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

 

Have You Picked a Plan? You Need to by May 1.

 

Pick a Plan by May 1

Plus, avoid penalty fees, streamline your multi-channel selling & more.

If you haven’t signed up for one of our new plans, be sure to do so ASAP. On May 1, 2016, all merchants will need to be subscribed to a plan to continue selling on OpenSky. Read on for more details.

Plus, see how you can keep shoppers happy and avoid penalty fees, check out two new fixes you’ll love, and improve your multi-channel selling with Skubana.

Pick a Plan in the Next 2 Weeks

You’ll need to subscribe to a new plans by May 1, 2016, to continue selling on the marketplace.

If you don’t, your account will be deactivated, your products will be unpublished and shoppers won’t be able to buy from you until you’ve picked one of our plans.

Join more than 1,000 merchants who have already made the switch and take advantage of new features, a flat, lower commission rate and much more. Remember that OpenSky reaches more than 20 million eager U.S. shoppers who spent millions last year.

If you’re unsure about which plan suits you best, set up a time to talk to one of our Merchant Advisers to learn more about how our new plans can help save you money, reach more of the right shoppers and much more.

Shoppers Love Tracking Info

According to comScore, 97% of shoppers want tracking services for their packages. We can vouch for that. Shoppers regularly contact our Customer Support Team to ask when they’ll get their purchases. Who can blame them? We’re sure you get excited when you buy something online, too, and are eager to get it.

So be sure to enter valid tracking numbers for all your orders. Doing so will keep you in shoppers’ good graces, will help you comply with our Merchant Quality of Service Agreements and will help you avoid penalty fees.

And if you enter tracking info incorrectly, be sure to update it. It’ll keep shoppers in the loop and will make it so your product shows movement once it’s on its way. Remember that all orders (that aren’t custom items) must show a carrier pickup on the tracking number within 2 business days and must be delivered within 10 business days. Orders that don’t will incur fees.

You can view, update and process orders on your “Orders” page, so be sure to check that page regularly and update any orders that need it—especially ones that aren’t showing movement!

Fixes You’ll Love

We did a little clean up this week and fixed two things that will help you gauge your profits more accurately and sell more efficiently.

  1. We reworked the stats that appear on your Dashboard so your sales totals no longer include canceled orders.
  2. We fixed a bug that was allowing some products to be oversold.

Unlock Your Products’ True Selling Potential with Skubana

Earn EVERY dollar that your product is worth. With Skubana’s powerful profitability tools and intuitive multi-channel inventory software, selling is now a science of automation. Understand your customers’ buying habits, discover each product’s peak seasons, all with full control over your inventory and start selling smarter. See why the top 500 Amazon sellers use Skubana. Try Skubana free for 14 days.

From Auctiva EDU & The OpenSky Merchant Blog

Instagram Advertising, Part 2

How to succeed

By Brad and Debra Schepp

The billions of photos shared on Instagram are proof of just how popular this social media site is. And now that you know how to get started, let’s look at how to really become part of the Instagram community to gain new shoppers. Read Story

Merchant Newsletter | April 20, 2016

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

Should You Pack Green?

should-you-pack-green-os“Going green” isn’t a new trend for businesses. The idea can apply to a single part of a business or a set of practices designed to reduce your environmental footprint.

Mandy Nagel, founder of I Thought of You, a site that sells handmade products, elegantly summed up what green means to her, “As a ‘green’ business, we consider how every aspect of our product’s lifecycle will affect the planet.”

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 taking the green route.

Read the entire article on Auctiva EDU.

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.

New Feature: Tiered Shipping

Reward Shoppers with Shipping Discounts

This week, we’re excited to announce a new feature that will help you provide a better shopping experience for Members.  It’s called Tiered Shipping.

What is Tiered Shipping?

Tiered shipping is a way for you to provide shipping discounts for every additional item a shopper adds to their shopping cart. Tiered Shipping is set up when you first create a product, and can be edited at any point via the standard Product > Edit functionality in your Merchant Toolkit. Tiered shipping has two elements that you must enter on all listings – a Primary Shipping Cost and an Additional Item Cost.

  • The Primary Shipping Cost is the amount a buyer pays when the item is shipped on it’s own.
  • The Additional Item Cost is the amount added to the cart of a shopper when items are purchased and shipped together.  Additional Item Costs apply when a buyer purchases multiples of the same product or different products from you at the same time.

Setting up Tiered Shipping

If you don’t want to offer a discounted combined shipping cost, you won’t need to make any changes in your toolkit.  But if you’d like to start extending this discount to your shoppers, head over to your toolkit, choose to edit a product and navigate to the ‘Shipping’ section for that item (review the image below if you’re unfamiliar)

tiered shipping

How does Tiered Shipping work?

Here’s an example of how Tiered Shipping works:

  • Item 1
    • Primary Shipping Cost = $8.00
    • Additional Item Cost = $2.00
  • Item 2:
    • Primary Shipping Cost = $7.00
    • Additional Item Cost = $1.00
  • If Item 1 and Item 2 are purchased together, the total Shipping Cost to the buyer is $10.00. We use the highest primary Shipping Cost and it’s specified Additional Item Cost.
    • Primary Shipping Cost: $8.00 (higher of the two items)
    • Additional Item Cost: $2.00 (specified Additional Item Cost associated with the Primary Item)
  • If three of of Item 2 are purchased together, the total combined shipping cost to the buyer is $9.00. Here’s how it breaks out:
    • Primary Shipping Cost: $7.00
    • Additional Item Cost: $1.00 (2 items ordered) = $2.00
    • Total Shipping Cost: $9.00