By Cliff Ennico
I just got back from speaking at this year's eCom Chicago conference for online retailers.
A little history: About eight years ago, when eBay started cutting back on its popular outreach programs for eBay sellers, eBay sellers starting forming their own mutual support groups called "meetups" (for a complete list of all eBay meetup groups around the U.S., see ebaysell.meetup.com).
One of the earliest meetup groups was the Chicagoland Area eBay & eCommerce Sellers MeetUp Group, founded in 2006. Today the group, co-chaired by Mark and Robin LeVine of Bubblefast.com (a leading online purveyor of bubble wrap and other shipping supplies) and Rich and Nila Siok of AppealingSigns.com (a leading online purveyor of customized signs for small businesses), boasts about 1,000 active members and sponsors the annual eCom Chicago conference in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
As new online platforms such as Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and etsy.com have come onto the scene, the conference has expanded its scope beyond eBay to include people who sell on these platforms.
This year's event attracted over 200 sellers from all corners of the country and some of the top speakers on the national eCommerce circuit.
Here are some tips and new resources I learned about at the conference:
According to Chris Green, co-founder of ScanPower (firstname.lastname@example.org), the latest big news from Amazon is their "merch" program, an on-demand service that enables you to create, sell and promote your custom-branded tee-shirts with no out-of-pocket costs to you. Says Green, "They have already launched a similar service for print-on-demand books, and are looking to develop other similar services using 3D-printing technology. We will soon be living in a world where nobody will have to carry physical inventory of any products - everything will be printed or created in response to individual orders."
Thinking about selling on Amazon FBA for the first time? "Amazon FBA Launch Pad," a new book by Amy Feierman (email@example.com), is a step-by-step guide for the novice seller, written in plain English.
If you need to process information visually, you can subscribe to BuyBox.club, a monthly DVD package published and hosted by Brandon Dupsky (firstname.lastname@example.org) featuring lectures and seminars by leading eCommerce experts (including most of the speakers at eCom Chicago).
Okay, so maybe you just want to listen to podcasts on your iPod while jogging. Ron LeBeau (email@example.com) hosts an eBay podcast, while Kat Simpson hosts one for Amazon FBA sellers.
Looking to buy tons of inventory from liquidators but don't want to get stung by buying counterfeit or expired merchandise that will get you kicked off of eBay or Amazon? Bulq.com is a new service that guarantees "98% manifest accuracy, or we'll make it right."
The next big mobile smartphone app for online retailers (and lots of other folks) is Periscope®, a streaming video app that lets you look at the world through someone else's eyes. With the app, you can shoot video of your products, demos and other people (with their permission, of course) and upload the videos to social media in real time, according to eCommerce guru and professional actress Kathy Terrill.
What do you do if your Amazon FBA account is suspended for violations of Amazon's many complex selling rules, or because someone else (perhaps a competitor) has accused you of selling counterfeit merchandise? Cynthia Stine (firstname.lastname@example.org), author of the new book "Suspension Prevention: Get Reinstated and protect Your Amazon Seller Account", offers the following suggestions:
- Review your Imperfect Orders, Returns, and Negative Feedback reports every week and take action when you see three or more issues for one of your listings during the previous 60 days.
- Check your inventory carefully against the listing on Amazon before sending it in. Many sellers are surprised to get "not as described," "not as advertised," and "defective" claims because the product the customer received does not match the picture and/or description on Amazon exactly.
- Don't sell product you don't own. While this advice upsets drop-shipper sellers, the fact is they are highly vulnerable to suspension. Amazon regularly suspends for shipping and product quality problems and sellers have no recourse because they don't control their inventory.
- Buy from authorized sources. If the authenticity of your products is ever questioned, you must provide invoices or receipts from legitimate distributors, large retailers, wholesalers or manufacturers that include the full product name and - preferably - the UPC code.
And here's one from me: when someone (especially the manufacturer) accuses you of selling counterfeit goods, respond promptly with an e-mail denying the accusation. The message should include proof that you have every reason to believe your merchandise is genuine, a statement that you "have been advised by our legal counsel that we have every right to sell this merchandise" and an offer to make your legal counsel available to answer any questions your accuser may have. In my experience, that e-mail will end any bullying and lead to a more positive conversation that should resolve the dispute.
Cliff Ennico (email@example.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.