Sep 3, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 8 Comments

The Complete Guide to Fulfilment Houses!

fulfilment-housesWhat Are Fulfilment Houses/Fulfilment Centers?

In case you don’t already know what a fulfilment house is – it’s a specialist company that takes care of product fulfilment on behalf of the business owner. So basically a 3rd party company that takes care of everything to do with your order processing.

Why Should You Consider a Fulfilment House?

There are a number of reasons as to why you should consider a fulfilment house for your business – in fact, it’s something that I think EVERY business owner should at least look into because it potentially means:

  • No more picking and packing orders!

While this may not be a huge consideration when you’re just starting out – trust me when I say this – it will be!

As your business grows you will inevitably have to spend more time sorting, picking and packing orders and if you want to continue being a business owner and not just end up with an online job then that leaves you with only two real options:

You either have to create an in-house solution – which means hiring people and possibly renting storage/warehouse space.

OR

You can outsource the entire order fulfilment aspect of your business to another company, a specialist, i.e. a fulfilment house.

Of course, which option you choose will depend entirely on your specific circumstances; your business, the goods you sell, your personal goals etc. BUT one thing is for sure; fulfilment houses can be a terrific and incredibly SIMPLE solution. (more…)

Jul 9, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 11 Comments

DSR Update: Consumer Contracts Regulations

dsr-updateA little while ago I wrote an article on DSRs and The Legal Responsibilities of an eBay Seller, because I just came across too many listings on eBay that simply didn’t follow UK law in regards to selling online.

If you missed that post, you can check it out here: WARNING: Distance Selling Regulations on eBay!

But as most of you should be aware, the Distance Selling Regulations were replaced in June this year, and the new Consumer Contracts Regulations came into effect.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations applies to all purchases made online and basically just implements the Consumer Rights Directive of UK law.

But enough of all this regulations and directives talk – the most important question, and I’m sure all you actually want to know, is – how do these changes affect us when selling online?

And that’s exactly what I’m going to go over today.

Firstly let’s cover the new rules in regards to the service you provide:

You must deliver any goods purchased within 30 calendar days, unless the buyer expressly agrees otherwise.

So this first point shouldn’t be a problem for anyone as I really hope all orders are delivered well before 30 days! If an item is out of stock and you are waiting for a new delivery before fulfilling orders then make sure this is made 100% clear. Personally, I would suggest removing that item from sale until you get new stock in because, as we all know, most eBay buyers don’t read much information at all and you’ll end up with a lot of negative feedback for late delivery. (more…)

Jul 7, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments

Hotmail should be BANNED!

hotmail-bannedSeriously, someone should take down Hotmail for good. Or should I say Outlook as Microsoft’s Hotmail to Outlook takeover was completed last year? Either way, if you’re a business person, you should be warned that using a Hotmail/Outlook email addresses can possibly harm your business.

How?

By filtering legitimate emails as SPAM and automatically placing them in the junk mail folder by default.

I see this happen almost every day when my customers don’t get sign-up emails, support replies, payment notifications and other important information. This creates a lot of frustration for them and me of course as I can never be 100% sure that my email has reached the recipient if their email ends in @hotmail.com

Imagine a situation where you run an eBay business or an online shop and use a hotmail email address – chances are you won’t receive many of your customers’ emails as they’ll simply be placed in your junk folder.

People who are aware of this do of course check their junk mail folder every few days as they know that chances are they will find there some genuine emails along with the usual pharmacy spam stuff. But the majority of Hotmail users aren’t aware of this so they miss important emails on a regular basis.

So if you’re in business and use a free Hotmail/Outlook email address, I would seriously recommend you switch to a more reliable free solution, like Gmail, or better yet; do it the right way and get your own domain name with a personalised email address (which you can of course still link to Gmail). (more…)

Jul 2, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 7 Comments

Let’s pack some Orders!

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:

http://www.davpack.co.uk/blog/vintage-boxes/

http://www.davpack.co.uk/blog/vintage-boxes/

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

http://www.packingboxes.co.uk/golf-set-boxes-x-3-pack/

http://www.packingboxes.co.uk/golf-set-boxes-x-3-pack/

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

Apr 9, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 89 Comments

Public Liability Insurance – What For?

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. (more…)

Mar 18, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 84 Comments

The ULTIMATE Guide to Product Branding!

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. (more…)

Feb 17, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments

What replaces Google’s Keyword Tool?

new-google-keywords-toolWhen you’re building an online shop, one of the main tasks you need to carry out is Keyword Research.

You need to find what keywords are related to the products you sell, how many searches per month they get (globally & locally), the competition for those keywords and the provisional bid prices in Google AdWords (if you plan on using it as your paid traffic generation method). I cover all this and much more in my eCommerce Magnates course but today, I want to answer the question asked by Alistair in my recent Readers’ Contest – what replaces Google’s Keyword Tool?

If this is the first you’ve heard about the Google Keyword Tool (GKT), let me explain – GKT was a free tool provided by Google which showed you keyword search data, i.e. how many times a keyword is searched for on Google. As you can imagine, this can be very valuable information when you start your eCommerce shop as it allows you to precisely target the words and phrases your customers search for.

GKT was free and very simple to use – up until last year when Google decided to discontinue it (for reasons known only to Google).

So many people are wondering – what replaces it? And the answer is – it replaces itself! Yes, the same Google Keyword Tool and still completely free to use! The only difference is it has a new form and location – it has been renamed Keyword Planner and is now located in your AdWords account. (more…)

Jan 30, 2014 by Andrew Minalto - 32 Comments

Why I Moved from HostGator to Bluehost!

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. (more…)

Dec 5, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 4 Comments

Domain Name Dilemma SOLVED!

Every week I receive at least a few questions relating to domain names – it seems that it’s the first dilemma many new entrepreneurs face when starting an online business as let’s be honest – without a good domain name, you have no business online.

Even if you’re just starting out selling stuff locally or on eBay, you still want to secure a domain name that matches your business name. Imagine a situation where you have built a successful business on eBay or Etsy, with a good follower base of loyal customers, and decide to build a website only to find out that the domain name that you wanted is not available. Disaster!

People sometimes avoid situations like these by adding some extra words to the name or using hyphens but that’s far from an ideal scenario. In fact – if someone runs a competing business on a domain name that 100% matches your brand name, you’ll lose countless potential customers to that competitor. Most likely that would already be happening as whenever a customer searches for you via Google, your competitor’s website will show up.

To avoid such situations, ALWAYS register a domain name right at the beginning of starting your business. If the domain name for your business isn’t available; you have no choice but to look for another name. That’s why I always recommend brainstorming names on the actual domain registrar’s website, such as Go Daddy, so you can instantly see whether a matching domain name is available or not.

To further explain the various aspects of domain names, let’s cover some of the most commonly asked questions in detail: (more…)

Nov 20, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments

How to Hire on eLance for 75% OFF!

Let’s talk outsourcing!

Outsourcing is something I’ve mentioned many times in previous posts and I can’t stress enough how important it is to start outsourcing some of your business tasks as early as possible. Why? Because if you don’t do this, you’ll find you’re just exchanging one job for another rather than building a true business which you run as a business owner.

The beauty of running an online business is that you can actually delegate most of your daily routine tasks and build your business WITHOUT having to hire employees, which brings a lot of cost and additional problems.

When you outsource specific tasks rather than hiring a full-time employee, you can control your expenses much better and spend your money more efficiently by choosing the most suitable person for each specific job.

QUALITY is another important aspect of outsourcing! If you just can’t write then you’ll never get good product descriptions on your own, no matter how long you spend on them. A professional writer, on the other hand, will craft you superb descriptions in no time at all which will then positively affect your sales (better product descriptions = higher conversion rates).

So what exactly can you outsource?

Pretty much anything!

For eBay and eCommerce Shop owners this includes:

  • Design (logo, eBay template, website design, business cards, product packaging etc.)
  • Coding (website, newsletter, eBay template, blog etc.)
  • Writing (product descriptions, video transcripts, reviews, info text etc.)

Start with these three. Design is definitely something you want to outsource, unless you’re a professional designer yourself. It’s simply not worth your time and energy to learn this skill when you can outsource it to an expert so cheaply. (more…)