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EAN Barcodes Explained!

October 19, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 121 Comments

ean-barcodesLast week I received an email from a blog reader with some questions about EAN codes, and instead of answering her and including the question in our weekly Q&A post, I instead decided to create a full-detail blog post for it.

Here is the email that Nicki sent to me:

Hi Andrew

I just wondered whether you could provide me with a bit of guidance on EAN codes please?

I am looking to import a product (with different sizes) from China to sell on eBay and to sell to small retailers in my local area.

Would I need an EAN code to do this? If so, where is the best place to purchase these codes or would the manufacturer already have these unique bar codes to put on the products at my request?

Please could you advise what the costs implications are for buying EAN codes and any pros and cons for having/not having the codes on the imported products?

I have not yet decided whether I am going to brand the products. If I do, am I more likely to require an EAN code for each product?

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,
Nicki

So let’s now cover Nicki’s questions (and more!).

First of all – what are EAN codes and how do they work?

A simple explanation is that EANs are unique identifiers (barcodes) used to identify new, branded products sold at retail.

The EAN, which originally stood for European Article Number but is now referred to as International Article Number, is a 13 digit number found below the barcode:

ean-codeThis is the standard product identifier used in Europe and is recognised by nearly all retailers (after all, the whole point of the system is lost if it’s not adopted by all sellers). Pretty much any company or marketplace that you can think of will use these barcodes. Read More…

BEST Payment Processor for an ONLINE Shop?

March 24, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

best-payment-processorThough I nearly always recommend starting out on eBay and then progressing to Amazon, the last piece of the online business puzzle is starting your own eCommerce store!

I’m not going to go into too much detail now as I’ve written about this in a separate blog post (eBay, Amazon or an Online Shop?) but to put it simply – eCommerce is the holy grail and the potential is MUCH larger than if selling solely on other 3rd party platforms, like eBay and Amazon.

But of course with bigger potential comes more complications and decisions and one of the first questions that people face when creating their own ecommerce store is what payment processor to use? After all, you can’t leave it to Amazon to handle that or simply take PayPal and be done with it.

So that’s what today’s article is all about – a guide on which payment processor to use for your online eCommerce store.

Let’s get to it!

When choosing a payment processor, there are a few important things you have to bear in mind and they are:

Compatibility

This really goes without saying, but the payment processor you choose has to be compatible with the shopping cart that your eCommerce store is built on.

The shopping cart is the more integral part of your store that will affect everything else so I’d always suggest choosing that first and then finding a payment processor option that fits, not the other way around!

Cost

As with everything, the cost is a big consideration, both in terms of any up-front charges and then ongoing costs – which can include a monthly “subscription” fee as well as a per transaction charge (similar to the 3.4% PayPal charge on eBay).

Quality of Service

Again, this goes without saying, but nowhere is the standard and quality of service provided more important than here. After all, this is your customers’ money and entire business livelihood at stake!

Plus another aspect that I always place a lot of importance on is the quality and speed of customer support. It’s no use at all having a terrific service at an amazing price if when something goes wrong (as it invariably will) there is no way to get any help.

Speaking of problems occuring, another hugely important factor when comparing different providers is how they protect you from and prevent:

Chargebacks

For some high-risk niches this is actually the single most important aspect to consider and you need to choose a payment processor that has systems in place to protect you from fraudulent chargebacks. As I said, this should be a consideration for everyone but in some niches it’s even more important (such as when selling game codes, gift cards and other such digital goods). Read More…

How to Import & Sell BATTERIES on eBay!

February 23, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 18 Comments

batteries-on-ebayAs many of you will already know, in 2013 new regulations were introduced to control international air shipments of batteries and as of January 2015, these regulations were tightened by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and some further rules were brought into place under the Dangerous Goods Regulations.

And these rules aren’t just applicable to stand-alone batteries, but also to the lithium ion batteries commonly used in mobile phones, cameras, computers and other such electronics.

So if you deal with these products or have any plans to deal with these products, you need to be aware of all the rules and regulations in regards to shipping these batteries, both internationally and domestically.

Why Are These Regulations Even Being Introduced?

Firstly I want to very quickly go over why these rules are being brought into place at all and the reason for it is actually very simple – though most people are unaware of the fact, lithium ion batteries are actually very dangerous and are prone to shorting, overheating and catching fire.

Therefore, it is incredibly important that they are sealed and transported in the correct way.

I won’t go into all the explanations and reasoning behind this, as it’s not really necessary for us to understand/know about that, but of course if you are interested in reading more about this, there are countless news stories that you can find online that delve into it further.

But for our purposes, let’s see how these rules and regulations affect the import of batteries.

Importing Batteries Into the UK

Importing batteries from China to the UK is very difficult (and expensive) with all the new regulations in place. Depending on who you’re using for the shipment (courier vs air freight vs sea freight) and the specifics of what you’re importing, you may even have to agree a specific contract if your shipment is classified as containing “dangerous goods”.

As I said, this depends a lot on the specifics of exactly what you’re importing and if the batteries are already contained in equipment (this is considered safer and the rules are slightly more lenient). Read More…

Where to Buy Cheap Integrated Labels?

January 8, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 14 Comments

integrated-labelsThere’s something that I mention very often on this blog (for a good reason) and that is – AUTOMATING as many tasks and processes as possible in your business.

I’m sure one of the main reasons you started your own business was to get out of the rat race and to give yourself more freedom and time in your life. You won’t achieve this unless you automate and outsource as much as possible; otherwise you’ll simply trade in that 9-5 for an at home 9-5!

I won’t get into that all again now (as I said, it’s something I’ve mentioned many times in the past) as today I want to talk about something specific, something that ties in with all this automation and something that you should be using in your own business – Integrated Labels.

Order processing is one of the most time consuming jobs for any business and while initially it may be okay to copy and paste delivery addresses into Excel or Word; print them; cut them out and then tape them to your packages, as soon as you get even a small amount of orders each day, you’ll see that this is an unworkable system and not how you should be doing it.

Really there are only two good options here – Thermal Label Printers or Integrated Labels.

Label Printers vs Integrated Labels

I get a lot of emails from people asking me which is better, thermal label printers or integrated labels and honestly, there isn’t one right answer.

It depends on your personal preference and overall set-up but to quickly run through the main difference between the two:

Thermal label printers are specific printers that you use solely for printing labels.

So you need to buy a label printer (Dymo are the brand I always recommend) and the labels for the printer but no ink is needed due to the thermal printing used.

Integrated labels on the other hand work with your normal home/office printer.

How it works is that when you print out an invoice/dispatch note on an A4 piece of paper, there will be a peelable label on that same sheet that you can simply remove and place on the package.

It’s also a very simple system and has the advantage of keeping the invoice and shipping label together, which will help reduce order processing errors.

Read More…

How to Secure your Websites Against Hackers!

December 11, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 21 Comments

secure-websiteThree weeks ago I faced a server attack.

A serious attack that affected most of my websites and for a while I actually thought I would lose a large portion of my business because of this. Thankfully I managed to fix it and that’s why you’re now reading this post.

So let’s go into detail about what happened and most importantly – how to secure your online business and websites so that you never face a situation like this.

Even though I have dealt with various sorts of hacker attacks previously, this time it was much more serious. What happened was, by using some vulnerabilities within the software I was running on my server, hackers “infected” many of my websites with malware (software/scripts that can be controlled by hackers).

I luckily noticed it very quickly as when I was checking my server status (which I do almost every day) as I saw that there was more than 40 000 scheduled emails in my mail queue. Spam emails of course. That instantly raised alarm bells for me and I knew that something dodgy was going on.

This is what hackers usually do – they get inside your web hosting account or server (if you have one) and install malware to send out thousands of spam emails to email addresses scrapped over the net. This way they use your resources, your email addresses and hosting account to send out spam emails.

If you’re not careful and do not spot this in time, hackers can use your website for days or even weeks to send out tens of thousands of spam emails.

And this results in your domain name and email address being black-listed by mail service providers (such as Gmail, Yahoo) and even search engines!

I’m sure I don’t have to explain the severity of this as if you have established websites and online shops with a good Google rank; this can completely destroy years of hard work.

First Things First

If something like this happens to you, the first thing you want to do is contact your hosting company and ask them to DISABLE the mail sending function for your account. This effectively stops ANY emails coming out of your account and is the best temporary solution to put in place while you deal with the core problem – the actual malware.

If you have your own dedicated or virtual server running WHM & CPanel, you can do this on your own – by switching off the Mail Exim service. Either way, the idea here is to stop those spam emails being sent out while you clean up your websites. Read More…

BEST Autoresponder Service for eBay Sellers?

September 9, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 13 Comments

autoresponder-reviewsAs I’ve already covered list building and autoresponders in general very recently, I won’t go over it all again now, but if for some reason you missed it, then head over to this post now to learn how you can copy multi-billion pound companies like Amazon, Vista Print and Hostgator by building a subscriber list and making money from your customers long after they’ve bought from you: How to Reduce Your eBay Fees on Autopilot.

So, what I want to cover in this post is which autoresponder service should you use for your business? After all, which service you use to store your customers’ details is incredibly important and while, like with most such things, there isn’t one absolute best option, I still want to take a quick look at some of the providers out there to give you a helping hand in your research.

So let’s get started!

aweberI’m starting with AWeber because it’s the autoresponder service that I personally use and the one that I think is, overall, the best option out there.

AWeber has all the features you’d want but it’s in the most important aspects that it really shines, such as:

  • Email Deliverability – AWeber is one of the longest running autoresponder services so they really know how to make sure your emails are actually delivered and don’t just end up in the spam folder (after all, what’s the point of working to get subscribers if they then never receive your emails!?).
  • Ease of Use – I’ve tried a number of autoresponders over the years and considering the level of features it includes, AWeber is probably the easiest to use. Of course, as with all software, there is some learning curve involved but with AWeber it really is minimal thanks to their extensive support database and tutorial videos; as of right now they have 138 videos ranging from ‘Getting Started’, ‘Creating Follow Up Messages’ all the way to integrating specific software with AWeber.
  • Customer Support – for me, customer support is one of the most important aspects when considering which autoresponder to use and AWeber provide email support, live chat and a phone option. While I would like to see 24/7 support, the opening times of 8AM-8AM Monday to Friday and 9AM-5PM Saturday and Sunday is still very reasonable.
  • Analytics – If you’re not optimising your email and opt-in campaigns then you’re simply leaving money on the table! Testing and tweaking is a must and will allow you to constantly improve your results and therefore, bottom line. AWeber allows you to do all of this from within your autoresponder itself; you can track:
  • Email Opens
  • Clicks
  • Number of Unsubscribes
  • And more…

Read More…

Let’s pack some Orders!

July 2, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 7 Comments

order-processingPackaging – it’s something so simple and self-explanatory, right? Just quickly pack up your item and post it off, there’s nothing more to it…

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, as always with eBay the devil is in the details and if you want to be a truly great seller, packaging is just another thing that you have to consider very carefully.

And just so that there’s no confusion, I’m talking mainly about the packaging you use to post an item, not the product or retail packaging.

Okay, so to get started, let’s first cover the most common packaging materials available and go over which you should generally use for different products.

Cardboard Boxes

cardboard-boxesComing in nearly every shape and size imaginable, regular old cardboard boxes are probably the most commonly used packaging material for eCommerce and eBay sellers.

Cardboard boxes are ideal for heavy items (like books) or fragile items (glassware etc.) that need extra protection during shipping.

One of the best things about cardboard boxes is the variety of types and sizes available – which means they can be used for almost any item. Need to send bottles in the post? That’s fine, you can get cardboard boxes made specifically for that purpose with dividers to hold each bottle and stop them from breaking in transit:

Have an eCommerce store in the golf niche? Again, not a problem; there are a variety of cardboard boxes made for shipping golf clubs:

There are also both single-wall and double-wall cardboard boxes, with double-wall obviously offering more protection but being slightly larger and heavier. Read More…

Public Liability Insurance – What For?

April 9, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 91 Comments

insurance-for-ebayInsurance – it’s an important consideration for every business, but do you really need it if you’re selling online? After all, it’s not like you have a shop or office where customers come… in fact you may not deal face to face at all. So in that case – public liability insurance, which is something that most traditional businesses have, would be a useless and unnecessary expense, right?

Well, not quite… there are still many reasons why you may need business insurance, even if you only operate online.

When you sell items online, such as electronics, clothing, cosmetics, hair-care products etc. (anything really!), you are legally responsible for any damage or injury caused by those products.

Let’s say you sell specially made birthday cupcakes online and one day one of your buyers blames you for food poisoning… or you sell unbranded mobile phone chargers and someone says their house fire was caused by your faulty product… what then? How will you cover the legal fees defending yourself, never mind any potential compensation you have to pay?

This is even more important for sole traders as covered in this blog post, a sole trader is personally responsible for all business liabilities. So it’s not even a matter of your business going bust, you yourself can be bankrupted by a claim like this!

So suddenly insurance doesn’t seem like such a frivolous waste, but rather something that you need to cover you in case of such an occurrence.

But the problem is, as I mentioned earlier, this is not something that would be covered under public liability insurance – so what type of insurance do you need? After all, the only thing worse that having no insurance is paying for something that won’t even cover you when you need it!

So let’s quickly run through a few of the different types of business insurance available and go over what exactly they cover. Read More…

The ULTIMATE Guide to Product Branding!

March 18, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 90 Comments

branding-guidePeople who have followed me for some time will know that I’m a huge fan of branding – making my own products unique and using specific packaging and bundling techniques to really stand out from the crowd and allow me to charge premium prices for the products I sell.

In today’s blog post I want to go into detail on how you can do same – take a simple, un-branded product and turn it into a money making machine! Without further ado, let’s get started!

What is this concept all about?

The idea is very simple – you take an un-branded product and using your own brand/packaging, turn it into a unique product you can then sell on eBay, Amazon, your own online shop or any other distribution channel (including wholesale).

What is an un-branded product?

By un-branded I simply mean a product that has no brand on it – no logos/company names on the product itself or its packaging. Usually these products will come un-packaged or packaged in plain boxes or clear bags.

What are the advantages of branding these products?

There are several important advantages to creating your own branded products versus selling un-branded ones:

1) Product uniqueness. By having your own brand printed on the product/packaging you essentially create a UNIQUE offer in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter that other people may be selling the exact same product – due to the brand and packaging yours is unique.

Take bottled water for example – it’s water!!!! But you’ll find at least 10 different brands of bottled water in your local supermarket (with various price tags). And essentially what these companies are selling is the BRAND value, i.e. the perception of what that brand is worth, as at the end of the day water is just water.

branded-vs-un-branded-waterWe can use this paradox of people’s perception towards a brand/product packaging and use it to our advantage. This works in almost any niche and with any product, if a proper branding strategy is applied.

eBay is a super competitive marketplace and often hundreds of sellers list exactly the same product. It’s not easy to compete with such listings apart from using the lowest price strategy, which as we all know, can’t be the base of a sustainable, long term business (shift hundreds of packages a day to make minimum wage?).

So by creating your own branded products, you practically almost eliminate your competition, as NO ONE will have the exact same product offer as you – which is very powerful. Read More…

Why I Moved from HostGator to Bluehost!

January 30, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 32 Comments

Friday, 13th December, 2013 – what should have been a nice ordinary day turned into a real nightmare and a day I will remember for quite some time, all thanks to HostGator.

The first week of December, I was already in the Christmas mood, looking forward to enjoying the weekend with my family. But oh boy, what a weekend it turned out to be!

But let’s start from the beginning:

In the morning I noticed that my blog was down. I use a website up-time monitoring service from Pingdom which sends me a text message whenever my website goes down (or up). Usually it only happens once every few months, when there are server upgrades etc. These downtimes are damaging but there’s not much you can do about them – it’s just part of doing business online. Sometimes they last for just a few minutes, sometimes it can be for up to an hour.

This time it was different.

When I saw that after an hour my blog was still down, I knew something was going on. So I went onto HostGator’s website to chat with a live rep. Wait time was 30-40 minutes but I had no choice.

To get to the point; HostGator had put my blog on hold because of increased traffic. Thursdays are generally the busiest days on my blog and that week indeed, Thursday set yet another new record in unique visitors. Read More…

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