How Real and Virtual Storage can Help Online Sellers

How Real and Virtual Storage can Help Online Sellers – A Guest Post from Drew Davies

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Selling online puts retailing goods within reach of practically all would-be business owners. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Get yourself some in-demand stock, pick your online retail platform, then sit back and watch the profits roll in.

Except in the real world of commerce, it’s never quite that simple.

Buying and selling are the fun parts of business ownership, with the not-so-fun aspects revolving around record keeping and stock storage. Getting effective and efficient systems in place to manage these two vital aspects are crucial to success.

Storing Stock

Beginners often choose to store stock at home, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Small quantities of items slot comfortably into the spare bedroom, the loft or the garage without causing too much disruption.

For entrepreneurs who plan to expand and chase down greater profits, however, home storage solutions don’t jibe with expanding stock levels. With home access for larger delivery vehicles often restricted, receiving goods on pallets may be out of the question. Parked cars, steps, stairs and possibly damp or insecure conditions can further restrict business growth.

An economical and viable alternative is off-site self storage, which offers controlled growth opportunities to online sellers at all stages of business expansion. To begin, take on a small unit that’s just a little larger than your home setup. With flexible terms, it’s easy to expand and increase your storage space.

In addition, plenty of space and good vehicular access means it’s no longer an issue if your supplier sends your goods on an articulated lorry. Increasing stock levels means increased investment, leading naturally to a need for enhanced security. Self storage facilities offer professional level security such as perimeter fencing and 24/7 alarms to safeguard your stock.

Paper Record Storage

The second bugbear as the business grows is what to do with the mountains of paperwork. Despite all the buzz about the paperless office it hasn’t quite happened yet, although cloud storage has gone a long way towards its realisation. Options such as Dropbox, Microsoft, Google Drive and iCloud mean you can do away with the need for large filing cabinets.

Receipts, invoice copies, stock lists and important emails can all be stored safely in electronic format. Paper forms can be scanned and uploaded for easy retrieval when they’re needed. Name your scanned files logically and descriptively and you have a searchable record system that’s securely and remotely protected. Since the best advice is to store important business records offsite (and there’s a legal requirement to keep accounts for seven years), cloud storage is the answer to many paper trail problems.

For accounting, look into online solutions that allow you to enter daily transactions. Many of these charge a monthly subscription, but the time savings they afford make it well worth it. Some offer automatic bank feeds, so payments direct to your bank are entered into your accounting records automatically, keeping everything up to date with very little effort on your part.

By utilising modern self storage options for physical stock and virtual storage for documentation, systems for day-to-day running of the business become simpler and much more secure.

Drew writes for Big Yellow Self Storage.

Offering Upgraded Postage on eBay

We are always looking for more ways to win business. This usually comes down to offering something the customer wants. We recently looked at delivery options.

You probably know that in addition to a ‘Free’ postage option and a same/1 day dispatch commitment, the other service you must offer to achieve the ‘Premium Service’ badge on you eBay listings is an expedited delivery service.

We have recently negotiated a lower cost from our courier in return for increasing volumes. We were then able to reduce the upgrade cost. The idea being to try and grab some sales from people who like or need a tracked next working day service.

Using the excellent and flexible ‘postage templates’ in eSellerPro we can now offer a great deal on upgrade costs tailored to the size/weight of the item. Once we had calculated the costs we were able to update the postage templates and revise all our listings with the new charges – a 15 minute job.

So for many items which are below 1Kg the buyer can upgrade for just £2.95.

Guess what – at this price many buyers do choose to upgrade. Possibly winning us the business.

John

Advice for New Sellers on eBay

I’m often asked to give advice to new sellers or people considering selling on line. This was a recent reply to one such email. I hope it is of use.

OK my advice for starting out:

Starting with some household items on eBay is a good idea – make sure you describe them carefully/have good images – you need to get as much positive feedback as possible.

Use eBay – it has massive reach/audience. I would avoid international at first as it is fraught with potential delivery and feedback issues.

Choose products that you understand, can source easily and reliably – nothing worse than taking an hour to list something and then finding you can only get hold of them for a short time. I would avoid the most popular categories as margins are always low.

Have a good look at the costs – selling fees, final value fees, product costs, postage costs (including a cost of returns and fraud), packaging, etc.

Don’t try to be the cheapest – you can’t, other sellers with buying power for stock and services such as postage will always beat you. Having said that one strategy for getting sales and Best Match scores is to sell products at a loss initially. (if you don’t know what Best Match is Google ‘eBay Best Match’.

Instead focus on great service, fast delivery, easy returns etc.

Use Google Keywords tools to help generate titles – http://www.googlekeywordtool.com/

Keep your costs to an absolute minimum – work from home for as long as you can (although some suppliers won’t supply to you unless you have retail premises).

Read all the blogs – Tamebay, Last drop of Ink, eBay boards etc.

Terapeak is no substitute for research (in my view).

Give images some focus (excuse the pun) – clean background, lots of views, details.

Make sure your descriptions are full of details such as condition, sizes, applications.

Read the DTI info on Distance Selling Regulations.

Be professional – a good CSS based listing template will help.

Communicate with your buyers.

Would you Like A Better Price For That?

I was lucky enough to attend Catalyst this week at eBays invitation. It was a great couple of days and if I’m honest i got a lot more out of it than I thought I would.

One of the companies which came to my attention for the first time (not as a direct part of the conference) was Flubit.

The concept is a real spoiler for traditional marketplaces.

Imagine you have already decided to buy something and someone offered you a better deal. You would take it wouldn’t you?

Thats Flubit. Take a look at http://www.flubit.com/

John

How Things Change

I like to read the retail industry weekly Retail Week.

It does tend to (irritatingly) focus on personalities, awards and similar instead of real life issues facing retailers and etailers but it is also a good general barometer for all retailers.

When we first started to subscribe to it (about 4/5 years ago I guess), the word Internet was a dirty one. e-Commerce was definitely the poor relation and those working in it were not ‘Retailers’ in the true sense. I felt like a spy reading it.

How things have changed.

This week many of the main stories featured etailers, ecommerce, multi-channel. And some of the big names were there prominently talking about their web-sites and how successful they were these days.

Marks & Sparks are slowing the growth of their new bricks and mortar stores in favour of ‘striking the right balance between stores and online’.

The ‘Cookie Law’ was front page news.

Waterstones have got into bed with Amazon to sell the Kindle!

House of Fraser is said to be ‘Driving online investment as ecommerce sales rocket’.

Mamas and Papas are ‘to sell via marketplaces’ in recognition that their own website can’t reach all its target market.

Click and collect  is a large part of this of course and one of the initiatives we are working on is encouraging locals to click and collect from our warehouse. Marks & Sparks reckon that 40% of orders placed using their Shop your Way initiative are collected in store so this has to be something all small etailers and retailers need to consider.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

John