Monthly Archives: August 2012

Amazon Customer Acquisition + Conversion Enhancement Tips

Steve Burns Posted On - August 27, 2012

Amazon Customer Acquisition + Conversion Enhancement Tips
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There is no denying the fact – Amazon is one of the most competitive marketplaces to sell your products. Out here customer acquisition and conversion is no easy task. With thousands of online merchants vying for the attention of the potential customer, with special offers, preferential prices and free shipping etc. getting customer attention is itself a big challenge. Most customers use the left hand side navigation tool to search for products that they are searching for. The product search bar is the primary search method employed by customers in discovering what they are interested in buying. This makes optimizing your product key words an imperative. Amazon harvests key words from product titles, product id, brand /designer manufacturer and search terms.

Product Title: Use every bit of space available to include as many key words as possible – this will ensure that your product offering is picked up by Amazon, more number of times, depending on the search term used by the user. It is best to keep the terms customer friendly and keep the search terms punctuation free – browsers and potential shoppers do not use punctuations, caps or exclamation marks while searching. The best way to get the most effective product title is to experiment with different combination of keywords and identify one that works the best.

Search Terms: Amazon allows you to include five additional search terms. Ensure that you take full advantage and use all five. In doing so remember that title, merchant and brand are automatically included, so there is no point in repeating these.

Search Index: Sales history, availability and price are factors that influence Amazon search results and products that sell better raise to the top of the ranking. However it bears mention that Amazon shuffles results to ensure more even promotion of different products.

Browse Nodes:  Browse nodes are product codes that identify your item in any product category.  To ensure maximum results do attribute two browse nodes for each item.

Filtered Navigation: Amazon now allows you to mention detail product descriptions including size and color. This helps customers to narrow down their search even further and reach the product of their choice.

These tips prove that  in online selling on Amazon as in other marketplaces and comparison shopping engines, data is king! The key to success in your online marketing efforts is to ensure that you provide as much information as possible.

Converting Customers on Amazon

Conversion is the next step in online selling to product discovery. With the help of the above steps you have ensured ( hopefully) that your item  is visible to the browser who is searching for your product. Now you have to convince the potential buyer to shop at your store.

Product descriptions, photographs and user experience are all factors that will influence the customer to buy at your shop.

Product Descriptions

It is good to remember that buyers buy a particular product for different reasons. They will search for different individual benefits from their purchase. Giving more detailed and descriptive information will enhance your chance of converting the potential customer. At the same time, you need to strike a balance as disgorging too much detail and information can be a downer.  Keep your product descriptions to a max of 200 words or thereabouts. Most categories allow upto five bullet points for descriptions, so give the customers a high level feel of the product in a manner to ensure the broadest appeal.

Product Pictures and images

Shopping, whether online or offline is a visual experience. Amazon however has certain limitations when it comes to displaying pictures. Make sure that your images are at least 500X500 pixels, have a white background and display the entire product while using a max of 80% of the display space. Avoid watermarks, borders or urls on your picture.

The Buy Box

More than 70% of sales on Amazon are done using this tool. Price is a decisive factor in winning the buy box, so re-pricing tools can be a clincher. Seller performance, stock quantities and randomization by Amazon also play a vital part in deciding who wins the buy box. New online retailers will have to build up their sales history  before they are considered. This should not be viewed as a deterrent, as you can use price, stock levels and customer  feedback as factors that will influence your rankings.

Analyze your performance

Analysis is the precursor to enhanced sales. Review your Amazon listings with the buyer in mind – analyze if your product descriptions compelling, are your images evocative, and your product listings effective?
Analyze your performance every day. Success on Amazon as in other online shopping markets are based on the quality of customer service, and retailers who do not comply on this factor will lose out the chance to win the Buy Box. Assimilate  your key metrics such as Order Defect Rate, your returns process and buyer communications and deal with issues as they arise.

Currently ongoing Amazon Special Offer: 1 month free Pro Seller account.

Happy Selling

This blog is brought to you by ChannelSale.com– a platform that empowers you to distribute your product feed to as many as 200 different shopping channels such as  marketplaces, comparison shopping engines and affiliate netowrks. It provides incisive analytics and is a success enabler for online merchants. To view a demo of channelsale and its possibilities, call 1-866-709-9495 or email info@channelsale.com or for more information click channelsale.com

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Google Product Feed Specifications for optimal listing

Steve Burns Posted On - August 24, 2012

Google Product Feed Specifications for optimal listing
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One of the last things you have to happen is for your product feed to be suspended. This is similar to having your shop closed and your stock remaining hidden in your warehouse! The way to ensure that this never happens to your product data feed is to ensure that you read the Google Product Search Policies carefully before creating a feed.

In this page, we have listed all the attributes you need to provide so as to have your product displayed in the Google Product Search. Some of these attributes are required for all kinds of products, some of them are required for certain kinds of products (say apparel/Clothing) and some of these attributes are recommendations. Failure to provide the required attributes may result in the product failing to show in the Google Search Results whereas failure to upload recommended attributes will result in your products showing up in the search results with reduced frequency.

Do take time to read through this entire document to ensure that your products find enhanced visibility in Google Product Search results. Before creating your product data feed, choose the file format that is suitable to you.

There are many sections to this document – each section deals with one attribute and the Google requirements related to each attribute.

1.    Basic Product Information: These relate to basic information that describes your product – such as “title”, “description” and “type of product”.

2.    Availability and Price: Attributes that inform about the availability and prices that you quote for the product.

3.    Unique Product Identifiers: Attributes that ensure that your products appear on the correct page – example Brands, UPCs and EANs.

4.    Apparel Products: Descriptions related to the colour and the gender that the product is targeted towards.

5.    Product Variants: Attributes that describe how variants differ from the product listed – in terms of size, colour, material or pattern.

6.    Tax & Shipping: How to convey information related to the applicable taxes and the shipping charges etc.

7.    Nearby Stores:  Display information about where these products are available in physical stores in different locations.

8.    Loyalty Points: (for Japan Only) Attributes that specify the loyalty points that Google Product Search Users gain when buying the item.

9.    Multiple Installments: (Brazil Only) Attributes that specify the multiple payment options when people buy products.

10.    Additional Attributes: Other attributes that describes your products.

We commonly use the term “item” do describe a single product listing. If you are using the text or Tab delimited format, an item equals one line in your data feed. Items are similar to products but we assume that products may have multiple variations. These product variants may differ in terms of size, colour, material or pattern. A “item” is a single variant of a product.

1.    Basic Product Information:

The following attributes contain basic information about your items.
•    id [id] – An identifier of the item
•    title [title] – Title of the item
•    description [description] – Description of the item
•    Google product category [google_product_category] – Google’s category of the item
•    product type [product_type] – Your category of the item
•    link [link] – URL directly linking to your item’s page on your website
•    image link [image_link] – URL of an image of the item
•    additional image link [additional_image_link] – Additional URLs of images of the item
•    condition [condition] – Condition or state of the item

2.    Availability and Price:

The attributes in this section inform buyers of the availability in stock of the product and the prices at which you are offering them. Since the availability and price of the products you are selling may frequently change, you need to update this information to keep it up to date and current. The data feed for this will appear as:
•    availability [availability] – Availability status of the item
•    price [price] – Price of the item
•    sale price [sale_price] – Advertised sale price of the item
You can recommend products that you want to put up for sale.

Format                        Number
Text/Tab delimited      12.00 USD
XML                          <g:sale_price>12.00 USD

Important:

•     You should (even in the case of a sale) recommend the normal price at which the product sold before the sale.
•    The price must include specification of the currency quoted.
•    Submitted sale price must exactly match the sale price displayed on your site. Both the prices must be listed on the landing page – the regular price and the sale price. Yet, the sale price must be most prominent in display.
•    You cannot quote a price of US$0.00 for any product. Items with 0 price will not be displayed the search results.
sale price effective date [sale_price_effective_date] – Date range during which the item is on sale
3. Unique Product Identifiers

Unique Product Identifiers such as UPC, EAN, JAN or ISBN enable Google to display your product in the right page. If you do not provide the Unique Product Identifiers, your store may not appear on the product pages and all your items may be removed from the Product Search.
Google requires Unique Product Identifiers for all products except for custom made groups. You need to submit at least two of the three attributes ‘brand’, ‘gtin’ and ‘mpn’ for these items.

For media products like – books, music, videos and video games, you must submit the “gtin” attribute. In all cases we recommend that you submit all the three attributes.
Additionally for products in the apparel and the accessories categories, you must submit the brand attribute even though Unique Product Identifiers are not required.

•    brand [brand] – Brand of the item
•    gtin [gtin] – Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) of the item
•    mpn [mpn] – Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) of the item
4. Apparel Products:

According to Google’s Taxonomy (for the US market) the Apparel Category comprises of Apparel and Accessories including all its sub categories such as gender, age group and colour. Additionally, the size attribute is only required for categories – ‘Apparel & Accessories > Clothing’ and ‘Apparel & Accessories > Shoes’.

For all other countries, the apparel attributes that are not currently required, but might become applicable in the future. We therefore strongly recommend that merchants include all the attributes where possible even for countries outside the US.

•    gender [gender] – Gender of the item
•    age group [age_group] – Target age group of the item
•    color [color] – Color of the item
•    size [size] – Size of the item
5. Product Variants

Product variants are a set of identical products that vary only in attributes such as color, gender, material or size. Details of variants are required only for the Apparel and Accessories and its attendant sub categories. Apparel variants are required solely for products sold to the USA. For all other countries, attributes are only recommended but may become mandatory in the future.

If you are not displaying variants and its attributes in your feed, it should not be displayed as different product listings (example: the same product in different colors and sizes). These listings will be classified as duplicates in the Google search policies.

Submitting product variants proves to be of great help to the consumer who can navigate their way to different variations on a detail page. They can also discover different variants in terms of color, sizes, patterns etc. For a particular product.

Ways to submit variant data:

•     Start by submitting an item for each variant – for example if you offer T Shirts in 5 colors and 5 sizes, you need to submit 25 item variants.
•    Make sure to include a unique “ID” attribute values for each variant, just as you would for other products in your feed.
•    In order to identify these products as variants of one another, you are required to submit the “item group ID” attribute (For US feeds only) and submit identical value of these attributes for each variant in the group.
•    You will have to include variant attributes that make each variant unique. You can include attributes such as “colour”, “material”, “pattern” or “size”.
•    Include only single values for each of these variant attributes- make sure that the values of these attributes are unique across all variants in the group. For example – if you are offering (one item) T shirts with Blue and S attributes, all the items in the variant group must have values for colour and size. Each of these must be different combination of values – so you could have Blue and S, Blue and M, Blue and L etc.
•    You need to send variant attributes only in cases where you have variations – so if all your T Shirts are made of Cotton, there is no need to send the “material” attribute. But if you have 3 colours and 3 sizes of T Shirts, you must send 9 separate line items with variations in colour and size.
•    For all apparel items it is mandatory for you to have a unique image of the specified variant if the item differs in colour, pattern or material. When variants differ only by size, you can send identical images. Sending separate images for variant products in other categories is also recommended, but is not yet mandatory.
•    We recommend submitting URL links that pre-select the variant. For example if a customer selects a Maroon T Shirt in the size 12, he should be taken to a landing page wherein the Maroon T Shirt in the size 12 is already pre- selected. If doing this is difficult, we recommend, you include identical link attribute values for each of the variants in the group.

For US merchants submitting apparel variants:

When apparel products differ by ‘colour’, ‘material’, ‘size ‘ or ‘pattern’ it is mandatory to include the ‘item group id’ for each variant.

For other Countries and categories:

All variant data are recommended but are not mandatory. Howsoever, if you choose to include ‘item group id’, it is required that you include at least one of the following variant attributes – viz. ‘colour’, ‘size’, ‘pattern’ and ‘material’ and the following guidelines:
Important: While you name your variant products, do include the title common to all variant items. Visit the ‘title’ attribute for more details.

•    item group id [item_group_id] – Shared identifier for all variants of the same product
•    color [color] – Color of the item
•    material [material] – Material of the item
•    pattern [pattern] – Pattern/Graphic of the item
•    size [size] – Size of the item

6. Tax & Shipping

Tax and shipping are important aspects of the purchasing decision online. In fact high tax and shipping costs are one of the major reasons for shopping cart abandonment in online commerce. The Tax attribute is applicable for only feeds that are targeting the US. In all other countries, the VAT is included in the price of the product.

There are three ways to display tax ( only US) and Shipping costs:

Settings in the Merchants Center

Google offers various ways to specify the tax and shipping costs if your pricing structure is relatively simple. For example – you can have one shipping cost for all items – or you can decide on the shipping costs depending on the weight of the item. In this case, you will have to include the shipping weight attribute.

Attributes in the field

You can use the tax and shipping attributes listed below to configure complex tax and shipping costs.

Combo pricing

You can list the default tax and shipping prices in the Merchant Center and then overrule them for certain products by specifying the attributes below.

You have to use one of these methods to specify tax and shipping in the US and shipping only in UK, Germany  and France.
If for some reason you can’t provide accurate tax and shipping figures, please provide estimates.

For example, you can provide tax and shipping costs for each product and state them individually by using tax and shipping attributes. Estimate tax and shipping costs in such a manner that the total costs in product search are either accurate or overestimated for most users.

•    tax [tax]
•    shipping [shipping]
•    shipping weight [shipping_weight] – Weight of the item for shipping

7. Nearby Stores

Multi channel retailers can display store locations next to the products. If the browser is looking at one of your products and has a specified location near to one of your stores, Product Search will show your store 9s0 on a map. We will display the telephone number, just in case the shopper wants to check with the store for availability. The shopper can also get driving instructions, so that he can locate the store with ease.

To enable this feature, submit your store locations through Google Places. Once you have provided this information, you can specify that an item is only available for purchase online, and not available in your physical store by providing the attribute as given below:

•    online only [online_only] – Whether an item is available for purchase only online

8. Loyalty Points

The attribute below applies to feeds that are targeted at Japan. It specifies how much and what type of loyalty points the customer receives when he buys a product.

•    loyalty points [loyalty_points] – Loyalty points that users receive after purchasing the item

9. Multiple Installments ( Brazil only)

This attribute is applicable only to merchants selling to customers in Brazil. It enables him to specify the payment options in instalments.

•    installment [installment] – Number and amount of installments to pay for an item.

10. Additional Attributes
These two attributes below enable you to control the destination of your items, and the period during which your items are valid.
•    excluded destination [excluded_destination] – Excluded destinations of your items
•    expiration date [expiration_date] – Date that an item will expire

To discover how to use Google Shopping more lucratively, speak to us at ChannelSale. We have some surprisingly effective and affordable solutions that will help you boost your top and bottomline.

You can contact us via mail info@channelsale.com or by calling us at 1-866-709-9495
ChannelSale.com is a platform that allows you to send feeds, analyze performance and track sales across multiple online Marketplaces, Comparison Shopping Engines and Affiliate networks.

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Product Data Feeds in Comparison Shopping Engines Demystified

Steve Burns Posted On - August 15, 2012

Product Data Feeds in Comparison Shopping Engines Demystified
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Visibility is the first step to sale

In comparison shopping engines, as well as in normal shop shelves, to be visible is the minimum requirement for sale. What is seen can be bought, but what is unseen will seldom be sold.

The Problem of Product Feed Customization

The rules for gaining visibility in shop shelves are relatively simple, but things start getting complicated when we try to gain visibility in the digital world. Comparison shopping engines ( CSE’s) help shoppers to discover and buy the lowest priced product from the merchant making the best offer. A good comparison shopping engine will save the shopper both time and money as he does not have to scour the websites of different merchants to get the best deal. Comparison shopping engines deliver their results by analyzing data feeds that merchants provide them. The main issue that merchants face is that there is currently no standard format of data feeds, and each shopping engine has their own proprietary feed format. Not only do CSE’s have different formats, they also frequently change their specifications, periodically. While most of the time, these changes are backward compatible, it is not always the case. So, if the errors are left unattended, the product feeds will soon get demoted, or even removed. The result, loss of visibility and consequent lost sales opportunities!

Tentative Solutions

But the scene is not so dismal. Some shopping engines do allow connectivity to specific e commerce platforms- example – Price Grabber to Yahoo Store. Certain others accept common feed formats like Google and Shopping.com. There are also those like The Find that take data directly from the merchants’ website. The problem is that these seemingly “easy” techniques tend to be unreliable, and hence CSE’s normally recommend using their proprietary feed formats for getting the best results and enhanced visibility. This brings us back to the frequent changes in the format and the need to keep up to date with changes in feed formats across different CSE’s. The real problem lies in the fact that with competition increasing, and technology improvements coming through, these changes are expected to be more frequent and recurring.

The need for a managed data feed service

For small and midsized merchants who operate their business without an IT team, the problem of keeping abreast to these changes and updating their feed data is a real issue. They will be best served by hiring a data feed service that offers an outsourced solution to this problem. Merchants operating with the assistance of a data feed service are required to just sign on to the CSE and send one raw data feed from their store. The data feed service will reformat it, and submit it to CSE’s on a regular basis. A good data feed service will also cleanse your data and keep it abreast to changes that are happening during the course of business. They will also be responsible to keep the data feed up to date when specifications of CSE’s change in due course of time.

These services are not necessarily expensive, as most of the time, once the data feed has been set up, feed submissions run without any manual intervention. Monitoring, housekeeping and troubleshooting are all that is required.

Data Feed and optimization Services can be a profit generator

While the charges are generally low and affordable, they are by no means standard, since Data Feed management is not a science – it is almost an art.  A good service provider will not only ensure that your feed is up to date, but with his hands on experience and expertise he will be able to advise you on strategies to improve your visibility and sales. Handled by an expert who knows what works and what does not, it can be a vital enabler of profits for your online business.  You can choose to have a data feed specialist to work on your product data whenever there is a change in specifications, or when you are adding new products to your catalog. But data feed operators who include optimization as part of their offerings may in most cases charge a premium for the value addition they provide. This extra charge will be easily paid for by the added sales they help generate.

It is always handy to have an expert on hand to answer queries that may come in when you are preparing your data feed –“ does this  product need a UPC code?” or “Can landing page to where the customer is directed to have a pop up?”

Wrap Up

To summarize the above:

•     Small and midsized merchants face an issue in their data feed because of their complex nature and due to the fact that data feed formats of different CSE’s change periodically.
•    Most CSE’s have their own proprietary data feed formats and merchants are required to feed each CSE separately.
•    Data Feed Services can eliminate this pain point of small and midsized merchants by undertaking the data feed responsibility at a small fee.
•    Optimization of the data feed can help you get superior results and may be a worthwhile addition to data feed services.
•    A combination of data feed and optimization is a sure way to economically increase the sales and profitability of your online store.

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Google Shopping launch! Offering 10% discount uptill 15th August 2012

Steve Burns Posted On - August 12, 2012

Google Shopping launch! Offering 10% discount uptill 15th August 2012
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Come August 15th 2012, free Comparison shopping service Google Product Search migrates to Google Shopping paid listing for retailers. It will be a good time to sign up with Google Shopping prior to 15th August 2012 as they are offering 10% discount on their prices. This attractive offer will be one more reason to include Google Shopping as an integral part of your online marketing plan. How does Google Shopping impact your sales? Here is a primer that will inform you of the latest trends in Google Shopping, and offer you tips to maximize your returns on investments made in Google Shopping.


Reasons to opt for Google Product Listing Ad’s

If the trends in traffic are not a reason enough for you to opt for Google Product listing Ads, here is a more clinching and convincing argument. The total sales turnover for all retailers not using Google Product Listing Ads and depending on Google Product Search alone is declining. In the meanwhile the sales turnover of those using Google Product Listing Ad’s are increasing.

45 days perspective of traffic on Google Shopping

An analysis of the traffic that was generated by Google Shopping in the past 45 days, particularly after the 28th of June, when the new user experience was launched indicates the Google Product Search (GPS) traffic data shows a sharply declining trend after the new user experience was launched. The traffic generated by the Product Listing Ads (PLA’S) displays a dramatic surge in the traffic generated. This is a dramatic shift in trend with PLA’s performing strongly while GPS performance declines. If you think that this is the right time to plan Product Listing Ads, you are absolutely on the mark.

Importance of Google Shopping in your bouquet of online marketing initiatives

Over-time analysis states Google shopping is the largest and most effective comparison shopping engine that any retailer can work with. It normally accounts for 25-75% of the total Comparison Shopping Engine traffic, though the actual level of traffic varies from time to time.

To discover how to use Google Shopping more lucratively, speak to us at ChannelSale. We have some surprisingly effective and affordable solutions that will help you boost your top and bottomline.

You can contact us via mail info@channelsale.com or by calling us at 1-866-709-9495

ChannelSale is a platform that allows you to send feeds, analyze performance and track sales across multiple online Marketplaces, Comparison Shopping Engines and Affiliate networks.

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