July 02, 2014

Will You Be Allowed to Sell Your Next New Product Line on Amazon? (Part I of II)

I’ve said before that selling on Amazon requires you to learn a new language, but it’s also true that it requires learning a new playbook. And unfortunately, some of the Amazon rules in the playbook aren’t published, leaving sellers to learn as they go, or worse — learn the hard way. We’ve been hearing from a lot of sellers recently that have been caught by surprise in one area: brands and products that they’re not permitted to sell. A list that, to our knowledge, is not publicly published by Amazon in its entirety. (In Amazon's defense, if such a list did exist it would require constant updates as category managers remove products/brands.)

This situation been particularly frustrating for some sellers who have invested money in a product only to discover that they can’t move it on Amazon — a main sales channel for them.  As many sellers are ramping up their SKU breadth and depth for the holiday selling season, this topic requires immediate attention in order to avoid sunk costs, unmovable products and worst-case scenario: suspension. Amazon

In researching this topic and trying to compile a definitive list of brands to avoid, we found an example of one of the things that we love about our community of sellers and e-commerce retailers in general — their camaraderie and willingness to share knowledge for everyone’s benefit. Here you’ll find a seller-maintained list of brands to that other retailers have reported as restricted or “problematic.”  

 There are a few restrictions that can put the brakes on your ability to list products on Amazon. Here’s a summary of those blockers: 

  1. Published Restricted Products: First, there’s the published list of restricted products on Amazon. Some types of products are banned outright, like items falling under the Weapons category: guns, ammunition, explosives, etc. Other categories, though, just denote attributes of prohibited items, like items that are not deemed safe by the FDA or those not sealed in the original manufacturer’s packaging within Cosmetics & Skin/Hair Care. Very few categories explicitly list brands that are banned or not allowed. When they do, it’s as an example, like with Latisse, which is used as an example of a product that requires a prescription by a medical professional.
  2. Gated Categories: Next there are categories needing pre-approval (a.k.a. “gated” categories), which require sellers to complete an application process to be able to sell in them. Clothing & Accessories and Shoes, Handbags & Sunglasses are two of the most popular gated categories. If you’re not approved in these categories, then you won’t be able to list products within them.
  3. Closed Categories: Then there are closed categories, which aren’t open to new third-party sellers. Jewelry and Textbook Rentals are the main categories here. Toys & Games also falls under this category during the holiday season. Again, unless approved in a closed category, you won’t be able to sell products within them.
  4. Exclusive Amazon Authorized Dealer(s): This is the most ambiguous umbrella of restricted products and the focus of this article. For some individual brands and products, Amazon has a closed list of sellers that can list items for sale. Many times you’ll see a single seller — often the brand owner — who owns the listing, like this Beachbody workout kit. Other times you’ll see a group of sellers authorized to list products, but no new sellers can join the ranks, like this Wedderspoon honey, which displays the message “Sorry, the ability to create a listing for this item is restricted.” when trying to list the product. The bottom line with these restricted products is that if you aren’t on Amazon’s authorized dealer list, then you won’t be able to sell these items.
  5. Manufacturer Authorized Dealer(s): Once you’ve gotten through all the restrictions above, you can sometimes face listing issues from the manufacturer themselves, as is the case with many electronics brands. Some manufacturers prohibit the sale of their items on Amazon and/or the internet. Others will allow internet sales, but only for select sellers who comply with Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP). On the other hand, some manufacturers will allow open sales to anyone as long as they are abiding by MAP. Amazon provides the Brand Registry program to allow brand owners some control over their listings, but often manufacturers lean on their distribution chain to control who sells their products. Some even resort to legal action to control the distribution of their products.

There are generally two ways that restricted and problematic brands and products (due to an Amazon authorized dealer list — fourth in the list above) are discovered. The first — and preferred — is that when completing the listing for your product, you receive a message that says, “Sorry, the ability to create a listing for this item is restricted.” It’s even better when you’re researching SKUs to sell and discover that a product is restricted before it’s in the receiving bay of your warehouse.

The second way that restricted SKUs can be discovered is when Amazon changes a product to an “Inactive” status within Seller Central. Unfortunately, this status change doesn’t trigger a notification and is often discovered when a seller does research into why a previously top-selling item has suddenly dropped off to no sales. Items stocked through Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) that go to an Inactive status are especially challenging since you’ll incur fees to get your items removed from FBA and returned to you, unless you sell them on another channel outside Amazon and still use FBA for fulfillment.

Hopefully by now you have a clearer image painted of what you can and cannot sell on Amazon as well as the associated risks involved. Be sure to stay tuned for part II of this blog post that will detail how to protect your growing e-commerce business. As always, if you have remaining questions please feel free to email us at marketing@channeladvisor.com.

 

Blog post by Rachel Miller, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor

June 25, 2014

Amazon Lights Up M-Commerce with Fire


Amazon FireAmazon recently unleashed a beast that stands a solid chance of competing with Apple and Samsung in a “who has the loudest roar?” contest. The latest addition to the Amazon family was dubbed the Fire Phone: a 5.64-ounce beauty of a smartphone with a 4.7-inch display. The Amazon Fire comes equipped with all the industry standards — slim, Gorilla Glass touchscreen and forward-facing camera — but there are a few features that set it apart and could make it a big player in the e-commerce world (from Amazon’s viewpoint at least).

Firefly

Firefly

Think of Firefly as Siri’s cousin. It’s your personal assistant for identifying objects, audio, art and films, then providing you with the option of purchasing via Amazon. Firefly can identify movies and TV shows by scanning the audio, much like the popular music app Shazam. This feature is powered by Amazon-owned IMDb. Unlike Shazam, when Fire detects a song, it will allow you to purchase upcoming concert tickets through StubHub.

The smartphone’s database contains roughly 70 million objects. With the phone’s camera, the object recognition feature can scan almost any item and provide you with instant pricing and availability info. Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos even showed off the phone’s ability to identify food and spit out (no pun intended) nutrition information. It’s still unclear how the phone will handle multiple objects in the same image capture — for example, a basketball, jersey and pair of Nikes. Is Amazon’s next step pointing you toward merchandise bundles of compatible products?

The bottom line: Firefly encourages shopping on Amazon. It reduces the number of steps it takes to buy items via your phone, taking the act of showrooming up to another level. Why log into Amazon’s website or a third-party app when you have one magic button at your fingertips? Further simplifying mobile commerce seems like the underlying approach Amazon’s taking with its breakthrough to the cellular world.

Dynamic Perspective

3D

The day has come: A 3D smartphone display has been unveiled. Amazon is a first adopter in this type of image formatting. Fire’s display screen will not only satisfy the gamers out there, but may just be a cherry on top of shopaholics’ sundaes. Imagine being able to have a 360-degree view of clothing, shoes or other products.

Maneuvering the phone to various positions allows users to see 3D product images from a variety of angles — revealing perspectives that a 2D frame wouldn’t show. Also, by tilting the phone a certain way, a user can fluently move from one item to the next. In the product debut, Bezos demonstrated looking at products online by tilting the phone side to side to scroll. The same feature can enable you to scroll through webpages, articles or books without touching the display. Seems like a pretty smooth online shopping experience.

Furthermore, the phone’s 3D effects apply across Amazon’s shopping network, including its bookstore, music store and primary digital market.

Customer Service

Customer Service

Mayday, Fire’s cleverly named customer service feature, makes waiting in the Apple Store seem unrefined. The ultra-simple and user-friendly service is readily available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The customer service tool lets you quickly receive answers to any questions or issues you may come across with your Fire.

As we know, today’s smartphones can store a user’s location along with other personal data. Amazon could eventually latch onto this data and hone in on personal habits and spending patterns — enabling better tailored product recommendations and even a way to manage warehouse inventory.

Customer service is king in the retail industry. Is it a coincidence that this service parallels the Fire’s market approach? Only time will tell. Maybe one day Mayday will be able to address your shopping or logistics inquiry.

The Perks

Let’s not forget that all purchasers of the phone are granted a 12-month Prime membership — Amazon’s elite $99/year, two-day-shipping club. Existing Prime subscribers will receive an extra 12 months’ membership.

It’s clear that this phone is designed for the savvy shopper and is fuel to the fire for the Amazon enthusiast. Fire encourages existing customers to shop and reels new customers into the mix. Creating the most friction-free purchasing experience not only aligns with Amazon’s core business goal, but may just set the phone apart from Apple, Samsung or any other big market player.

Fire ships on July 25, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on reactions to the phone and its m-commerce features. How do you think Fire will impact your Amazon sales? Sound off in the comments below.

 

Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, social media & blog manager, ChannelAdvisor


Us-ebook-mobile-app
Interested in digging deeper into the mobile side of e-commerce? Check out our eBook Building a Mobile App for Your Brand? STOP. There are (Already) Apps for That!

 

 

June 16, 2014

Trade Me Webinar Follow-Up: Your Questions Answered

Our Australia team recently joined forces with Power Retail to host a webinar on the Trade Me marketplace and the e-commerce opportunities to be found in the New Zealand market. Trade Me’s Georgina McGowan and Hamish Macdonald, as well as ChannelAdvisor’s Mark Gray, offered insights and best practices for retailers looking to get started on Trade Me.  Didn’t make the webinar? Here are five takeaways you’ll want to know:

Webinar - Trade Me

1. Why sell on Trade Me?

With 3.4 million members and approximately 700,000 visitors each day,1 Trade Me boasts the largest online buying channel in New Zealand.  While eBay and Amazon are behemoths on the world’s stage, neither has a large presence in New Zealand. In fact, 46% of New Zealand buyers who were asked ‘What website do you think of when you go to buy online?’ answered ‘Trade Me’.2 The country itself is experiencing huge e-commerce growth, with 54% of New Zealanders having shopped online within the last 12 months3 — and April spending up 11% on the previous year.

2. Can international sellers list on Trade Me?

Yes! ChannelAdvisor has been integrated with Trade Me since 2012 and currently supports retailers from across Australia, the US, Europe and Asia. Overseas sellers will need to go through an application and vetting process before listing on the marketplace. This is to ensure commercial selling viability and to weed out any safety concerns.

Encouragingly, offshore purchases made from New Zealand are growing at almost three times the rate of local e-commerce buying.

3. Does Trade Me partner with a fulfilment service?

No, Trade Me doesn’t partner with fulfilment companies, but can offer advice to retailers based on individual requirements and types of items.

Retailers in the US or UK who already have a Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) agreement can use FBA to ship items to New Zealand locales. Given New Zealand’s small geographical mass, the shipping logistics can be easily navigated. 

4. How can retailers increase their visibility?

Trade Me's search is largely driven by product titles. By comparison, eBay's search algorithm utilises a larger amount of product data alongside account ratings and performance. To this extent, optimising your data for the specificities of a marketplace is paramount. With the help of ChannelAdvisor's business rules, titles can be tailored for each marketplace, ensuring that the most relevant information is included in your listings and increasing the chance of items being displayed within search results.

5. What products will perform well on Trade Me?

Branded goods are undersupplied in New Zealand, and buyers are looking for products that don’t currently exist on Trade Me. Retailers that are able to fill these supply gaps stand to win a large portion of the market. Top-performing categories include fashion and accessories, health and beauty, sports, and home and living.

For retailers with sizable inventory, Trade Me and ChannelAdvisor can advise you on which of your products are likely to sell best on the marketplace.

 

Blog post by Shani Flynn, ChannelAdvisor marketing copywriter, APAC

1 Trade Me monthly stats

2 Perceptive Research

3 New Zealand Retail Association


  TradeMe-ShouldYouBeSelling-Image

 

Want to learn more about Trade Me and find out whether it's the right fit for your business? Check out our Trade Me tip sheet for all the important information.

 

June 12, 2014

How to Capture Attention on Amazon: Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of our installment on how to capture the Amazon shopper. In the first post, we examined how to grab buyers’ attention and direct them to your product page listing. Here, we’ll take it a step further by exploring how you can take that attention and turn it into conversions. 

Amazon Buy BoxBuy Box

The Buy Box is the golden ticket for Amazon sellers. Assigned to one retailer per page, the Amazon Buy Box appears at the top of the product listing page. Sellers competitively seek this prize, and for good reason, but winning it is no easy task. Only Featured Merchants are eligible — these are Amazon sellers who have met performance-based requirements and accordingly have placement advantages for their listings. Your Perfect Order Percentage, Order Defect Rate, Cancellation and Refund Rate, and Late Dispatch Rate all factor into Featured Merchant status. You also need to offer competitive pricing and shipping, along with continuous product availability.

Product Images

Say you’re a consumer (well, you probably are). Let’s say you find a product listing for item you’ve been searching for —  the price is right, there’s a reasonable shipping time and a detailed description. You’re feeling good. But there’s something missing. Images. What are the chances that you’re going to go through with the purchase? If you’re like us, the chances are pretty slim.

Now, put your retailer hat back on. Make sure to include a main photo, along with a number of additional images of the product. Use high quality images, show the entire product (multiple views are ideal) and aim for a size of at least 500 x 500 pixels. If consumers like what they see, there’s a greater chance that they’ll add your item to their basket.  

Product Description

Though a product title and image can offer shoppers a solid amount of information, the product description is where you detail the ins and outs of the item, fully selling it to the consumer. Further down on the product page, an effective description could be the final selling point that leads the consumer to conversion. As with the product title, include what you believe is important information and what the shopper wants to see. We recommend using no more than 200 words in your description so as not to burden the consumer with an overflow of information.  

And brush up on your writing skills. Poorly constructed descriptions can cause a buyer to make wrong assumptions, which either sends them away from a product that was a good fit for them, or leads to an increase in returns because an ill-informed purchase was made. So say what needs to be said and don’t be too wordy. And last but not least: Consider bullet points, which can make your text stand out more than a string of bulky sentences. 

Amazon Listing

Seller Standing

Many times, the items you’re offering are also available from other sellers. This is where you can pull out the boxing gloves and really compete. Total Landed Price (item price + delivery costs) is one of the primary ways to gain a win. Don’t rely on manual price changes or assume your initial price analysis when you listed your item is still the best one. Use a repricing engine, like ChannelAdvisor’s Repricer with Pricewatch, to make sure your price is the most competitive. 

The final punch required to gain the sale? A proven track record of good customer service.  Customer satisfaction yields good ratings and feedback for your seller account.  When your prices are just slightly lower than a competitor’s with a great service history, you could still lose the sale.  Also, don’t forget the little things, like a professionally designed logo, that can help you stand out from the pack and display your professionalism. 

Analyse and Take Action

Whether you’re new to Amazon selling or a marketplace veteran, you should always find time to analyse your performance and find areas for improvement. Be sure to frequently analyse your pages’ performance, highlighting how effective your titles, search terms, descriptions and images are — and what needs work.

Monitor your performance through Amazon’s key metrics. If you spot any weak points, take action. And though you can’t please every single shopper on the marketplace, the more time and attention you give to your product listings, the higher the chance there is of both capturing that shopper’s attention and leading them to conversion.

Within the ChannelAdvisor platform, we collect all the Amazon analytics you need to know within the Actionable Retail Insights view. This feature recommends new products to source, highlights products that would see a sales boost with FBA, suggests product data improvements to increase conversions and more. Contact us today for a demo.

6a00d8341d136453ef01a73dd367ee970d-250wiStill looking for more Amazon tips? Find out if you’re making one of these common mistakes by taking a look at our How to Avoid or Fix 10 Costly Amazon Mistakes eBook.

June 11, 2014

IRCE 2014: A Retailer's Tips for Amazon Success

Retailers often ask us how they can take their Amazon business to the next level. How do you turn
your existing Amazon presence into a booming money maker? Although improving your Amazon
strategy isn't as simple as following a rainbow to a pot of gold, we can help you set a colorful path to meet your specific goals. One ChannelAdvisor customer, Nathan Gordon, addressed just this at a session yesterday at IRCE 2014. Nathan Gordon

Gordon, CIO of Christmas Central, spoke about how ChannelAdvisor’s solutions helped his business stand out among the sea of sellers and products on Amazon. Using ChannelAdvisor Digital Marketing and ChannelAdvisor Marketplaces, Christmas Central has increased its sales on Amazon. Gordon summarized Christmas Central’s Amazon strategy in seven techniques:

  1. Advertising: In an ideal world, you’d sell everything direct from your site. Trying to beat out the top dogs for SERP placement and traffic can drain both time and money. That’s where marketplaces play a role. The more eyes you have on your products, the more you’re going to sell. Cha-ching!

  2.  Product Mix: Offer a unique product selection. If you carry what everyone else is carrying, then the only way you win is on price.

  3. Branding: Take advantage of Amazon Brand Registry. By branding products, you ensure that they’re unique to you and that you’re in control of the listing. Not to mention, it’s a great way to build customer loyalty.

  4. Product Listings: Make your product listings clear and concise. Don’t use the manufacturer’s description (or a competitor’s). Add your own flavor and make your descriptions and titles reflective of your brand. Also, don’t forget the details. The clearer your descriptions, the fewer questions and returns.

  5. Pricing: Price your products competitively. Find the sweet spot between the selling price and free shipping. Customers on Amazon are used to free shipping, but free shipping for shoppers doesn't mean free shipping for retailers. Don’t price yourself out of the market by adding shipping to the cost of your item.

  6. Customer Service: Your customer service should be as good or better than Amazon’s. Pay close attention to your metrics, product reviews and satisfaction ratings.

  7. Fulfillment: Use multiple carriers to get products to the customer fast and with minimal costs. By watching your fulfillment costs, you can price your products more competitively.

Gordon closed by emphasizing the importance of customer satisfaction and planning ahead. Each retailer has that one time of year that goes by in a whirlwind, but don’t forget about the ebb and flow of your business. It may cost you before season, but it will save you money during peak season. Also, happy customers are repeat customers!

 To find out more about Christmas Central, take a look at their case study.

Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, Social Media & Blog Manager


Your Essential Guide to Success on AmazonWant more thoughts on Amazon strategy? Take a peek at our eBook Your Essential Guide to Success on Amazon.

June 06, 2014

How to Capture Attention on Amazon: Part 1


Amazon LogoIf you’re looking to attract Amazon shoppers, we have some good news, some slightly bad news and some more good news. 

  • The good news: This marketplace is a valuable platform for establishing your brand, selling products and increasing your consumer base. Amazon.co.uk receives nearly 3 million unique visitors per day.
  • The slightly bad news: You’re not alone on Amazon. Lots of retailers are competing with one another, and with Amazon itself.

  • And more good news: With the right marketplace strategy and campaigns, you can stay one step ahead of the competition and increase your sales on this channel. Below are some tips to help.

Product Title

When aligning your product with buyers’ search queries, your product title should be top priority. The key is knowing which search terms potential buyers are using and then making sure your title and search terms match those. Include essentials like product name, brand or make, and details like size, colour or case-pack. Then expand from there with other selling points that apply to your product.  Don’t shy away from powerful, descriptive words that convey key attributes or qualities (think “organic” and “luxury”). Titles have a 100-character limit, so make each word count.

We recommend a standarised format for both soft and hard goods to help you get the most from your listings;

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 09.56.52

Search Terms

These should be your next priority. To increase the chances of getting your product spotted, Amazon gives you an additional five search terms not used in the title. These won’t appear in your title, but if a consumer uses these words when searching, the chances of your product listing appearing are enhanced significantly. The idea is to include search terms that a consumer is most likely to search for themselves. Amazon recommends an average of two to three words for each search term. It’s also helpful to remember that the seller are automatically included, so there’s no need to include them in your five search terms.

Search Index

Be aware that a few other factors can influence Amazon search results rankings. Price, sales history, availability and selection can all play a part. Although some of these may be out of your hands, there are always ways to boost your odds of being seen, such as keeping your prices competitive, retaining a positive product rating and ensuring that your items are always in stock. The ChannelAdvisor Repricer with Pricewatch automatically adjusts your prices depending on your goals and competitors’ prices. The new Pricewatch feature continually scans the market for price changes, evaluates your optimal price based on your strategies and implements changes quickly. Visit our Marketplaces Performance page for more information on how we can help with your pricing strategy and Amazon presence.

Fulfilment by Amazon

Fulfilment by AmazonWith Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon will handle your inventory, packaging, shipping and customer service. But in addition to these logistics, FBA can also substantially enhance your product listing and your access to the Buy Box. Fulfilment by Amazon sellers can also take advantage of Amazon Prime. More than 20 million customers are currently subscribed to Amazon Prime worldwide, with Prime members, on average, spending twice the amount per year as non-Prime shoppers. Amazon Prime members have the option to filter search results by Prime-eligible offers, after which only Amazon-fulfilled and FBA products are shown. If you’re signed up to FBA, you increase the chances that your products will be seen by Amazon’s busiest shoppers. Improved conversion rates and a higher volume of sales from FBA items can help offset the costs of the service.

There’s more tips where these came from: Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post, where we’ll explore how to move from capturing attention to creating conversions.

Uk-ebook-How to Avoid or Fix 10 Costly Amazon Mistakes-imgWhile you’re busy improving your Amazon presence, you might want to double check that you’re not making one of the most common Amazon mistakes — check out our eBook How to Avoid or Fix 10 Costly Amazon Mistakes.

June 04, 2014

Is There an App for That? Online Retail Through the Eyes of a Cell Phone

Remember when a cell phone was the size of a shoebox, weighed about five pounds and had an antenna triple the length of the phone? The thought of a razor-thin phone with “magical” powers only existed on The Jetsons. Fast-forward 50 years. We don't have flying vehicles, but the capabilities of mobile phones have skyrocketed. And our beloved devices have received more facelifts than all the Real Housewives combined.

Recent research from comScore sheds even more light on how integral our phones have become in our everyday lives.

For example, 74% of the total online population in the US (some 166 million people) own a smartphone. This steady adoption has revolutionized media engagement — a huge opportunity for retailers.

Mobile has become the go-to online medium for consumers to engage with retail brands — everything from purchasing transactions to customer support via social media. Compared with desktop computers and tablets, cell phones took the cake, yielding the highest percent of searches that resulted in purchase. Could you have imagined the ability to search the web with that ancient brick, let alone using it to streamline your shopping experience?

Percent of Searches Resulting in Purchases

Digital Coupons

US mobile coupon usage is up 41% in the past year, comScore reports. Consumers even ranked mobile coupons as one of their top ten mobile-shopping tools. Target was quick to jump aboard the digital coupon boat with its coupon app, Cartwheel. Even while ironing out a few of the app’s kinks, Target hit the bull’s eye (no pun intended), as evidenced by huge gains in app usage (see chart below). Target’s mobile usage is up 251% from last year, with Cartwheel accounting for 80% of the total increase in time spent via mobile. Haven’t heard of the app? Well, you’re welcome. Cartwheel deals even work on top of coupons, sales and REDcard discounts — a major perk for Target fanatics, and in turn a major perk for Target’s retail profit. Pat on the back for Target.

Target Mobile App Happy

Unlike large retailers like Target, mid-market retailers selling through marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay have enjoyed mobile success through the wildly popular Amazon and eBay mobile apps. In fact, the comScore chart below shows that Amazon and eBay still dominate the space, with the highest mobile app usage. Find out more in our eBook, Building a Mobile App for Your Brand? STOP. There Are (Already) Apps for That!   

Leading Retailers

Many Millennials

For retailers, it’s important to know and understand millennials — people between the ages of 18 and 33. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. Nearly one out of every three 18-to-24-year-olds shops only on mobile. Millennials are the first generation to come of age in this digital era. So, understanding their mindset and consumer habits will not only help retailers tailor marketing messages, but also help optimize a customer’s experience with a brand.

Mobile technology will continue to rapidly progress. Consumer habits have proven that mobile technology isn’t a fad — it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Who knows, maybe in the next 50 years m-commerce will have eliminated the need for dressing rooms — simply snap a pic of the garment to view on yourself. The advancements are limitless.

 

Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, Social Media & Blog Manager, ChannelAdvisor

May 30, 2014

Answers to Your Fulfillment by Amazon Questions

We have received a lot of inquiries about commingling and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) based on an article that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal. Selling on Amazon requires learning a whole new language. In case you don’t have your Amazon dictionary handy — or if you haven’t given it a thorough read — one of the terms you should be familiar with is an Amazon practice called “commingling.” (And no, this isn’t referring to your domestic status.) Commingling refers to “stickerless” inventory warehoused through the FBA program.  

There are two ways to send products to FBA: stickered and stickerless.

  • Stickered inventory refers to the Amazon FBA label applied to a product to indicate that it belongs to a specific seller. The sticker, or “label,” is applied over the barcode (e.g., UPC, EAN) and is scanned when the item is stored, picked and packed.

  • Stickerless inventoryor “commingled” inventory — allows you to send products to FBA without labeling them with the traditional FBA identification label that corresponds to the seller and the item. As a result, this commingled inventory relies on the manufacturer’s barcode to identify the product. Nothing remains on the item to connect it to a specific seller. Therefore, a seller’s product is grouped with the same barcoded item sold by other retailers.  

Let’s say you sell garlic presses and have six to offer through FBA. With stickered inventory, you print FBA labels for each of the six presses and apply them over the UPC before sending to the FBA warehouse. With stickerless (commingled) inventory, though, you can simply box and send the items to FBA. In practice, if I sell OXO garlic presses and choose to use FBA to warehouse six with commingled inventory, these will be pooled with all the OXO garlic presses sold by other retailers and will no longer be “owned” by me.

Oxo steel garlic press

Commingling: The Benefits

1. More Time: Using stickerless inventory speeds the setup of an FBA shipment by skipping the FBA labeling step. Some exclusively virtual retailers are also streamlining their distribution chain by having the manufacturer or wholesaler ship stickerless inventory straight to FBA warehouses, removing the retailer in the process. Sellers who don’t have time or resources to label their products, but who still want to maintain ties to the items they own in the FBA warehouse, can use the FBA Label Service, where for a small fee (20 cents) Amazon will label their inbound products so they’re no longer commingled.  

2. More Options: Amazon also finds stickerless, commingled inventory beneficial because it can fulfill orders from the closest warehouse to the buyer without requiring that the item sent in the fulfillment box is the one originating from the seller. This means more freedom, with dozens of fulfillment centers and millions of orders to source from locations dispersed across a country or region.

What’s the Big Deal?

So, with benefits to the seller and to Amazon, what’s missing? Here’s the catch: Commingling is built on faith that the barcode universally identifies an item as authentic and specific to that UPC or EAN. The premise seems sound, but in reality, many stakeholders are losing out.

The most troubling problem: Counterfeit merchandise with the same barcode is being commingled with authentic merchandise. This scenario is essentially a lose-lose-lose:

  • The customer loses because they risk receiving a product other than what’s advertised. The quality of the counterfeit is almost certainly subpar to the authentic version.  

  • Amazon loses when the customer experience dips and trust in the marketplace diminishes. Plus, because items aren’t tied to sellers, Amazon gives up its ability to identify seller(s) at the source of the counterfeit issue.  

  • The seller with authentic goods has the most to lose because not only could their customers receive an illegitimate item, but sellers also run the risk of receiving account violations related to feedback, A-to-z claims, returns and more. Being tied to a counterfeit-product claim could also lead to your account being shut down. If Amazon closes your account, you could face significant removal fees that range from 50 to 60 cents per item to reclaim items stocked through FBA. According to Amazon’s counterfeit policy, inventory deemed counterfeit could be destroyed, and payments from Amazon could be withheld or forfeited altogether.

Your Next Steps

How do you avoid this scenario? The best way to protect your business is to use stickered inventory when fulfilling through FBA. If you aren’t able to sticker your inventory, invest in the FBA Label Service to make sure that your products are the ones delivered to your customers. If you decide that going stickerless is worth the risk to you, take measures to document the authenticity and condition of your items that you send to FBA for warehousing.

Given the recent increase of issues with commingled inventory, Amazon could likely put measures in place to protect sellers and customers. In the meantime, take time to use stickered inventory when selling on FBA.

If you’d like to learn about other common ways sellers get into trouble on Amazon, view our tips on How to Avoid Being Suspended from Amazon. To speak with a ChannelAdvisor expert, please contact us at info@channeladvisor.com or call 866-264-8594.

Blog post by Rachel Miller, product marketing manager, ChannelAdvisor

May 29, 2014

Guest Blog: SEO Internationalisation in a Multichannel World Part 2

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 09.28.26In Part I of this blog series, guest blogger Jeremy Clutton shared strategies on using SEO to increase your visibility overseas. In the second and final part of the series, he dives into specific e-commerce channels and regions worth exploring.

Using Multiple Channels to Reach Overseas Customers

More and more companies are branching out with international websites, displaying their shop windows to the world. In my last post, I looked at some of the decisions you’ll need to make when adapting websites, and how to increase their visibility. But they aren’t the only way to sell your goods or services overseas.

EBay logoUsing international marketplaces, paid search and comparison shopping engines to promote your wares will significantly increase your visibility and drive a much higher volume of sales. For example, eBay reaches 124 million potential buyers in 27 countries.


TmallResearch the most popular sales channels in your target market, and analyse what your competitors are doing. Any company targeting China’s vast online population should consider Tmall Global, its dominant marketplace, which is used by major brands. Its shopping festival last November became the world’s largest shopping event, with $5.78 billion in transactions during 24 hours. Other key sites include 360buy.com, and Taobao, which is similar to eBay.

Many US and UK companies have struggled to succeed in China, the largest e-commerce market. This is often due to a failure to modify their business model to suit Chinese consumers. Retailers often underestimate the importance of word-of-mouth referrals and marketplaces with a social element, such as Taobao, which are more successful than pure-retail sites.

Brazil is another market where social media plays an important role in e-commerce, with many companies using networks such as Facebook to tap into new revenue streams and reach customers.

Staying Ahead of the Crowd

Online retail is growing fast, as more of the world’s population gets connected. The landscape is constantly changing, with mobile and tablet accounting for a higher proportion of sales. Successful companies need to stay ahead of the curve and adapt their strategies to meet changing consumer expectations.

While Europe and North America might seem like the obvious places to start, at least for UK retailers, many of the most exciting opportunities can be in emerging markets. Retailers can benefit from fast-growing internet populations and a relative lack of competition.

Figures from eMarketer show that consumers in the Asia-Pacific region will spend more online than North American shoppers for the first time in 2014. Indonesia (the world’s fourth most populous nation) is one country seeing an explosion in e-commerce, with sales predicted to soar to $10 billion by 2015.

Social commerce is evolving, and customers are increasingly looking to social networks for information, reviews and special offers. While it can be difficult to measure the return on investment from social media, these channels can be a vital part of the consumers’ overall brand experience.

Going global is no easy task, even for the largest businesses. But by researching their markets and using multiple channels, companies can maximise their chances of success in the global marketplace.

Blog post by Jeremy Clutton, strategic account director, Lingo24.

Agile CBTWant to learn more about expanding internationally? Download our Agile Cross-Border Trade bundle for steps to success. 

 

  

May 27, 2014

Australian Webinar: How to Sell Online with Trade Me

Accounting for 70% of New Zealand’s domestic page impressions,1 Trade Me has fast become the country’s third most visited website and is surging in popularity among local and international retailers alike.

At ChannelAdvisor’s recent Insite Melbourne event, Simon Bruce, director of Box13, told attendees that “if you’re not on Trade Me, then you really are missing out.”

If you’re considering expanding your reach beyond your webstore or scaling your business, this marketplace in the Southern Hemisphere offers the perfect avenue for Australians to test the waters of cross-border trade.

Webinar - Trade Me

In a country of 4.5 million people, 3.4 million are Trade Me members.2 And with no language or cultural barriers for Australian retailers, Trade Me is an easy and cost-effective vehicle for getting products seen by millions of potential customers.

While Trade Me boasts 700,000 visitors and 35,000 items sold every day,3 the marketplace isn’t saturated with stock or competition, making it an ideal avenue for retailers looking to take advantage of supply gaps and see immediate selling success. Street Moda, a US-based apparel retailer, for example, experienced a 328% growth in sales in the six months since it first launched on Trade Me.

Together with Power Retail and Trade Me, ChannelAdvisor will host a webinar that will provide retailers with an introductory guide to entering and selling more on New Zealand’s biggest marketplace.

The webinar will cover:

  • Background on Trade Me
  • A snapshot of New Zealand and the status of the e-commerce market there
  • How Trade Me and ChannelAdvisor work together to help retailers grow their business through marketplaces
  • And more!

The webinar will be held on June 4, 2014, 1:30-2:30 p.m. AEST with Mark Gray, ChannelAdvisor managing director, APAC; Hamish Macdonald, Trade Me's global development manager; and Georgina McGowan, head of supply at Trade Me.    

Register for the webinar today! 

 

1 Nielsen Market Intelligence

2 Nielsen Market Intelligence

3 Trade Me monthly stats

 

Blog post by Shani Flynn, ChannelAdvisor marketing copywriter, APAC


ChannelAdvisor Trade Me Power Retail Webinar

 

 

Don't miss our joint webinar with Power Retail and Trade Me on June 4, 2014. Register today.