February 24, 2014

Amazon Eases Cross-Border Trade for EU Sellers


Over the last year, Amazon has been actively looking for ways to address the barriers and pain points involved with international selling and fulfillment. With Multi-Country Inventory (MCI), Amazon’s newest selling program, retailers can further localize their listings and increase conversion rates internationally.

Amazon-logo
Amazon’s efforts are especially visible for European sellers, who should find that selling to other EU countries has become significantly more streamlined. Here, we’ve rounded up some of Amazon’s programs and features aimed at helping you expand your sales internationally.

Above all, we recommend a phased approach to expansion. Below, we’ll cover some of the main selling opportunities you’ll want to be aware of as you go global:

  1. Sell internationally with Amazon FBA Export
  2. Optimize fulfillment with Amazon Multi-Country Inventory (MCI)
  3. Expand to new markets with Amazon
  4. Strengthen your strategy with ChannelAdvisor

1. Sell Internationally with Amazon FBA Export

Your expansion could begin with sending orders to international customers via Amazon Export. Or it could mean getting your products in front of international customers by selling on a new Amazon marketplace.

Amazon CBT 1

 

Say you’re a UK retailer who lists on Amazon.co.uk. Using the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program, you can store products in UK warehouses and use the FBA Export program to ship internationally. Customers from 26 other EU member states are able to browse and purchase your products on Amazon.co.uk.

While Amazon FBA Export doesn’t add new global sales channels, it increases the number of consumers who can see and buy your products.

Keep in mind that shipments from your home country to other countries in Europe will incur your standard FBA fees plus a European Fulfillment Network (EFN) fee. When cross-border sales become significant, Amazon’s Multi-Country Inventory becomes a smart next step.

2. Optimize Fulfillment with Amazon Multi-Country Inventory (MCI)

Multi-Country Inventory (MCI) is Amazon’s newest global selling program. MCI will help you reduce your fulfillment costs and increase conversion rates for products sold outside your home market. With MCI, which is based on Amazon FBA, you can now designate and locate your products in the FBA facility closest to your customers.

Let’s go back to our earlier example. If you’re a UK retailer who’s selling on Amazon’s German marketplace, you might determine that some of your products are selling well there and that you’d benefit from having inventory closer to these local customers. You can now hold some product quantity in the UK (fulfilling yourself or via an Amazon FBA facility) and also choose to send some product to the FBA location in Germany.

The benefit is that your products will be listed with shorter shipping times — which will help increase conversions. And because Amazon looks favorably on retailers with quick shipping, your chances of winning the Buy Box will increase. Last but not least: Your fulfillment fees will be reduced, since the shipment won’t incur an EFN fee between the UK and Germany. Finally, you save on transportation costs by sending products in bulk to local fulfillment centers rather than dispatching individual orders across borders.

For more information — including steps on how to enable MCI — see the Multi-Country Inventory page in Amazon’s Seller Central (login required).

If you fulfill on your own and are currently selling internationally, you can also take advantage of MCI. You can continue to fulfill your domestic orders yourself and gain a competitive edge in international marketplaces by fulfilling locally with MCI. You can choose to either fulfill your entire listings or just your best-selling items locally — there are no minimum requirements.

3. Expand to New Markets with Amazon

Selling directly on an international marketplace is the next step in your expansion strategy!

Amazon has third-party marketplaces in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan and India — and more than 30 listing categories. Expanding globally allows you to identify new opportunities for your products as you diversify your customer base. 

Amazon CBT 3

If you’re already listing on Amazon in the US or UK, the listing and error resolution processes are consistent as you expand globally, reducing that part of the learning curve. When deciding when and where to sell, we recommend first considering how you’ll handle fulfillment, payments and customer support strategies. The good news is that Amazon has developed some features to address these complexities:

  • Translated listings foster a good buying experience and therefore are a requirement for listing on Amazon. Amazon’s tools, such as Expand Offers Internationally, will help you identify translated, in-catalog products in your target markets and will speed up the listing process.
  • Establishing an Amazon European Marketplace Account unifies all of Amazon’s European marketplaces and allows you to share quantity among them. You can also have your proceeds converted into the currency of your home country.

NOTE: Please keep in mind that each country has legal and industry requirements concerning sales of products to consumers. Please review the Amazon Terms & Conditions and Product Category Restrictions for any market you hope to sell into and seek the appropriate professional legal and tax advice.

4. Strengthen Your Strategy with ChannelAdvisor

At ChannelAdvisor, our goal is to keep abreast of new marketplace opportunities and provide you with a system that helps you manage the complexities of global selling. With less time spent manually listing and updating your information, you’ll have much more time to focus on refining your international strategy.

Our Amazon integration supports the Amazon global expansion programs: FBA Global Export, Multi-Country Inventory and European Marketplace Account. We’ll also give you the ability to list your products on Amazon in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China and Japan.

Blog post by Gina DeFrank, ChannelAdvisor Product Manager.

Images courtesy of 2014 Amazon marketing materials.

 

Amazon CBT 4If you’re a EU retailer looking to expand internationally, take a look at our three-part Agile CBT series that will detail the steps to success when taking your company and brand overseas.



 

February 18, 2014

You down with UPCs? Better be by Feb. 19th on Amazon...

Amazon recently announced that as of tomorrow, February 19, 2014, it will require UPCs on the product listings for hundreds of popular brands.  According to Amazon, this will prevent duplicate listings that are confusing for sellers and shoppers alike.  

IStock_000007804869Small

One thing to keep in mind is that Amazon has been known to dictate a hard date and then slowly implement the requirements. What we do know is that requiring UPCs is Amazon’s long-term direction, and that while they may still allow your product to list without a UPC after February 19th, Amazon could begin the enforcement on your products at any time.

As a seller it is in your best interest to review the SKUs that may be impacted and to develop a plan to avoid having your listings excluded from Amazon.

Who is impacted?

US sellers in the Hardlines, Softlines and Consumables categories selling these designated brands, regardless of any prior exemptions. 

When?

After February 19, 2014, any of these products that don’t have UPCs could be suppressed from shoppers’ searches on Amazon.  

What should you do?

1. First, determine which of your listings would be affected.

If you are listing on Amazon and listing using an ASIN instead of a UPC, review the list of designated brands to see if your listings will be impacted. If you are the valid brand owner, consider registering for the Amazon Brand Registry  to obtain a UPC exemption.

For ChannelAdvisor customers, you can run an Amazon feed preview and view the column ProductIDType to see if you are sending UPC or ASIN as the primary product ID type. Then you can run an export of your inventory on the Amazon label, focusing on the fields that contain the UPC, ASIN and Brand date.  You may need to filter these lists against Amazon's list of designated brands to see which listings are at risk.  Full details available on the SSC here.

2. Determine if your product listings have errors.

After listing, use the ChannelAdvisor Amazon Insights (Amazon > Insights) feature and the Data Quality tab to view existing listings that have been suppressed by Amazon due to lack of valid UPCs. Use the ChannelAdvisor Product Error view (Amazon > Product Status, then select "Errors) to view new listings that have been suppressed by Amazon due to lack of valid UPCs.

3. View Suppressed listings in Amazon Seller Central.

Suppressed ASINs will be visible in both the ‘Fix Suppressed Listing’ filter on the Manage Your Inventory tab and the ‘Listing Quality and Suppressed Listing’ report in Seller Central.  To learn more about how to fix suppressed listings, search for “Suppressed Listings” in Help on Seller Central.

4. Buy UPCs if you don’t have them.

There are many companies that sell UPC data and you can locate them via a Google search. Additionally, many sellers are discussing different options on the Amazon Seller Forums.

ChannelAdvisor has a partner firm, WisePricer, that offers a product WiseMatch, which may be worth considering.

Summing it up

While this is currently US-only, and only for certain categories, it suggests a future pattern for Amazon, so sellers should take note and consider making it a habit to provide UPCs for every product listing.

 

Blog post by Gina DeFrank, ChannelAdvisor Product Manager

January 31, 2014

Amazon's Mixed Q4 results - plus a Prime-increase on the horizon?

Yesterday, Thursday January 30th, 2014, Amazon announced their Q4 2013 results.  As we mentioned in our preview, expectations were high, essentially everyone was looking for a Q3-level y/y growth rate in the >23% range.  Amazon came in at 22%, below Wall St. expectations.  The good news is that Amazon had the highest operating margins in over two years and said they are looking at raising the cost of Amazon Prime (currently $79/yr) by $20-40.  Wall St. loved this because 22m*$40 = $800m in 'incremental revenue'.   The devil is in the details and we'll have to watch when/how Amazon approaches this price change to Prime and how consumers react.

This quarter continues the long 3-4yr 'story arc'/theme we have seen with Amazon - more and more GMV is flowing through 3P which causes revenues to decelerate (because for every $100 in GMV that move over, Amazon 'loses' $90 in revenue due to accounting treatment - thus decelerating revenues). 

In this post we'll rise above all that Wall St. noise and look at Amazon's results in detail and what they mean for online sellers/retailers.

Concerns overblown (for sellers) - or - Don't Panic - Keep Calm and Amazon On!

 

Keep_calm

There are headlines out today about a massive slowdown at Amazon, etc.  Sellers may read this and panic that the growth years of selling on Amazon are behind us.  I actually think that's very far from the truth.  

It's important to remember that e-commerce grew at 11% as of Q4 (comScore) so at 22% y/y revenue growth, Amazon is growing 2X the rate of e-commerce.  It's also important to remember the scale - this is a ~$75B online retailer growing at that pace - the share gains even at a 'paultry' 22% growth rate are astounding.  While this decelerated from 26% as of Q3's growth rate, Q4 2013 was a challenging holiday with fewer days, delivery capacity concerns, etc.   For example, had Amazon grown 'in-line' with e-commerce at 11% the revenue would be $23.6b or $2b less than this result.  Behind that $2b if you factor in 3P there is $4b in share gain that Amazon enjoyed in Q4 2013.  That's essentially the same online sales of a Liberty, Sears, Office Depot, Dell, BestBuy that Amazon gobbled up in ONE Q!  As we peel the onion on the Q, you will see that segments like North America non-media grew much faster: 25% y/y.

To put it in perspective, here's a chart that shows retail sales vs. e-commerce sales vs. Amazon:

Amzn_q4_a_vs_r_vs_ecomm

So what's going on is Wall St's expectations go ahead of Amazon's growth by a bit, which will cause some adjustments in the stock market, but hopefully you will see that the opportunity to sell on and grow with Amazon is still very much alive and well.

Amazon Q4 2013 Key Performance Indicators (for sellers) Dashboard

Each Q we look at the key metrics that are important to sellers and they are collected in this handy dashboard that has columns for the results, Wall St's consensus estimates and Amazon's guidance.     Let's dig in and understand what happened this Q.

Here is the Q4 dashboard: (click to expand)

Amzn_q4_13_dashboard
 

Highlights from the Q:

  • Active users - Active users increased to 237m, up from Q3's 224m - another 19% growth.  This bodes well for the future as Amazon hasn't seen any slowdown in customer acquisition.
  • Paid unit growth - Paid units were a major concern for Wall st. coming in at 25% vs. Q3's 29%. Again, this is 2X the rate of e-commerce and not a view for concern from a seller's perspective.
  • Other growth rates  - These are detailed in our regular feature, the quarterly Amazon growth rate 'cube', found in the next section.
  • % paid items from 3P - Amazon reported that 39% of paid items were from 3P sellers - in-line with the last 2-3 quarters.
  • Amazon's Q1 2014 guidance was for 19% at the mid-point, another reason Wall St. is concerned, we will have to see how this comes in.
  • Amazon added 7 FCs in 2013 with vague plans to keep 

From the conference call there were some other points of interest:

  • 60% of revenue is NA and 40% is international (similar mix to Q3)
  • EGM hit a new high-water mark at 67% of sales compared to 28% Media (the reason those don't add up to 100% is a category called other that we don't cover)

Q4 2013 Amazon growth rate cube

Note: EGM stands for Electronics and other General Merchandise - Amazon-speak for anything that isn't a (e)book, movie, dvd, cd, mp3, videogame. 

In the following cube we summarize all of the different Y/Y growth rates that Amazon reports (ex-FX).  We find this helpful as you can quickly see where the growth is (NA EGM) and where things are slowing (intl media).

Amzn_q413_growth_cube


Looking at the categories of media/EGM - Amazon's media business grew in-line with e-commerce thanks to an acceleration in the NA/Media component, and Amazon's EGM business grew >2X e-commerce both domestically and internationally.  Clearly when you look at NA vs. Intl, International is decelerating primarily driven by the media side of things.

The growth cube is helpful, but it doesn't give you a trend.  This chart shows the growth of each segment over the last year:

Amzn_q4_cat_chart

I mentioned early the deceleration Amazon is showing and this chart really illustrates it well. (Note all these metrics are ex-FX):

  • First you can see the green line (EGM US) decelerated from  the low 30's in Q2/Q3 to 25% in Q4.
  • Next the purple line shows some deceleration - that's international EGM.  Most likely this is due to EU headwinds.
  • The next line (light blue/aqua) shows the overall Amazon growth rate trend decelerating from the EGM pressure.
  • Finally the US Media line showed some nice improvement - likely driven by kindle e-book sales, apps, and mp3 sales that are filling the hole created by the lack of physical sales in those categories. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like International media has caught on to the digital trends and it remained relatively flat (the red line at the bottom).

 

How big was 3P in Q4 2013?

Amazon provides a couple of datapoints that we regularly use to triangulate the 3P GMV.  For our analysis, we choose to use the % of items that are 3P as the 'anchor' and use some educated (and conservative) guesses around take rate, and 1P/3P average prices.   

Here's our analysis for Q4 2013 (click to enlarge)

Amzn_q4_3p_calculation


For Q4 2013, our analysis indicates:

  • $23.1b in 1P GMV
  • $24.6b in 3P GMV
  • Total GMV: $47.7b

Here's what that looks like historically:

Amzn_q4_1p_plus_3p



I think this chart does the best job of showing the 'real' economic impact of Amazon's Q4 - that $4b in incremental GMV above the 'e-commerce growth baseline' came from somewhere - be it other online retailers, offline or some mix.

Marketplace battle: eBay vs. Amazon 3P

This chart compares Amazon's 3P GMV (no 1P) compared to eBay's GMV (ex-autos). 

Amzn_q4_ebay_vs_amzn_3p

Notice that each Q4, Amazon surges past eBay to fall behind the next Q4, but in Q4 2013, Amazon is $4b ahead of eBay in GMV, so it will be interesting to see if eBay can regain the top spot in Q1 given such a big lead.

Conclusion

Amazon's paid-unit y/y growth rate in Q4 decelerated to 25% from Q3's 29%.  But, the overall growth of 22% and segments like US EGM grew at 25% which are growing well over 2X the rate of e-commerce give us confidence that Amazon is set to continue  taking share in 2014.  Amazon's guidance for Q1 suggests a deceleration to 18% y/y growth and we'll be watching closely to see if that comes to fruition or if it turns out to be conservative.

 

Written by Scot Wingo,CEO, ChannelAdvisor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 30, 2014

Amazon Q4 2013 results preview (seller-oriented analysis)

After the market today, January 30, 2014, Amazon will report their Q4 2013 results.  Everyone in the e-commerce industry is on pins and needles waiting to see how Amazon did given the backdrop of eBay's in-line results with comScore's 12% Q4 results for e-commerce and the challenges seen in the offline world.

Also, Amazon did something they've never done before - they gave us some tantalizing details about Amazon Prime and the Amazon 3P marketplace.  Perhaps the biggest revelation was that Amazon Prime now has over 20m subscribers.  

This dashboard shows the metrics we'll be watching closely to see how Amazon performed:

Amzn_dashboard_q413

In addition to these classic metrics, one area of interest that Amazon has been very tight lipped about is mobile.  comScore was out with data that indicated Amazon's mobile usage was up a staggering 48% y/y (Thanks to Heath Terry@GS for pointing this out):

Amzn_mobile_2013_q4

 

 We will have the highlights from the report out tomorrow - stay tuned!

This blog post was written by Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor.

 

 

 

Boost Your Visibility with Amazon Product Ads

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.59.18Are you looking for additional advertising channels to build your brand exposure in 2014? If you haven’t already considered Amazon Product Ads, this could be the perfect time to take advantage of this highly targeted advertising channel.

Amazon Product Ads are advertisements on the Amazon marketplace that enable retailers to drive shoppers directly to their e-commerce site on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. Unlike listing directly on the marketplace, Product Ads link shoppers directly to the seller’s site, where the transaction takes place. As you control the branding and overall buying experience on your website, these ads give you the opportunity to offer a more tailored and specific experience to shoppers. Shoppers who purchase from you directly become a part of your customer base and you have the opportunity to advertise related products or upsell merchandise following the purchase.

Is the setup different to listing on Amazon?

Merchants can set up an Amazon Product Ads account in much the same way as they would an account on Amazon Marketplace, through submitting a detailed product feed, and filling out some basic seller information. The difference is that Amazon Product Ads are labelled as Product Ads from External Websites on Amazon’s search engine results (SERP) pages, 

Where are adverts located?

Amazon varies the placement of its ads to drive targeted traffic to your products on your website. The ads can be displayed on search, browse and related products pages.

Image004

Visibility is the key to success, so Amazon is constantly testing and optimising these ad placements to ensure you’re getting your products in front of potential customers in the most effective way.

Image003If your products are the same or similar to existing products on Amazon, then your ads will be displayed on special widget placements on the product detail pages, targeting relevant customers who are looking for products like yours.

If the products you want to advertise are unique, Amazon will create a new detail page for your product from the information you provide, and apart from showing on search and browse pages, it could also appear on the Buy Box.

Starting out

When starting out, you’ll want to get a good understanding of the appetite for your products by listing a broad range of your items and investing time to make sure you have the best possible product data. 

To create your ads, you’ll need to provide the following information: Product type, category, product title, a unique SKU for each product, a URL for the associated product page on your website and an image. You’ll also need to include a product price and any delivery charges that the customer may incur.

Amazon Product Ads


Although it’s not required, using a valid UPC or EAN will increase matching accuracy and relevance to a customer’s search. A UPC is a 12-digit identifying number that’s unique to each product and is usually provided by the manufacturer, brand owner or licenced distributor. An EAN is a European Article Number, which is 13 digits long that features 12 numbers of data and one check.   

Alongside these details, you’ll need to provide a description that provides customers with detailed information about the product, including key features. This is a distinguishing feature of Amazon Product Ads that allows you to provide customers with detailed product and offer information at no charge. As a result, customers are able to make better buying decisions, which qualifies the traffic clicking through to your website. The quality of the information you provide about your products will affect your ROI and Amazon's ability to best target your ads.

You can also add up to five keywords for each product you advertise. We suggest putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and use the same terms that are popular on your own webstore or in your paid search campaigns. There’s a 50-character limit on a single keyword, so shorter single keywords rather than phrases are more suitable for this section. Don’t forget that keywords shouldn’t include third-party brands unless you’re offering legitimate replacements for that brand.

How can you budget and monitor costs?

Unlike many other CPC advertising programs, Amazon Product Ads allow you to set a daily budget and cap your spending. This helps you to avoid traffic spikes than can drain a monthly budget in a short time. Amazon will moderate the daily spend so that in any calendar month, your average spend is equal to your daily budget. This is a great feature for testing the waters when starting out and gauging how much budget you should allocate to this advertising channel. Do make sure to allocate enough budget so as not to run out too early, as you might miss clicks from good traffic later in the day that will be important for your evaluation of this channel.

If you were considering new avenues for advertising exposure in 2014, then these highly targeted ads could help you reach engaged Amazon shoppers, acquire new customers, and increase sales.

____________________________________________________________________


Uk-ebook-optimise-amazon-salesTo learn more about How to Optimise Your Amazon Sales, why not download our eBook from practical advice to succeed on this lucrative channel. 

January 16, 2014

5 Tips for Maximizing Your Performance on Rakuten.com Shopping

Rakuten.com Shopping (formerly Buy.com) built its US marketplace with the goal of empowering retailers to make a connection with their buyers. Founded in 1997, Rakuten now shares its empowerment approach with more than 18 million customers globally, through 24 categories and 17 million products.

It’s easier than ever to diversify your sales and grow incrementally, and Rakuten encourages you to maximize your exposure by using its unique marketing tools. While Rakuten.com Shopping covers many categories, if you’re selling items in the Electronics, Home & Outdoor, Health & Beauty, Sporting Goods and Jewelry categories, then consider learning more about Rakuten.com Shopping and the opportunities that are available to grow your business.

If you’re already selling with Rakuten.com Shopping, read on to improve your listings and performance. For sellers who are waiting for the right time to get started, read below to be convinced that there’s no better time than 2014.

 

Selling Tips

1. Create a Storefront to Promote Your Brand

One of the unique features of the Rakuten marketplaces is a retailer’s ability to create a highly branded storefront. Many buyers shop on the Rakuten.com Shopping marketplace by store, instead of by product, and Rakuten allows you to build and promote your brand by creating an image-focused storefront. The storefront’s structure can mimic that of your own website so you can merchandise in a way that fits your inventory.

You can let buyers discover your products on their own, or you can promote your Rakuten.com Shopping store via social media or other channels to drive traffic there. For more information on how to create a branded storefront, please visit the ChannelAdvisor Rakuten Strategy page.

 

2. Improve Your Content Quality and Conversion Rate

RakutenSS

On Rakuten.com Shopping, you can create custom product pages (CPPs) for the products you want to highlight. CPPs will give you the ability to include a tagline, additional images, a video demo of the product and technical specifications. This rich content will give buyers added confidence in your products and answer their questions in order to move them toward a buying decision. Rakuten’s research shows improved conversion rates for products with CPPs.

Features of CPPs:

  • Provide full control over content updates

  • Support videos, HTML and rich media images

  • Qualify your listings for promotional opportunities

  • Increase your brand recognition

For more information on how to create a CPP, please visit the the ChannelAdvisor Rakuten Strategy page.

 

3. Add SKUs

It goes without saying that adding more SKUs to a marketplace improves your chances of offering the right product to each buyer. Additionally, on Rakuten.com Shopping, each retailer has their own storefront. Therefore, adding more SKUs also has the benefit of building out your Rakuten presence and letting buyers view all your offers.

 

4. Participate in Promotions

Rakuten.com Shopping runs highly promoted daily deals and gives its retailers opportunities to participate. You can choose to work closely with your Rakuten account manager —  e-commerce consultant (ECC) — to identify opportunities for promoting your products.

One successful strategy is to create a “hero deal” for your store to draw traffic and attention to the other listings in your store. This strategy works well when you’ve invested time in building a branded storefront and are using a CPP for the promoted product.

If you’re new to Rakuten.com Shopping, you can jump-start the process by reaching out to your success manager ([email protected]) to request an ECC.

 

5. Work with an Advocate to Grow Your Business

Rakuten.com Shopping offers ECCs to all of their merchants. The ECC’s goal is to help you maximize your sales efforts and grow your business. They can review your listings, offer marketplace best practices and help you participate in marketplace promotion opportunities.

January 2014 is an ideal time for reaching out to your ECC to discuss the Rakuten.com Shopping promotion calendar and your marketplace opportunities for the coming year.

 

Have more questions? Not sure if Rakuten.com Shopping is the right marketplace for you? Check out our FREE Rakuten.com Shopping profile in our 2013 Marketplaces Series for more info on this potentially lucrative marketplace.

 

More Information for Getting Started:

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Blog post by Gina DeFrank, ChannelAdvisor product manager, and Jayson Humphrey, ChannelAdvisor strategic partnership manager

 

January 09, 2014

Guest Blog: Improving Your Conversion Rates with Optimized Product Images

Zoompf_LogoThe following is a guest blog from Zoompf CEO Mark Isham. 

For the e-commerce retailer, high quality images are critical to a positive buying experience. Rich, clear imagery can often make or break a successful sale. Of course as with everything in life, this comes at a cost.

Did you know that images represent over 60% of the total size of a typical storefront page? Such a large footprint can inevitably lead to performance problems. Simply put: the larger your page size, the slower it loads for your customers - and it only gets worse on mobile. And of course the slower the page loads, the more likely your customers will choose to shop elsewhere.

Credit-card-on-computer-300x168In a landmark study conducted by Amazon, it was shown that each 100 ms delay in page load times led to a 1% loss in sales. A more recent case study by Intuit found that each 1 second improvement in page load times yielded a 3% increase in conversion rates. This stands to reason, as a slow online store is not just annoying to your customers, but causes a real and quantifiable drop in traffic conversions to sales. If you're curious, you can check out even more studies in our archive.

While there are many great things you can do to improve the performance of your e-commerce store, this article focuses on the one most directly under your control: optimizing your product images. When done properly, optimizing your product images can make a significant improvement to your user experience, with little or no impact to visual clarity.

To see other optimizations you can make to your online store, also check out our article How to Improve Your Conversion Rates with a Faster Website.

Lossless Image Reduction

By this point, you may be thinking "This is all well and good, but I need my images to look good!". Here's the good news, in many cases you can reduce the size of your images by 20% or more without ANY impact to visual quality. This is not some subtle trick that is open to interpretation by the viewer, this is the exact same image...minus the extra "junk" that has nothing to do with how the image looks. This is called "lossless" image optimization.

How is this possible?

Many people don't realize that a typical image file is stored with a lot of extraneous information that has nothing to do with the display of the image itself. For example, here's the layout of an example PNG image:

Depending on the tool used to create the image, a typical image file can have embedded comments, thumbnails, unused palette entries, tool metadata and more. This information is all useful to the designer when they edit the image in their favorite tool, but is completely extraneous and unnecessary for your customers. In some cases, you could save over 100 kb in size on just 1 optimized 500 kb image!

Recommendation

Yahoo has a great free lossless image optimizer called Smush.it, check it out. Still keep a copy of your original image files (that extra information is useful to your designer's tools after all), but before publishing those images, run a new copy through Smush.It and use that version for your customers.

Choose the Right File Type

While one image file type may look like any other to you, the choice you make can have a dramatic impact on the size of your file. Consider these recommendations when choosing your image file type:

PNG Images

The PNG file type is ideal for logos and computer art, images with sharp edges and contrast. PNG files also have the extra benefit of supporting transparency, which is a valuable (although sometimes overused) tool in the web designer's arsenal. Beware, though, the PNG file format is TERRIBLE for photographs. You know: pictures with many colors and soft diffusion. This is where the JPEG format shines.

JPEG Images

Use JPEG images for photos, easy as that. While JPEG images don't support transparency, the savings you get by using the correct format will be well worth the sacrifice. Consider the following example:

Zoompf

A huge difference in size with undetectable differences in the image.

Beware, though, as unlike PNG images, JPEGs images are what's called "lossy images," meaning you can save at different quality levels that can impact the visual clarity. If you lower that quality level too far, the savings will be outweighed by a grainy or fuzzy picture. This is where your designer has a right to complain, so choose a quality level that is a good balance between speed and appearance. We recommend selecting a JPEG quality in the 50-75 range. Consider the following example and see if you notice the difference:

WebP Images

WebP is a new image format introduced by Google that in many ways has the best of both worlds between PNG and JPEG images. Lossless AND lossy images are at least 25% smaller than their PNG or JPEG counterparts, and it supports transparency. The downside: WebP images are not yet universally supported. While Chrome natively supports WebP, older browsers and tools require plugins to support this format.

For this reason, we do not currently recommend using WebP unless you configure your website to conditionally serve different image types based on the browser of your customer. This is an advanced optimization, so to keep it simple we recommend waiting until WebP is natively supported by a broader set of the tools used by your customers.

You can read more about WebP on Google's developer site.

All the Rest

These days there's generally no good reason to use BMP, GIF, TIFF and other legacy formats unless you have a very niche use case. GIF images do support animation which is nice in some circumstances, but otherwise we'd recommend sticking with PNG and JPEG files. BMP files are not compressed in any way; avoid them like the plague!

Summary

Your product images can represent 60% or more of your total page size. By optimizing your images just 20%, you can save hundreds of kb of size on your webpage, which in turn can save seconds off your download times. Each second gained can improve your conversion rates by 3% or more! This is time well spent.

We make the following recommendations to optimize your images:

  • Use a tool like Yahoo's Smush.It to losslessly optimize your images, or reduce without any loss of visual quality.
  • Use PNG images for logos and computer art, JPEG images for photographs.
  • Use a JPEG image quality of 50-75, depending on your taste. No more, no less.

Once your images are well optimized, we recommend using a tool like ChannelAdvisor's RichMedia to improve the user experience for your customers, including zoom, panning, and even a 360 degree viewer.

If you want to see more tips on how you can optimize the performance of your images and many other aspects of your storefront, check out the Free Website Performance Report offered by Zoompf.

MarkIsham_headshotMark Isham is CEO of Zoompf, the leader in web performance optimization for e-commerce retail web and mobile sites. Prior to Zoompf, Mark worked as a senior engineering leader at ChannelAdvisor for over 12 years, where he worked closely with top e-commerce retailers to improve their online sales through the ChannelAdvisor platform. You can check out more performance best practices from Mark and his team on the Zoompf Blog.

January 02, 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Retailers

HappyNewYear!

 

Believe it or not, another year has flown by. And as always, the dawning of a new calendar year brings forth a fresh slate of resolutions from everyone we know. Though some resolutions are new, almost all are the same as the year before. 

Despite our best intentions, when it comes to our personal lives, most of our New Year’s resolutions rarely last the month of January. But we’re talking about your business here....

Take a look at your bottom line right now. Is that honestly where you want to be again a year from now? Or do you want to grow and change? If so, then commit yourself to making this year the year you follow through on your January goals.

Below, find eight suggested resolutions that you can start with to help make sure that 2014 is the best year your business has seen yet.

1. Lose weight.

Just as so many of us find ourselves with stretched-out belts after the holidays, businesses are often left bloated with an excess of product after the holiday shopping rush is over. Don’t let that excess inventory hang around into the next season — resolve to get rid of it now. There are plenty of ways to eliminate that stockpile of unsold inventory, from using flash-sale sites on marketplaces like Sears or Newegg, to upping your paid search strategy and bidding on long-tail keywords, or listing on comparison shopping engines (CSEs) to take advantage of your competitive post-holiday prices.

2. Learn a new language.

Well, if not you, then your products. The cross-border online shopping population is estimated to grow by 38% over the next five years, with an anticipated dramatic increase of 200% in cross-border online spending, according to a recent study from PayPal and Nielsen. The e-commerce world has grown, and cross-border trade (CBT) is the next logical step for online retailers, allowing sellers of all sizes and verticals to expand into new markets and ultimately grow their businesses. With international expansion, however, comes a new set of considerations: varying exchange rates, taxes, local customs and more. Do your research to determine whether your business is set for global growth in 2014.

3. Travel more.

Start in March by attending the award-winning Catalyst Americas conference, held this year at the luxurious Wynn Las Vegas. This year’s theme is “E-Commerce. Accelerated,” and each track and corresponding sessions are designed to help accelerate your online growth, no matter the current size of your business. The conference, held March 10-12, offers a unique combination of informative sessions and networking opportunities with the top retailers, analysts and thought leaders in the industry. Don’t put it off. Book your trip now (especially because the ticket price increases on January 15).

4. Earn more money.

This one usually tops everyone’s annual list. But how are you going to do it this year? As an online retailer, the obvious way to make more money is to sell more products. Simple. But selling more products often means getting them in front of as many consumers as possible. One way to do that is to expand into multiple marketplaces. With our Marketplaces solution, we’ve made it easy to expand your online presence. In fact, in 2013 we expanded our platform to support new marketplaces in geographies all over the world.

5. Spend more quality time at home.

You no doubt waste a lot of time each week tending to small details when you could be doing other, more important things. That lost time adds up over the course of the year. One way to save time is to stop tediously uploading all of your product data to each individual channel you use. With ChannelAdvisor’s Webstores Amplifier, you only need to input your inventory data once — then it can be automatically uploaded, synchronized and updated across any and every channel you wish, whether that’s Amazon, eBay or another marketplace. Take that free time and devote it to something more important.

6. Improve your reputation.

You’re only as good as your reputation. The trust a consumer has in a retailer is the determining factor in many online sales, so staying on top of feedback and customer service is absolutely necessary. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay even encourage customer feedback and keep track of it. In fact, one of the values Amazon uses to determine Buy Box eligibility is your order defect rate (ODR), which is a combined measure of customer feedback, A-to-Z claims and chargebacks. Keeping a close watch on your customer service in 2014 will inevitably boost your marketplace reputation and thereby your sales.

7. Take up photography.

Images are becoming more and more essential in converting sales on webstores and marketplaces. First impressions count: Professional-quality product photos and videos often give customers that final level of confidence to make the purchase. The growing importance of images also means that image requirements are changing for listing on Amazon, eBay and even Google. Stay up to date on changing image requirements and make sure professional, high-resolution photos are at the forefront of your e-commerce strategy this year.

8. Get rid of the clutter.

Is your warehouse overrun with inventory? With Multi-Channel Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you can tidy up your warehouse by storing and shipping items from another location entirely. Imagine selling a product on any marketplace, having it picked, packed and shipped to the customer, and never even seeing it. It’s possible with Multi-Channel FBA, and ChannelAdvisor supports it. Not only can you now list your complete inventory across multiple marketplaces, but we’ve also made it easy for you to fulfill with Multi-Channel FBA support.

 

Whether you attempt all these resolutions, just a few of them or even make up your own, let 2014 be the year you enable your business to experience the health, wealth and happiness that you want for it.

Happy New Year! 

 

Blog post by Bradley Hearn, ChannelAdvisor Copywriter

December 27, 2013

Why Attend Catalyst Europe 2014?


Catalyst LogoAs we wind up the year and look forward to 2014, it’s clear that there are exciting prospects on the horizon. Catalyst is one of the highlights of our year, and we’re already counting down the days until it arrives (104, to be precise).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Catalyst, it’s an annual e-commerce conference hosted by ChannelAdvisor that brings together industry visionaries and forward-thinking retailers. We’ll discuss current and upcoming industry trends, exchange best practices, learn about new innovations, and participate in expert-led training. We host the event every year in both London and Las Vegas.

Catalyst has become an essential date in the diary of many leading online retailers, and with this year’s event promising to be better than ever before, now is the time to reserve your place. If you’re wondering why you should attend Catalyst Europe, we’ve shortlisted the five top reasons for you to attend.

 1. The biggest names in e-commerce

Catalyst draws together the most influential retail leaders from across the industry. Already our agenda includes presentations from industry giants such as Google’s John Gillan, Amazon’s Chris Poad, and Simon Calver, CEO of Mothercare. These experts are shaping the world of online retail and will deliver insightful and forward-looking sessions.

Catalyst also offers genuine networking opportunities with innovative online retailers who are willing to collaborate and share information and insights. The buzz around the venue as ideas and best practices are exchanged is palpable! You really won’t get another opportunity like this all year.

 2. An informative and customisable agenda

Our agenda has just been announced, and with three tracks and 16 sessions, we have something for everyone. Ever wondered how to own the Google search page, or how to expand internationally with marketplaces? We’ve got it covered.

Our three tracks have been designed to help you build a conference agenda that’s relevant to your business. Our Foundations Track is crafted for the emerging retailer and will help you lay the groundwork for a strong e-commerce business. The Expansion Track is targeted toward the more established retailer who is looking for ways to expand their e-commerce success, whether that’s through adding new marketplaces, rethinking cross-border trade strategy or cracking the social media code. The Insights Track is more visionary in nature, covering a broad range of industry information and big-picture trends. You can take a look at the full agenda here.

 3. Access to the industry’s leading solutions

Catalyst is a hub for industry knowledge and expertise, bringing together an eco-system of solution providers and partners to help you get the most from your business. From tax advisors to translation experts, fulfilment carriers to mobile solutions, these specialists will be on hand to advise and guide you through your e-commerce questions.

We are excited to announce that Hermes, the delivery expert, is the Headline Sponsor of Catalyst Europe 2014. Hermes will be discussing the latest trends in fulfilment, as well as how consumer expectations and attitudes are shifting the way e-tailers operate.

 4. The practical and actionable advice

We want you to leave Catalyst Europe equipped with the tools and knowledge to grow your online business. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘E-Commerce. Accelerated.’ — and this is more than just a tagline; it’s our mission. Each event is specially designed to accelerate your business into new markets and help you achieve maximum online success.

Each of our workshop descriptions identifies the three most important points you’ll walk away knowing, making each workshop a valuable resource for your business. Browse our agenda for some of the takeaways you can expect. 

 5. The new format of the event

We’re shaking up the format of this year’s event and synthesizing the e-commerce education to one day of networking, workshops and keynote sessions. The result is that you’ll get to discuss all the essential e-commerce topics with industry leaders — under one roof and in a single day!

If you’re looking for one more reason to attend Catalyst Europe, our early bird offer is valid until midnight on the 31 December. Book before then to reserve your place at the hottest event in town for just £50! Don’t miss this opportunity to accelerate your e-commerce success.

Register today!

P.S. If you’re considering going to Catalyst Americas, check out this blog post for all you need to know.

December 18, 2013

The 2014 Catalyst Agenda is Here

Stop the presses! The wait is over.

Forget the months of idle whispers overheard at the watercooler, the excited late-night texts and the misleading email gossip… Speculation can now be confirmed: The official 2014 Catalyst Americas agenda has arrived. And it’s fantastic.

The Catalyst planning team has emerged from their secretive strategy sessions and lifted the intel embargo to present a jam-packed, highly informative two days of e-commerce delight that is sure to both inform and inspire.

CatalystCapture

With more than 20 information sessions broken down across three tracks (Fundamentals, Expansion and Vision), in addition to the dynamic general and keynote sessions, there’s literally something for everyone at this year’s Catalyst event. Whether you’re a mid-market retailer, industry analyst or solution provider, you’ll gain valuable insight from any and all of the information sessions.

The award-winning Catalyst conference will be held March 10-12, 2014 at the Wynn Las Vegas. This year’s theme is “E-Commerce. Accelerated,” and each track and corresponding sessions are specifically designed to help accelerate your online growth, no matter the current size of your business.

Topics such as rapid access to new sources of demand, global expansion, performance-based analytics and more will leave attendees with a comprehensive understanding of current and upcoming trends, best practices, new products and innovations in the e-commerce industry.

The Fundamentals Track

Crafted for the emerging retailer, this track walks you through the process of building a strong e-commerce foundation in detail. Sessions include:

  • Your Blueprint for Online Growth

  • How to Build a Webstore that Converts

  • Building a Successful Search Marketing Strategy

  • Making the Leap from Small Biz to Mid-Market

  • Improving the Findability of Your Products

  • And more...

The Expansion Track

This series of sessions are targeted toward the more established retailer who is looking for ways to expand their e-commerce success, whether that is through adding new marketplaces, rethinking cross-border trade strategy or cracking the social media code. Sessions include:

  • Marketplace Madness: Your Next Steps for Amazon, eBay & Emerging Marketplaces

  • Social Success: Digging Beneath the Hype to Discover What Works

  • Agile Cross-Border Trade, Parts 1 & 2

  • Visual Commerce: Managing Your Images in a Visual World

  • Channel Mix: How to Own the Google Search Page

  • And more...

The Vision Track

More forward-thinking in nature, this track includes topics that cover a broad range of industry information and big-picture trends. Sessions include:

  • Big Data-Driven Commerce: Your Guide to Next Generation Analytics

  • Distribution Digest: Your Inside Track to Fulfillment

  • Hiring Wars: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent

  • 20/20 Hindsight: Sharing Lessons Learned the Hard Way

  • Inside the Mind of the Consumer

  • And more...

And this is to say nothing of the networking breaks and keynote addresses that help make Catalyst the most sought-after industry conference all year. It is a one-of-a-kind gathering of the best online retailers, thought leaders and industry analysts in the world—formally and informally exchanging ideas, shaping the world of e-commerce and charting its future. Your business can’t afford to not be there.

For the full agenda, along with detailed session descriptions, visit the official Catalyst webpage here.

So now that you know exactly what will happen in Vegas in March, you have no more excuses. Register now. And for a limited time, use the promo code “extendvip” to receive the discounted early bird special on the conference and hotel rate. Hurry—it won’t last long!

At Catalyst Americas, there’s not just something for everyone, there’s plenty for everyone.

“E-Commerce. Accelerated.” Indeed.

 Blog post by Bradley Hearn, ChannelAdvisor Copywriter