Working with product feeds to Amazon’s sellers central – Part 1

Part 1 – Inventory Feeds

The different type of Amazon feeds

  • Inventory feed
  • Product feed

There are three things to consider when selecting a method to manage your price and inventory on Amazon; The offer information you need to manage, how often you need to update your offer information, and the amount of products you need to manage.

For this section we’ll focus on managing small amounts of products using Amazons Flat File Inventory Feeds.

Amazon provides three files for managing offer information. To add, remove and manage products in your Amazon catalog we can use Amazon’s Flat File Inventory Feed Spreadsheet. The flat file inventory feed allows you to add/remove, and update your offer information for products that already exist on Amazon. This is the file you should use if you are just starting to sell items on Amazon. This file lets you add/remove products on Amazon using existing product information that is already available on Amazon.

To list items on Amazon you need to define an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). This is the identifier we use to manage our products internally.  The next thing we need to identify is the Product ID. Product ID is a more universal identifier. This is a unique identifier that a product is commonly identified by. Valid product IDs are ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers), ISBN (International Standard Book Number), UPC (Universal Product Code), EAN (European Article Number). This number lets you match your product to the existing products with the same product IDs already on Amazon. When choosing a product ID we have to take into account that some of the product IDs could map to more than just products on Amazon. The best product ID to use is the Amazon product ID (ASIN). The reason that this is the best product ID is that it uses one to one mapping. When you list a product using ASINs it will be offered on the correct product on Amazon. When you do not know the exact ASIN of the product you are listing to Amazon, it is important to check the ASIN that Amazon assigned to the SKU we uploaded to make sure the catalog information is the same as the product you are selling.

Some examples of discrepancies are for items sold in packs of more than one, items with different model numbers, or if your items could vary by something small. It is important to check your listings after they are uploaded to ensure your item is correctly listed and the product is not offered for sale under the wrong ASIN so you don’t sell a 12 pack of socks for 5 dollars when you really want to sell a single pair for 5 dollars.

With this file you can add an item for sale on Amazon with very little information. To list an item for sale using this feed you would only need an SKU, product ID, product ID type, price, and quantity for sale. This will list the item for sale on Amazon. Some of the other helpful information you should supply is tax information; is the item taxable? Item condition; is the item new, used? Lead time to ship; how long will it take to ship the item? The default is 3 days, so if it would take you longer than three days to ship an item it is imperative to include this in the feed to Amazon. If you want to allow people from outside the US to purchase the items we will also need to set the ‘will ship international’ to ‘Yes’.

If you already have items listed on Amazon and you just want to change the price and inventory you can use the price and inventory feed. This feed is designed to let you update your unit price, minimum price, maximum price, quantity, lead time to ship, and fulfillment channel based on your Amazon SKU.  You can use this feed to update any of the above attributes listed.

The last inventory flat file Amazon offers is called the Listing Loader File. This file is designed to help users match their products to products that already exist on Amazon. This is best used to find out if a product we want to sell is already on Amazon and to see which ones are not. We can also use this file to see which products match more than one product on Amazon and select the correct ASIN to list the product under.

For part 2 we will discuss Amazon’s product feeds.

Google Shopping Basics

This is the first in a series of Google Shopping articles that will be geared towards retailers who:

  • are unfamiliar with Google Shopping.
  • are skeptical about getting a good ROI.
  • have a limited marketing budget.
  • have limited technical skills or resources.
  • don’t have the time to delve through pages of instructions and tutorials.
Google Shopping box

Google Shopping box – multiple items

I will give you the basics and include tips to get the most out of Google Product Listings.

If you’re not familiar with Google Shopping, just perform a Google search using the name or brand of any item or category of items that you sell/want to sell.   If you sell washroom accessories, enter something like “Electronic Hand Dryers”.  You’ll see a boxed “Shop for” section near the top of the list of search results on the left or in the top right of the page.

Click on the “Shop for” hyperlink or the “Shopping” tab under the search box to view all the Google Shopping items relevant to the keywords entered in the search box.

If Google determines that the keywords entered refer to one specific product only, the shopping section will list only that item, and the each product listing ad will be represented by the name of all the sellers of that item.     Enter Hoover UH70905 to see an example.

You may notice the words “sponsored” or “Merchant links are sponsored” in this section.   Up until late 2012, Google provided this service for free.   But now you need to create an Adwords account, set up a budget with a credit card, and start a special “campaign” to pay Google for the default positioning on this list and for clicks that result in a potential customer visiting your site.

Each item that appears in this shopping section is a called a “Product Listing Ad”.   In order to create a product listing ad, retailers must:

  1. Create a Google Adwords Account and add a payment method;
  2. Create a Google Merchant Account and link it to the Adwords account;
  3. Upload a feed of products to the Merchant account;
  4. Create an Adwords campaign for your product listing; Google has made some recent changes in the way this works and is now calling this campaign a “Shopping Campaign”. I will be reviewing the most recent changes in an upcoming article.

The benefit of your items appearing near the top of the most popular search engine is obvious.   If your items are near the top of shopping section, you’re sure to get many views on your item’s image and the price.   Within Google, the alternatives to creating product listing ads are to pay for text ads – which appear on the right side of the search results page – or to try to improve your organic (free) search rankings.

Basically, a product listing ad’s default positioning within the Google Shopping section is determined by a combination of how much you’re willing to pay for a click – called maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid – and how relevant your item is to the search keywords entered.   This is a major difference from the “Buy Box” contest that Amazon sellers face, where Amazon practically chooses the seller for the customer.   Google shoppers can scan the list and will often make a choice from this first page of ads.   The shopper can change the default sort to “Price – low to high”, or by clicking on the Price column in single item view.   Changing the default sort most likely occurs quite often, especially if the list is too large for one page.   So although there are customers who blindly choose one of the first two or three entries without looking further for a better price, good default positioning will not always translate into a high number of clicks.   This increases the importance of having a low or lowest price – and decreases the importance of a seller having a high or highest maximum CPC bid amount – when there are fewer items for the shopper to choose from.

If you want to give Product Listing Ads a try, my suggestion is to first focus on a very small subset of your inventory. Many retailers choose to upload their entire inventory to their Merchant account.   But I think it’s easiest to begin with a particular category from your website or choose your subset based on other attributes.     Here are some factors to consider when deciding which category or set of items to first upload to Google:

  • Which set of items has the least number of the same or similar items already offered by retailers in Google Shopping?
  • Which set has prices that beat or are competitive with the same or similar items currently listed in Google Shopping?
  • Which set has the best profit margin?
  • Which set has the best content?   Better content (enticing descriptions, a good feature list, and high quality images) would increase the likelihood that when someone actually clicks your item, they will stay and buy that item or at least continue shopping on your site.    If you don’t have good content, your conversion rate on the paid clicks will suffer and the chances of making a profit on the campaign are diminished.

There are many other ways to group your items for ad campaigns, and this can now be done directly in Adwords with product groups, product labels, and custom labels.  I will explain how to do this in a future article. Sticking with small groups of items will give you flexibility and facilitate optimization of your Product Listing campaigns.  A higher maximum CPC might work best for one set of products while a lower one might work best for another set.    This optimization process involves trial and error, and you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed and discouraged if you are working with too many items.

So How Do I Grow My E-Commerce Business? Part I: E-Commerce Marketplaces

Part I – E-Commerce Marketplaces

The list of Internet stores open for business is growing at a rapid pace. Each one has slight differences depending on your goals. You have the big name store, Amazon, and on-line auction giant, EBay.  So how do you know where to sell your products? Here is a simple overview of some of the top marketplaces and what they offer to you as a seller.

EBay – EBay is a great marketplace if you have unique items you want to put up for auction. You can also offer fixed price sales if your items are widely available. After a sale, buyers give you a feedback to promote your ratings as a seller. Beware as this can be either a positive experience, or a negative one. However, EBay has recognized this and is changing how they measure performance by using a new ‘defect rate’ calculation to measure sellers ratings.   As one of the largest on-line marketplaces, EBay can give you great exposure.                                                                                   http://pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/Index.html

Amazon – Amazon is the current leader and is known as the worlds largest online retailer. Most countries have their own domain version of the Amazon marketplace. Here in the US we shop on Amazon.com. If you live in Canada, you shop on Amazon.CA, and so on! But even though they are all part of Amazon, each is treated as a separate marketplace requiring you to contract with each entity. Amazon can offer you enormous exposure as well as flexibility in selling your items. Once you list your items in their massive catalog potential customers can do a simple search to find your product!  But keep in mind the search will also find your competitors (including Amazon itself) offering the same items. Competitor prices are displayed allowing buyers to pick who they choose to purchase from.  They also offer various services you can elect to utilize like setting up your own personalized “Amazon WebStore” where you can build your personazlied web page using Amazon templates, or utilize  “Amazon Fulfillment” where you send your inventory to an Amazon fulfilment center and they complete the sales process for you by shipping to your customer!                                                                                     https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/homepage.html

Rakuten – Even though they’ve been around since 1999, this marketplace is not as well known here in the US like Amazon, however, the company has enormous Japanese presence and has become a major worldwide online marketplace for both buyers and sellers. While selling on Rakuten, you don’t have to worry about competing with Rakuten as a merchant like you do on Amazon. They also go out of their way to do a lot of advertising to potential customers about upcoming sales and merchandise available on their site. But, as with all marketplaces, selling on Rakuten could have its downfall. Since many of your customers could be located in a country outside the United States, you will have to consider the high shipping costs as a factor in your selling price, no matter who is paying the shipping cost!                                                                              http://www.rakuten.com/sell/

Etsy – if you are an artsy, crafty person and make your own products, this is the marketplace for you! Etsy attracts customers from all over the world looking for unique or vintage items making Etsy a great place to set-up shop. But the site has a reputation of only being as good as the customers who sell on the site. You as a seller are responsible to fulfill your orders so your customers come back. You are responsible to keep Etsy as the top known crafters marketplace.                                                                                                            http://www.etsy.com/sell

 

When it comes to selling online there are endless possibilities and marketplaces. Some old, some new. You may have heard of Yahoo, Craigslist, and Overstock.com. Here is a great link to an article posted on Ordoro.com last year that gives a very good overview of many of the top contenders:  https://www.ordoro.com/blog/2013/05/03/where-to-sell-a-short-guide-to-major-online-marketplaces-part-1/

But have you heard of these smaller stores, which too, offer their own unique reasons why you might want to list your products thru them: www.zazzle.com, www.oodle.com, www.ecrater.com, www.bonanzle.com

If you are interested in e-commerce marketplaces your personal attention should be given to researching each marketplace for their seller rules and requirements. Each entity has unique fee structures and content requirements that you need to make sure you understand before you sign up in order to establish and achieve your full selling capability.  Be sure to read the Inspire Technologies Blog dated 3/8/2011 “Internet Storefront Start-Up Checklist” for additional information!

If your business is large enough and you are ready to automate your process into any of these marketplaces, contact Inspire Technologies to learn how we can assist you in “Growing your E-Commerce Business”.

Check back for Part II – Managing Your Inventory