking at your staffing. “If you’re able, hire an assistant,” she continues.

If you bring in help now, you’ll have weeks of experience working together when the rush hits and you’ll know if you have enough support, or need more help.

“The holiday season is extremely busy, and once those ‘cha chings’ start rolling through, you won’t have time for anything but getting those goodies packed and shipped,” Cie Bay tells us.

She also suggests letting your postal carrier and local post office staff know how much you appreciate their extra workload during your busy season. That added touch could prove helpful when you start shipping like crazy.

Look at the details

With your inventory, shipping supplies and staff at the ready, it’s time to market your business, so shoppers remember you when they’re looking for that perfect something for their special someones.

“Create a content calendar for both your social media and blog,” recommends Mallory Musante of Boldandpop.com.

Selling expert John Lawson agrees. But his recommendations go a little further.

“Start making your marketing calendar,” he advises. “Detail what offers you plan to make on what days going into the holiday sale cycle.” And be sure to “review last year’s data, specifically pay attention to inventory velocity, time frames of the season, best sales days, and slowest days.”

With the information in hand, you can come up with a plan for your most-likely busy and slow weeks. “Finally, be sure not to forget the lesser-known shopping days like Small Business Saturday, Free Shipping Day, Green Monday, etc.,” he adds.

Linking your promotions to already established “special” sales days, gives you free advertising and reinforces your image as a professional business.

Ensure the important stuff works

The final detail to address has to do with the mechanics of your payment mechanism and ordering process.

“Now is the time to make sure everything is working properly,” Phillips notes. “Go through the motions of purchasing something from yourself, up to and including the checkout.”

Some sellers stop when they’re asked for payment.

“That is the most important part!” he reminds us. “Remember, an abandoned cart means that a buyer took the time to commit to buy and stopped after that commitment.”

By making this purchase for yourself, you can see first-hand if there is a problem with your process that you, as the seller, would be unlikely to discover.

“Next, ask 3 friends or relatives to make a purchase from you,” he continues. “Have 1 very novice Internet purchaser, 1 occasional user and 1 experienced purchaser shop. Get their feedback, and then make any changes necessary.”

Or contact the marketplace where you sell (eBay, OpenSky, Amazon, etc.) and mention the problems your friends encountered.

Part 2 of this series will look at ways you can make your site, listings, packages, and customers feel the holly, jolly holiday spirit! Stay tuned.

Start Shipping Faster by April 1 to Avoid Late Fees

 

New Shipping Timelines & Late Fees Start April 1

Plus, how you can improve shopping on OpenSky.

Ship times and packaging can leave lasting impressions on shoppers—both good and bad.

They can build trust and give visitors the confidence to buy again and again, or they can prevent shoppers from making another purchase, no matter how amazing your products are.

As we’ve mentioned in past newsletters, we’re continually working to ensure shoppers always have good experiences and keep frequenting the site and buying from you. To continue our efforts, we’re updating our Merchant Quality of Service Agreements.

Changes take effect April 1, 2016, and one will require you to ship products sooner. Failing to do so will cost you—literally. Read details below and see how you can help improve the OpenSky shopping experience even more.

The Biggest Changes & Their New Fees

The 2 biggest updates to our Merchant Quality of Service Agreements have to do with fulfillment and they have new associated fees.

Change 1. We’ll reduce the number of potential shipping-related violations, but you’ll have to ship orders faster. Starting April 1, tracking info for your shipments must show a carrier pickup within 2 business days of the order placement date and delivery within 10 business days of order placement.

If a package doesn’t show movement within 2 business days, you’ll face a $5 fee. If it doesn’t show delivery within 10 business days, you could pay another $5. We’ll apply that fee at our discretion and encourage you to contact us if you worry you’ll be fined once these changes take effect. Please note that we’ll use the fees collected to offer shopper incentives to encourage visitors to buy from you again.

These updates will align our ship times with the timelines other marketplaces have in place and shopper expectations.

Of course, we don’t want you to incur these fees, so be sure to process and ship your orders ASAP. You may even want to look at your shoppers’ locations and compare them with your own to see if you need to process some orders before others to ensure they meet the 10-day delivery timeline.

Change 2: We’ll simplify the penalties for merchant-initiated cancellations and will charge a $10 fee per occurrence. Every merchant has a responsibility to shoppers to ensure their listings are accurate. There’s nothing worse than having shoppers purchase items only to hear after the purchase that the product they thought was available was in fact out of stock.

To avoid fees, be sure to keep your inventory up to date. And if you ever find yourself needing to cancel an order for any reason, especially if it’s one that’s out of your control (for instance, if you sell custom jewelry and need additional information from a shopper to fulfill an order), please contact us.

We’ll do everything we can to assist you and help you avoid penalties.

Other Changes

Change 3: We’ll remove the section of the agreements called “Failure to apprise OpenSky of inventory changes.” It stated that you could face a $100 fee if you didn’t keep us posted of inventory changes within 15 days. However, the changes to merchant-initiated cancellations should take care of this issue, so we’ll no longer need that section.

Change 4: We’ll add clear packaging requirements, so shoppers receive their products in good condition and see the OpenSky name and our contact information in case they need assistance once they receive their purchases. Nothing ruins a shopper’s experience more than seeing the product they fell in love with arrive in pieces.

See full details on the updates to our Merchant Quality of Service Agreements.

Make OpenSky Even More Appealing

We’re confident these changes will help improve the shopping experience on OpenSky and will encourage visitors to tour the site regularly.

But you can do a few other things, too, to improve the OpenSky shopping experience even more, including:

  • Making sure products arrive undamaged and in working condition
  • Checking all your orders to ensure they’re complete before shipping them
  • Double-checking that the right products are included in the right packages
  • Shipping out products that match the product photos and descriptions you provided

From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog

Show Your Items In Use

It can pay off in a big way.

By Dennis L. Prince

The Internet has become the go-to source for how-to information. Shoppers want instructional content, and they want it about everything, especially your items. Read Story

Merchant Newsletter | March 2, 2016