|Just in time for the holidays! We’ve been working round-the-clock to remake the marketplace for shoppers and we’re excited to unveil our new look. See details below.
Plus, let us know if you accept exchanges, ensure you’re shipping in time and get set for the busiest shopping days of the season—Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The New OpenSky.com
Shoppers are in for a treat! The OpenSky marketplace just got a huge makeover. The newly redesigned site features eye-popping collections, a sleek new interface and a totally immersive experience. Here’s a quick look at the new “About Us” page:
Revamping the marketplace is just one of the ways we hope to increase your sales—and while it will be hard to look away from all the pretty things and pops of color, rest assured that the same functionality and information for your store and product pages are still the same. Let us know what you think and stay tuned as we continue to optimize the site.
Offer Exchanges and Keep Your Sales
Shoppers often ask if they can exchange an item rather than returning it. Offering exchanges is a great way to keep the sale and build long-term relationships with customers (especially during the busy holiday season).
We recommend offering exchanges and will help facilitate this by promoting this option on product pages, and working with you and the shopper to find a suitable alternative for each exchange request.
To accept exchanges, simply go to the Orders tab in your Merchant Toolkit, choose whether or not you accept exchanges, and save your settings.
Keep Up the Good Work and Avoid Shipping Penalties
Are you shipping your orders as quickly as possible? Remember, we expect orders to be scanned by a valid carrier within 2 business days of being placed (and customizable products must be shipped within your estimated shipping time). Orders that do not meet these requirements result in shipping time penalties.
You can now review your penalties (if any) in the new Penalties section in your Merchant Toolkit. You’ll also be able to dispute penalties if you don’t think they’re accurate. After each payment period, we’ll send you an email summarizing your penalties for those orders and give you 2 more business days to file disputes. Once we’ve reviewed all disputes, we’ll calculate your final penalty deduction and apply it to your next payment.
Reminder: Extended Holiday Returns Are Here
Starting today, all products with a 14-day return window will automatically be part of our Holiday Returns Program.
This means all items purchased between November 8, 2016 and December 31, 2016, can be returned until January 31, 2017. Remember, any gift a shopper purchases before December 10 would essentially be Final Sale since she would not have enough time to return the item within the 14-day return window. By offering extended holiday returns, you can capture shopper demand early in the season and ensure you’re not missing out on sales.
Get Set for Cyber Week
Lastly, let’s talk Cyber Week, the week which includes Cyber Monday, one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.
Historically, this week has been big for online sellers. We expect even more traffic during Cyber Week this year, so we’re running huge promotional events every day that week, as well as the week before (which includes Black Friday).
As we run these, we’ll email shoppers to tell them about our promos and remind them of all the great deals they can find on OpenSky. We’d love to include your products in our events, potentially placing them in dedicated promo emails and landing pages!
All you have to do is set your maximum allowed discount to 30% or more.
To do that:
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.
But how are brick-and-mortars doing these days and what trends can we discern from the shopping season so far?
We took our Santa caps off for a moment and replaced them with thinking caps to find out. Here’s what we learned.
Why bust a door?
ShopperTrak, which claims to be the leading tracker of shoppers and “consumer behavior insights and location-based analytics,” estimated brick-and-mortar retail from Thanksgiving to Nov. 29 yielded about $20.43 billion in total sales—an estimated 10.4 percent decrease compared to 2014.
Read the entire article on Auctiva EDU.
The holidays are here! Soon shoppers will be busy making their lists, checking them twice—and buying like crazy! And we’ll be busy emailing them to remind them of all the great items they can buy on OpenSky.
Shoppers will be especially busy on Cyber Monday, but they’ll start buying even before that.
Last year, about 134 million people shopped online and in stores during the Thanksgiving weekend, reports the National Retail Federation. And people shopped earlier in the turkey week, too. This year should be similar, and we want you to get a piece of the Christmas pie, so we’re running Credit and Sitewide Coupon Code Events throughout Cyber Week, the week leading up to Cyber Monday.
Our promos start Monday, November 23, and run through Cyber Monday, November 30. See our events below:
- November 23: Sale on Sale Credit Event
- November 24: Flash $31 Credit Event
- November 25: Half Off Sale. Items 50% off MSRP or more (when Credits are applied) will be included in this sitewide event
- November 26, Thanksgiving: 30% Off Coupon Code Event
- November 27, Black Friday: 40% Off Coupon Code Event
- November 28, Small Business Saturday: 30% Off Coupon Code Event
- November 29, Cyber Sunday: $150 Credit Event
- November 30, Cyber Monday: $250 Credit Event
As we run these promos, we’ll email the millions of shoppers who visit OpenSky.com every day to let them know about our great deals.
We expect this to generate lots of traffic, and we want you to benefit by allowing shoppers to save when they visit OpenSky during those days and buy from you. All you have to do is opt in to Credits and Sitewide Coupon Codes if you aren’t already.
Here’s how you do it:
- Visit the “Settings” section of your “Marketing” tab.
- Set your Credit ceiling to at least 30% to ensure your products are eligible for all our Cyber Week Credit Events.
- Set your Sitewide Coupon Code ceiling to at least 40% to be included in both our 30% off Coupon Code Events and our huge Black Friday 40% Off Coupon Code Event. (Note: Setting your limit to 40% means your products will only be 40% off for our Black Friday Event, not any time before or after that during Cyber Week.)
- Save your settings.
Then get ready for the traffic!
Want another reason to opt in? This year each shopper is expected to spend an average of $805.65, the NRF reports. Sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?
Results Are In! See the New Features Everyone Wants. Plus, Image Variations, Easier Imports & More
Images for Your Variations
Easier bulk edits and imports, plus your feature requests
It’s official: The holidays are here. To get you ready, we’ve improved the buying experience for products with variations, simplified imports and product updates, and we’ve started to evaluate your feedback to see what features and stats we’ll add to your Merchant Toolkit Dashboard.
See details below.
Show off that red dress
Sell products with variations? For instance, a great dress that comes in a breathtaking red and a sophisticated black? Wish shoppers could see an image of each color option when they click on one? Now they can when you import products using a CSV file.
It’s as easy as adding a “1” (without the quotes) to your data file. Here’s how you do it:
4. Submit your file and you’re all set. Your variations will display the appropriate image.
Shoppers are sure to love this new feature, so be sure to use it!
Importing & editing just got easier
To simplify product management, we recently updated the importing process and the “Bulk Edit” page.
Now you can import and edit products using the same CSV file on both your “Bulk Edit” page and through a generic CSV import. You can also adjust your inventory levels by downloading an Inventory Management File of your products from the “Bulk Edit” page, making your changes and submitting your file to OpenSky.
The Inventory Management File is a simplified CSV file that contains all of your OpenSky products but only the SKU, Title, Quantity and Price fields for those items. We think this should make inventory updates even easier.
You’ll also notice improvements to imports from other sites. Before, imports from Shopify, Etsy, Bigcommerce and/or Big Cartel, only brought in new products. They didn’t change items you had on those sites and on OpenSky. Not anymore. Now when you run an import from any of those sites, any products on the third-party site that also lives on OpenSky will be updated!
The new features you want
Finally, in our last newsletter we asked you to tell us what you wanted to see on your Merchant Toolkit Dashboard as we start to reimagine it. 60 of you responded. Here are your top requests, the features and stats you like from other sites that you want added to OpenSky, and what we’re working on now.
We’re working to add this information before the holiday sales rush. We’ll upgrade the Dashboard a little at a time in the coming weeks, so you get each improvement as quickly as possible.
We also heard some requests to bring back the old feed-based Dashboard, including options to comment and smile at customers, and to bring back the old Posting Tool. While we hated to see the old feed go, our original findings are holding up: Overall, shoppers browse more of your promotions and buy more from the new OpenSky home page experience than they did on the old feed. So we’re not going to bring back the old feed at this time.
One of the great things about this survey was that we found we’re already working on some of the features you’d like to see. These include:
Thanks for all of your input. We’ll use it to rework the Dashboard to best suit your needs. Stay tuned!
To participate in this event, visit the “Settings” section of your “Marketing” tab and set your Coupon Code ceiling to at least 25%. You can see all of our upcoming promos on our Merchant Calendar.
Note: All events on the Merchant Calendar are subject to change.
From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog
Save Time & Money
Veteran sellers share their secrets.
By Brad and Debra Schepp
Keeping your sanity during the holiday season comes down to two basics: solid infrastructure and good time management. See how to optimize your approach. Read Story
Should You Pack Green?
The answer isn’t black and white.
By Brad and Debra Schepp
One of the most important ways businesses can choose to be greener regards packaging. We took a closer look at the topic and found that environmental benefits are not the only reasons why companies are going the green route. Read Story
We Want to Hear From You!
Did you find this info helpful? Want us to explore another topic, like shipping, sourcing or something else? Send us a message at email@example.com, so we can cover topics that matter to you.
Merchant Newsletter | November 5, 2015
Veteran online sellers shared some of their time-tested ways for smoothing the path through the holidays. They showed us how to plan for our own holiday celebrations last time we spoke.
This time they’ve tell us about saving time and keeping sales soaring. Their advice comes down to two basics: solid infrastructure and good time management. They start with your inventory and shipping operation, but there are some good moves to make with your listings as well.
Organize your items
“Do inventory now,” says eBay seller Kathy Keefe of Sassy’s Savings. “Make sure it is organized and can be easily found when sold.”
Keefe recommends using plastic tubs or banker boxes, and suggests you use the custom label field for locating the item.
Prep your shipping supplies
But it isn’t just your inventory that needs to be well organized. Many sellers recommended taking a hard look at your shipping operation, too. Keefe agrees.
“Take inventory of your shipping supplies, ” she suggests. “Organize boxes and envelopes by size. Having your shipping area streamlined and organized can save countless hours. ”
Top Rated eBay seller Cie-Bay says you should order free boxes from USPS now and stock up on tape, labels, bubble wrap, and other supplies you’ll need. “You won’t have time to get any of those things once the holiday sales go into full swing,” she adds.
Schedule mail pickups
Being well supplied is a great way to start, but you’ve got some other strategies you can take, too.
“If you can use USPS carrier pickup, log on to USPS.com now and order daily pickups for the next few months,” says Donna MacMurray-Klein, who manages a popular Facebook Group on selling online. “If you are not using a thermal printer for postage, consider getting one. They’re fast and actually pay for themselves quickly.”
She likes the Dymo 450. MacMurray-Klein’s advice is to evaluate how you can keep maximum accuracy, but gain the most efficient process.
Time management helps
Another crucial step on the path to a sane holiday season is time management. Luckily, our experts have wisdom to share about that, too.
“Plan and do so now, ” says veteran online seller Kathy Terrill. “I use Google calendar. I put everything on it, including how much I plan to pin daily on Pinterest, to when I want to launch auctions and the duration of the auctions.”
Technology makes planning ahead even easier. “Set up your social marketing campaigns in advance using one of the social media management applications,” Keefe says. She recommends Hootsuite, Buffer and Social Oomph.
“Set your promotion schedule and have your graphics ready in advance,” she continues.
Look back to last year
Keefe also recommends looking at your past sales to plan for this season. Although every year is different, looking back over sales records can help you predict and plan for what’s likely to be your busiest period again. With this in mind, you can easily change some things to smooth out the crunch time.
Keefe starts with the practical, part of your weekly time at work. “Try to have a specific time for shipping set aside,” she says. “It’s better to overestimate than to underestimate the time you will spend on this task.”
She also recommends setting a cutoff date for guaranteed arrival by Christmas and making sure that detail is apparent in all your listings.
Remember, you and your staff are not the only ones who are busy this time of year. The closer we get to the season, the busier your customers are, too. “Think like your buyer,” says MacMurray-Klein. “Holiday shoppers tend to be crunched for time and want to cross gifts off their lists.”
So offer a variety of shipping options. “If your listings don’t use calculated shipping, revise them and offer your buyers three mailing options: slow (First Class or Parcel), Priority, and Express,” MacMurray-Klein advises. “This allows your buyers in a hurry to simply upgrade their postage without nagging you. Enter the shipping methods in order of slowest to fastest, so they display right.”
MacMurray-Klein also had some advice to make your life as a seller easier. “As time becomes scarcer, end any listings that are really time consuming to prepare for packing unless, they’re super high profit,” she adds.
Those are likely to make any seller’s holiday happier!
The leaves are turning, the air is crisp and the dog days of summer are finally behind you. When spring sprung, you leaped into action to promote your goods. When summer sailed in, you broke a sweat to buoy your business.
Now that fall is here, can you really fall back for a moment before the start of the holiday season?
Of course you can, and you can get the respite you need without worrying you’re neglecting work. Breaks in your activity are not just refreshing, they’re required.
Read the entire article on Auctiva EDU.
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:
- Visit your “Marketing” tab of your Merchant Toolkit and select “Settings.”
- 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.
All merchants love the holiday season! It’s hard to beat the winter gift-giving holidays when it comes to filling their cash registers. Online sellers are no different, but the hectic nature of the season provides you with some special challenges.
Have you found that during past holiday seasons, although your business hummed, your own fun slipped away, almost unnoticed? Bah humbug! We turned to some well-respected online merchants to see how they go about fitting happy holiday sales in with happy holiday celebrations.
Larry Phillips has watched what other sellers do to make it through the season. The stamps he sells aren’t seasonal purchases, and most of his customers shop for themselves.
“They purchase for their own collections, and they’re busy buying for others during the holiday season,” he notes.
Still, living among so many e-commerce merchants for all these years, Phillips has learned a trick or two. His advice is to reward yourself.
“Buy tickets now to at least one event per month, a show or a concert, something specific,” he says. “Make sure it involves someone you love or a best friend. Put the tickets where you can see them and make it a point to look at them once a day. It will give you something to look forward to.”
Kathy Terrill agrees about planning special events during the holidays. “I talk it over with my husband,” she says. “Is there a show or sporting event he wants to attend? Book the tickets now and put it on your calendar.”
Take Time Off
John Lawson goes even one step further. “Take a vacation for Thanksgiving,” he suggests. “That’s what I do. I take my vacation at Thanksgiving week and come back and work my butt off that Cyber Monday all the way through the New Year to keep me sane.”
Hitting the rush with some R&R just behind you sounds great. If your own schedule won’t allow that, Phillips recommends a nap. “It’s amazing what a 30-minute nap can do to increase your energy level,” he notes. “Take a nap every day. Thirty minutes is fine, but do it at the same time every day so it becomes a habit.”
Do What You Can Now
Donna MacMurray Klein went even further in her holiday plans.
“If gift giving is a part of your holidays, get your shopping done now,” she says. “Make a list and buy everything. Wrap and put it all in a closet. You’ll be able to pack and ship without the stress of doing your own shopping.”
It’s not only the shopping that can be done well in advance, either. Is it possible that despite the craziness of this time of year, your family still expects you to host that big holiday gathering?
For many sellers the answer is a resounding, “yes!” Well, you know what they say about giving the most immediate work to the busiest person, and MacMurray Klein has some advice for coping with that, too.
“Write menus now,” she recommends. “Assign some dishes to some of your guests. For things that can be frozen, make them now and freeze!” While you’re busy menu planning and prepping, don’t overlook the dishes and treats that can be ordered for carryout. Terrill agrees.
“Are there special things you love to do at the holidays?” she asks. “Cookie baking? Caroling? Decorating the holiday tree as a family? Put it on your calendar.”
In other words, make celebrating your holidays with your family as important as anything else you’ll do this busy selling season. And when the rush hits, turn on some holiday carols and listen along as you list and pack. That’s what Carrejo does.
With these little tips and tricks, here’s hoping this season will bring you lots of sales and lots of days that are merry and bright!
You’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!