Time to Get Ship Done: Avoid Shipping Penalties, How Our Holiday Returns Program Will Help Your Sales & More

Are Your Shipping Times Shaping Up?

Before you know it, the holidays will be upon us. To ensure you have your most successful season yet, it’s important to stay on top of your shipping times and offer a holiday return policy that gives shoppers the confidence to buy. That’s why we’re making it easier than ever to stay updated on orders that didn’t ship in time and be part of our Holiday Returns Program. Get details below.

Plus, check out a new Boost feature, get some help from your team so you don’t miss important messages and learn more about the power of branding.

Ship in Time to Avoid Penalties

How are your shipping times shaping up? With the holidays just around the corner, shoppers will soon be expecting their orders to arrive more quickly than ever.

To avoid penalties, ensure you’re taking all the necessary steps to stay within the guidelines outlined in our Merchant Quality of Service Agreements. Remember, once an order is placed, you have 2 business days for it to be scanned by a valid carrier.

Also, stay tuned for a new Penalties section in your Merchant Toolkit. This will give you visibility on orders that did not meet our requirements and are subject to penalties. After each payment period, we’ll send you an email summarizing your penalties for those orders and give you 2 more business days to submit exception requests. Once we’ve reviewed all exception requests, we will calculate your final penalty deduction and apply it to your next payment.

Hassle-Free Holiday Returns

Ready for your most profitable holiday season ever? On November 1, we’re taking an extra step out of your holiday prep by automatically updating all products with a 14-day return window to be part of our Holiday Returns Program.

This means all products purchased between November 1, 2016, and December 31, 2016, can be returned until January 31, 2017. These products will still abide by the same guidelines as our current return policy, however, it gives shoppers a little more time to return their items, and most importantly, gives them the confidence to buy.

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—thus limiting your holiday selling potential in a big way. By offering extended holiday returns, you can capture shopper demand early in the season and ensure you’re not missing out on sales.

Learn more or contact us if you have any questions.

See How Your Boosted Products Measure Up

Pro Plan merchants, put your Boosts to the test! Here’s a sneak peek at the new Product Performance Chart you’ll soon see right below your Shopper Traffic Graph in your Merchant Toolkit:

This new feature will help you compare your Boosted products’ daily conversion rate with the average OpenSky marketplace conversion rate (the red line at the bottom). Similar to your Shopper Traffic Graph, the green portion represents how much impact Boost has on your products’ performance.

Anxious to try Boost? This program is currently only available to a pilot group, however, we’ll be inviting more merchants later this month. Stay tuned!

Getting Your Team Involved

Need help staying on top of important notices and messages during the busy holiday selling season? If you have a team of employees or co-workers who help you manage your business, you may want to route certain types of notices to their inboxes, freeing you from forwarding messages.

You can have different people receive messages in the following categories:

  • Business Owner
  • Customer Service
  • Accounting
  • Order Information
  • Product & Inventory Management
  • Marketing & Merchandising Updates
  • Social Alerts (Loves, Follows, Comments, etc.)

To add secondary users to cover these sections, go to your “Users” section located in the “Account” tab of your Merchant Toolkit. Scroll to the bottom of the page or click the “Add Account” link at the top. Enter the email address of the account you want to add.

After the additional user confirms via email, you can go back to your “Users” section and use the checkboxes to choose the types of notices he or she will receive. An important thing to note: After a user becomes a secondary user, he or she will have access to your entire Merchant Toolkit with the exception of your “Billing” section.

Get more tips in our quick-start Guide to Selling on OpenSky.

Merchant Newsletter | October 12, 2016

 

Why You Should Review Your Returns, Making the Price Right, Prepping for the Holidays & More

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Monitoring Your Returns?

We no longer review all returns, so you need to let us know if you want to dispute a return request from a shopper. Get details below. Plus, check out our enhanced Boost insights, see if you need to rethink your pricing strategy and start prepping for the holidays now.

Track Your Returns

Shoppers can now initiate returns without contacting our Customer Support Team. They just have to go to their “Purchases,” or “Order Details” pages and specify the reason they’re returning something. Then they’ll either:

  1. Get a shipping label for the return and send the product back to you.
  2. Or the request will be submitted to our Customer Support Team for review. We’ll then either email the shopper a return shipping label, so she can send her return to you or we’ll ask for additional information.

You will be notified of each return and it’s in your best interest to keep track. Since we don’t review all returns, you must let us know within 24 hours of receiving the return if you disagree with the reason a shopper specifies and want to dispute it. Keep in mind that the reason associated with each return determines who will pay for the return shipping cost.

Improved Shopper Traffic Graph Gives More Insights

Pro Plan merchants, check out the Shopper Traffic graph that appears in your Merchant Toolkit Dashboard when you Boost. Three tabs let you easily see how many views, orders and sales your Boosted products have received.

57dc6479c915e45a9a763034And take a look at the gray and green portions. They show you just how much impact Boost has on your traffic with gray representing organic traffic and green representing Boosted traffic!

Currently available to a limited pilot group, Boosts and the Shopper Traffic graph will become available to all qualifying merchants later this fall. With the holidays just around the corner, you’ll be able to Boost your products to put them in front of millions of shoppers across the Web.

Note: Boosts are only available to Pro Plan merchants who don’t have managed marketing campaigns.

Is Your Pricing More than Right?

Price matters—a lot. It can actually help build trust and encourage shoppers to buy.

The key is to show shoppers the value you’re offering them and you can do that in 3 simple steps:

  1. Do some research to ensure your products are competitively priced. Shoppers are always on the hunt for the best price, and if they find your products elsewhere for a different price, it could cost you a sale—and their trust.
  2. Set the MSRP on all your products. We’ll display MSRPs above the OpenSky prices to show shoppers the savings you’re offering them and that can be just the push they need to buy.
  3. Ensure your MSRP is accurate. Posting an inflated MSRP can hurt your sales. Remember, shoppers research their purchases, and if they see an inflated MSRP, they’ll go elsewhere. Plus, inaccurate MSRPs are a breach of our Merchant Terms of Service Agreement.

Get more tips in our new quick-start Guide to Selling on OpenSky.

 

Merchant Newsletter | September 29, 2016

Important Changes to Returns Just Hit! Plus, Boost Insights, How to Write Killer Product Names & More

 

It’s official: Most merchants must now accept returns. See details below. Plus, get the scoop on upcoming Boost insights, learn about a new platform that can simplify product management and learn how to write product names that pay off.

Changes to Returns Are Live

As of August 15, 2016, the changes to our Merchant Agreement are live and most merchants must accept returns within 14 days from the shipment delivery date.

Only certain products are exempt, including:

  1. Custom products
  2. Products listed in categories that do not allow returns, such as: Books, Intimates and Gourmet Food

We updated return policies for products on OpenSky.com accordingly, so be sure to double-check your items and ensure that any products that are custom are listed as such. (And keep in mind that we reserve the right to process returns within 14 days of purchase for products that were changed from not accepting returns to accepting returns, even if they were listed as not accepting returns when they sold.) Learn more.

Boost Insights Get A Boost

Pro Plan merchants, if you’re Boosting your products to put them in front of millions of shoppers across the Web, we have great news: Soon you’ll have access to more data, so you can see exactly how your Boost campaigns are performing.

We’re adding new tabs to your Shopper Traffic graph (which displays on your Merchant Toolkit Dashboard) that will show you how many add-to-carts, orders and sales your Boosted products have received. Eventually, you’ll be able to see how many impressions your products are getting, too.

Not Boosting your products yet? Contact us at pro@opensky.com or visit our FAQs. Please keep in mind that Boosts are only available to Pro Plan merchants who don’t have managed marketing campaigns.

Venture Over to Vendio

vendio-logoSell on Amazon or eBay, or both in addition to OpenSky? If so, check out Vendio, a member of the OpenSky family.

It’s a great service that streamlines product management and allows you to create, edit, and list products to Amazon, eBay, OpenSky, and your own online store from one place. You can even sell on Facebook with the service!

How’s that for convenience and increasing your reach? Plans start at $24.95 a month. You can even try it for free to see if it suits you.

About Your Product Names…

They could be meaningless and confusing shoppers. What does that mean for you? Shoppers could get turned off and move on, or they may buy the product and return it because they expected something else.

To avoid that, follow this simple formula to perfect your product names.

  1. State what your product is in simple, searchable terms (e.g., “Cotton Short Sleeve Shirt”).
  2. Add in general descriptors such as color, pattern and size (e.g., “Gray Cotton V-Neck Short Sleeve Shirt”).
  3. Keep the character count to 80 characters max, including spaces.
  4. Avoid special characters, catalog numbers and product codes.
  5. Spell-check. It’s the cherry on top of a killer—and profitable—product name.

Need a little inspiration? Here’s a great product name to help:

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Get more tips in our new quick-start Guide to Selling on OpenSky.

From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog

Key Selling Tips, Part 1

Seasoned sellers share their best tips.

By Brad and Debra Schepp

We recently asked a group of e-commerce sellers a simple question: What are the most important things to know about running an e-commerce business? Read Story

Merchant Newsletter | August 18, 2016

Important Changes to Final Sale & Returns, Take Our Fulfillment Survey, & More

 

Changes to Final Sale & Returns Hit Soon

Plus, take our new fulfillment survey so we can help you save & more

We’re retiring Final Sale and changing our guidelines on returns soon. See details below. Plus, tell us about your fulfillment process so we can help you save and see how we’re making order processing easier for ShipStation merchants.

Final Sale is Ending

As you may have seen in your Dashboard, we’re updating our Merchant Agreement on August 15, 2016. As of that date, items can no longer be listed as Final Sale and most OpenSky merchants must accept returns within 14 days from the shipment delivery date.

Only certain products are exempt from the new return guidelines, for example:

  1. Custom products
  2. Products listed in categories that do not allow returns, including: Books, Intimates and Gourmet Food

These changes will help us align our policies with those of other marketplaces and help foster trust among shoppers.

What should you do? Double-check that any custom products you sell are listed as such. We’ll automatically update products’ return policies according to the new guidelines when the changes take effect.

Please note that we reserve the right to process returns within 14 days of purchase for items that are changed from Final Sale to accepting returns when changes take effect, even if they were listed as Final Sale at the time of purchase. Learn more.

Take Our Fulfillment Survey

We want to get to know your business better so we can serve you best—and help you save. If you haven’t already, be sure to take our short fulfillment survey. It’ll take just a few minutes and will go a long way in helping us identify new opportunities to help you reduce your costs.

Take the survey now.

ShipStation Merchants, Your Job Just Got Easier

If you use ShipStation to process your OpenSky orders, you now have one less step to take. Last week we added an OpenSky packing slip to ShipStation, so you no longer have to go into your OpenSky Merchant Toolkit to print packing slips for your OpenSky orders.

You can download the slips right from ShipStation. Get step-by-step instructions on how to do this in our Help Center.

When Should You Take Product Photos?

Morning and early evening. That’s when you’ll get the best lighting, a key ingredient in great product photos. To get the perfect shot, set up a seamless background next to a window for soft, natural lighting as shown below.

photo-tip-os-nlBe sure to avoid direct sunlight and harsh midday lighting. (They can wash out your image.)

And if you set up your shot outside for a lifestyle image—remember those receive almost double the traffic of other images—make sure it’s not in direct sunlight.

Get more tips in our new quick-start Guide to Selling on OpenSky.

From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog

Nail Product Sourcing

The trade shows you can’t miss

By Brad and Debra Schepp

Nothing beats old-fashioned face-to-face communication when it comes to sourcing, and trade shows are a great place for that. That’s probably why the shows are thriving, but which ones should you attend? Read Story

Merchant Newsletter | August 3, 2016

Do You Add the 1 Attribute Every Product Needs?

Don’t Miss This Key Product Detail

Plus, take the pain out of tax returns, end that negative self-talk & more

We have tons of projects in the works to help your business reach its limitless potential in 2016. But you can do one really important thing on your own to provide a good shopping experience: Enter accurate item weights.

Our Customer Support Team uses product weights to generate return shipping labels when a shopper requests a return.

If a product doesn’t contain an accurate weight, we run into two problems that shoppers hate:

  1. The shopper requesting the return may not be able to ship the item back to you because the return shipping label we send them (based on the item weight entered) is insufficient.
  2. The shopper may have to pay for the additional postage to return the item.

Avoid disappointing your shoppers and take the time to review your item weights. It’s an important detail that can turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers.

Partner Spotlight: TaxJar

TaxJar makes sales tax compliance simple by taking the pain out of reporting and filing your sales tax returns. Get started by giving yourself a quick and painless Sales Tax Compliance check up for 2016. Then start your 30-day risk free trial of TaxJar today!

From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog

Stop The Negative Self-Talk

Why it’s bad for your business and how to end it

By Brad and Debra Schepp

Do you see failure lurking behind every corner? As a small-business owner, if you do, you may be hurting your business. Read Story

Why Shoppers Abandon Their Carts

See how you can get them back.

By Brad and Debra Schepp

The term “cart abandonment” makes many online sellers a little queasy. Orphaned carts represent lost income. Why do shoppers abandon their carts? We talked to a few experts to find out. Read Story

Merchant Newsletter | January 28, 2016

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: Let’s Talk Returns

Disappointed Woman Unpacking Online Purchase At HomeWith online selling being so competitive, especially around the holidays, it’s important to get every advantage you can. One area in which you can differentiate your business is returns.

Beat the Brick-and-Mortars

In fact, your returns policy may also help you better compete against brick-and-mortar stores, not just other online sellers, says longtime merchant Kathy Terrill. While there are many ways Terrill works to stand apart from B+Ms (and her online competitors) for Terrill’s customers, returns are “no problem.”

And that’s a good thing. With all the gift giving during the holidays, buyers will be looking for the piece of mind that comes with knowing they can return a product if it doesn’t work out for some reason.

Buyers Want You to Take Returns

Sometimes returns aren’t cut and dry. Additionally, customers and online merchants may have differing opinions (go figure) on what constitutes a good returns policy.

Now, we’ve been both online buyers and sellers for 16 years, and as buyers we always look at the return policy carefully. For expensive items, especially, we look for a liberal policy offering returns for 30 days. If a seller will not accept returns at all, that can be a turn off. We’ll either move on to another seller or, in the case of unique items, do our due diligence even more carefully than we would otherwise.

There are exceptions, though. We sometimes buy comic books online that are graded by an outside company, CGC. As buyers, we know CGC-graded comics are in the condition the seller says they are. So in these cases, if a returns policy is less flexible, that’s understandable. (Unless, of course, there’s a problem with the plastic case the comic is encased in. A crack would certainly justify a return no matter what!)

Of course, we’re not the only shoppers looking for generous return policies.

“As a shopper, I will not buy items online with no clear return policy,” notes Quincy Smith of http://www.Upliftroi.com. “I don’t want to risk having something not fit, work or arrive not as advertised unless I am able to return it.”

Returns Can Be Tricky

Ina Steiner, the editor of EcommerceBytes.com, points out that “returns are tricky particularly for sellers of highly valuable or unique items.”

“Many sellers claim they receive damaged or inferior substitutions of their items when buyers request returns,” she says. “Returns are also a problem for clothing sellers who say some shoppers make a habit of wearing items and returning them to sellers stained, expecting a full refund.”

It makes sense that not all items are meant to be returned with equal ease, especially if the item is susceptible to the normal wear that using the product causes. But even this example seems to come with its own caveats.

We spoke with Randall Robert, owner of Grapple Gear, who emphasized the importance of return policies for his particular niche, athletic apparel used for grappling sports such as Jiu Jitsu and MMA.

“We’ve actually gone above and beyond in our returns policy, with great results,” he says. “Most companies will only pay for one-way shipping and expect their customers to foot the bill to return the product. However, grappling apparel is difficult to size and determine the right fit, as every manufacturer seems to have a slightly different idea of what the sizes mean in terms of length, width and weight.”

Allen Walton of SpyGuy Security has very solid reasoning as to why there is not a returns policy of any kind for the surveillance equipment his company sells.

“Because of the nature of our products, we have a no-returns policy on our hidden cameras in our GPS trackers,” he tells us. “Customers can sometimes find that difficult because they’re not used to buying the sort of product we sell. We have a very good reason for this policy, though. We get customers who buy our merchandise, use it and then want to get a refund even after they get the answers they need.

“We’re not the rental company and we can’t stay in business that way,” he continues. “I think we make a good case for not having a returns policy on those items, and a lot of customers definitely understand why. It’s just sometimes hard to close the sale.”

Don’t Take it Personally

As we’ve suggested, all things being equal, you want to be able to offer as generous a returns policy as you can. Additionally, you can’t take returns personally.

“If you get upset every time a customer returns one of your items, this business is not for you,” says veteran merchant Cynthia Carrejo.

So if you can, accept legitimate returns and maintain a positive attitude about it. That way, everybody’s holidays are happier! 

Our thanks to Ethan Schepp, who provided research help for this article.