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7 Ways for E-Commerce Dropshippers to Prepare for Q4 on Amazon

Today is October 1st – Q4 has officially begun!


I’ve personally endured over a decade of Q4 excitement (and suffering) in the world of e-commerce.   Although sales don’t historically show a significant pickup until the week of Black Friday, now is the time to begin preparing.  For those who utilize dropshipping as a core component of their e-commerce strategy, it’s time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm of your life.   Hopefully in the end, you’ve safely made it through and you’re enjoying the profits of your season.

  1. For those who are selling Toys & Games on Amazon, this month is a critical month for you.  Amazon will be watching your performance metrics and will disqualify you for the entire holiday season if your metrics aren’t meeting their standards below.

    Effective on 17th November, 2016, only sellers who meet the criteria listed below will be eligible to sell in the Toys & Games category from 17th November, 2016 through 5th January, 2016.
    • Your first sale on must occur prior to 19th September, 2016. The sale does not need to be specific to the Toys & Games store.

    • You must process and ship at least 25 orders from 1st September, 2016  through 31st October, 2016. The orders do not need to be specific to the Toys & Games store.

    • Your pre-fulfillment cancel rate for the period from 1st October through 31st October, 2016 must be no greater than 1.75%.

    • Your late shipment rate for the period from 1st October through 31st October, 2016 must be no greater than 4%.

    • Your order defect rate must be no greater than 1% short term as of 1st November, 2016.

    Orders that use Fulfillment by Amazon will not be subject to the above criteria provided your account is in good standing.

  2. screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-9-53-44-amMonitor your “late ship” and “pre-fulfillment” metrics daily.   These two metrics are the biggest metrics that are at risk in the dropshipping scenario.   As you are most likely purchasing items from the same distributors and suppliers that many of your competitors are, inventory will begin to fly off the shelves at record speed.   This causes backorders and cancelations.   Either of these metrics that slip into poor standing can cause your seller account to be suspended at the worst possible time.
  3. One of the best ways to prevent pre-fulfillment cancelations is to increase buffers on your inventory.   In other words, if your distributor’s inventory feed shows a quantity of 15 units, you may wish to implement a buffer of 10.   Depending on which tools you use to build buffers, this can be treated in two different ways.   You can subtract 10 showing an inventory of 5.  Or you can have logic in place that shows the actual quantity until it reaches your buffer, then it shows zero.  So, in this case, you’d be showing 15 units available; however, once the distributor’s feed dropped to 9 units, you’d be showing a zero.   Either way works effectively.    Dropshippers should always have ample buffers in place but these should be increased prior to the holiday sales.
  4. Analyze your previous years’ sales or begin picking up on trends early and purchase inventory in bulk for Amazon FBA.   This is a risky move as it can load you down with inventory that you can’t sell.   Because of this, don’t be over eager and purchase more inventory than you can stand to hold.  This is especially true for seasonal video games, toys, games, and things that won’t sell after Christmas.  One great example:  scooters.   A few years ago, we were selling 10-12 scooters per day from one distributor.  There was no Amazon retail offer so we decided to buy hundreds of them for FBA.  As you may suspect, before our shipment was checked-in to Amazon and made available for sale, Amazon retail’s offer appeared at a selling price that was less than our wholesale price.   We liquidated them for at least a 75% loss later in the Spring.
  5. Over-communicate with your buyers when there is an issue.  If an item sold out and is on backorder, give them notice quickly and let them know the restock date.   Whenever possible, purchase the item elsewhere, even at a loss, so you can fulfill the order.  The positive metrics and seller feedback will more than pay for this expense.
  6. screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-9-55-38-amIn the coming weeks, spend time in error resolution.   If you are listing en-masse, you likely have hundreds of listings that are not active, or are suppressed, due to missing fields, such as Amazon’s item-type, or attribute-required fields like color, genre, department, ESRB rating, missing images, etc.   Most sellers who are listing en-masse are using the same data from the same suppliers so they likely have the same errors.   The seller who works on error resolution will enjoy the fruit of having these items listed and selling.
  7. Create a night shift.  In the wonderful world of dropshipping there is this event that we call a “product run” – where one product hits the Buy Box and sells over and over, very quickly.   If the price and availability on the product is accurate, this is a fantastic event.  If the item is sold out and you wake up to 100 orders that you can’t fulfill, it’s a potential business-killer.    Dropship distributors tend to update their systems late at night, usually after midnight.  At this time, their systems often batch out all the previous day’s orders, invoice them, and update their internal quantities.  New inbound inventory in their warehouses is getting scanned in and lots of data is updating internally.   When a “product run” starts during your normal business hours you can stop the bleeding quickly but if your entire staff is asleep and you wake up to this disaster, it’s very difficult to recover from.   (can you tell we have lived through this multiple times).   It’s worthwhile to hire an hourly person to watch your system for runs during the night and train them on how to make sure that everything is OK and if not, how to correct the listing.   If you are not dropshipping, or if your products are dropshipped from a niche vendor who is not selling to hundreds of competitors, this probably is not an issue for you.

These are a few helpful tips to get you ready to push through Q4 with great success.   Questions or comments?   Share below or join our free seller support community on Facebook.

Amazon Now Requiring Tracking for Envelopes/Flats

Attention Amazon Sellers,

Small_USPS_TruckIn case you haven’t noticed, Amazon is making serious changes to their policies impacting 3rd party marketplace sellers.   Just a couple of weeks ago they started restricting well-known brands from being sold without approval.   Just last week they announced a major change in their return policy as well.

It appears they are still making changes to improve the overall customer experience in the buildup to Q4 and the 2016 Holiday Season.   In yet another announcement, Amazon is requiring merchants who are fulfilling very small, lightweight items that are typically shipped in regular first class envelopes or flats to include tracking.   This does not apply if the item is priced less than $10 USD.   Otherwise, the addition of the “package” weight and delivery confirmation from the US Postal Service will add a couple of bucks to each shipment.

Dear Seller,


Beginning October 12, 2016, Amazon’s package tracking requirement will extend to small and light items that are priced over $10 USD (including shipping). Please note that this is a change from the previous policy that tracking would not be required for any items that fit in a USPS Standard Mail envelope or First Class Mail envelope.

Small and light items under $10 in price (including shipping) can still be shipped in USPS Standard Mail envelopes or First Class Mail envelopes without tracking; however, starting on the date listed above, we will require tracking for small and light items over $10, just as we do for the catalog in general.

Amazon displays package tracking information buyers because we find that being able to check an order’s shipment status and not worry about its whereabouts creates a better experience for buyers. This peace of mind is especially important for higher-priced orders.

In addition to an improved customer experience, providing valid tracking numbers for all of your shipments has several benefits:


1. Decreased order defects and better seller feedback ratings

2. Fewer buyer messages

3. Reduced lost shipment costs

4. Improved conversion

If you choose to fulfill the tracking requirement by shipping your item as a parcel, there may be a $1-2 increase in base shipping cost but you will receive complimentary tracking on the parcel. You can access parcel rates while using the same packaging that you typically use by wrapping your item lightly in bubble wrap before putting it in the packaging, such that the thickness is more than 3/4” thick.


Small and light packages that are shipped before October 12 will not be counted toward the valid tracking requirement. After October 12, if you aren’t providing tracking on 95% of your items in a given category (including small and light items over $10), you risk losing your ability to sell non-FBA items within that category.


You can view your current Valid Tracking Rate by category by going to Seller Central > Performance > Customer Satisfaction > Account Health. Tracked packages will count toward your Valid Tracking Rate when there is at least one carrier scan recorded. If you purchase postage through Amazon’s Buy Shipping service, tracking will be automatically applied to the shipment at the time of purchase.


Learn more about :


• The new Valid Tracking Rate:

• Premium Shipping options:

• Amazon’s Buy Shipping services:


Thank you for selling on Amazon,

Amazon Seller Performance Team

 Amazon is certainly tightening down in preparation for the holidays.   Marketplace Sellers are being hit left and right with now policy punches that can make it more difficult (and more expensive) to run their businesses.

Amazon Shakes up 3rd Party Sellers with Forced Prepaid Returns has been shaking up the scene lately with 3rd party “Marketplace Sellers”.   Just last week they announced a massive plan to begin restricting well-known brands from being sold by Marketplace Sellers.   The ripples of this announcement are still sending shock waves throughout the community of Amazon sellers who practice what’s known as …

You’re Never Too Busy for Metrics

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Have you ever settled in and ignored your metrics?

Friends, one of the main reasons that I started this blog was to share news and insights about e-commerce and online selling.   With over a decade in e-commerce, I’ve seen plenty of things – some amazing successes and some really discouraging heartaches.   I hope that my transparency and vulnerability with our readers will help save some of you from the mistakes we’ve made and at the same time, launch you into some of the success we’ve enjoyed.

We Got Sloppy and It Costs us over $10,000

Yes, you read that correctly.   Today I just swallowed the intense reality that we’ve unexpectedly accrued over $10,000 worth of eBay insertion fees.   How did that happen?  It’s not pretty.

Because our company is a high volume seller, we qualified for a promotion a while back that enabled us to have unlimited eBay listings with zero insertion fees.  Zero.  It was a super promotion that we have been honored to enjoy for nearly a full year.  It’s allowed us to mass list tens of thousands of products on eBay.

Despite having some employees who oversee our eBay sales and customer service, I (as the owner) happened to login to our eBay account a few weeks ago to help out with some customer service issues over the weekend.   I nearly fainted when I noticed that instead of a “Top Rated Power Seller” we had red marks everywhere and were listed as “Below Standard”.   Our metrics were awful and we had listing restrictions in place.   Apparently we had an unusual spike in customer escalations about refunds.   I spent hours investigating each of these. A few of them were legit – we just simply were sloppy and didn’t refund customers quickly enough which forced the buyers to escalate to a claim with eBay.   The rest of them really weren’t our fault at all.   A couple of them had to do with customers who, for whatever reason, were unable to print the PDF return labels we’d sent to them.   Instead of working with us, they escalated it to eBay.  There were just enough issues to barely (by less than 1% point) push us into “Below Standard” for that month.

This caused a domino effect that has proven to be one of the most painful mistakes we’ve ever made:

  1. As a result of the poor metrics, we dropped to “Below Standard” and lost our Power Seller status.
  2. All final value fee discounts were lost as a result of our poor status.
  3. Overall sales plummeted because everyone knows that Power Sellers with good metrics get better search placement and visibility.
  4. This is the real bruiser.  The promotion agreement for our “zero insertion fees” had a clause that required us to maintain our performance.

Since three full weeks have passed before this came to my attention, we’d accrued over $10,000 in listing fees because our integration software is scheduled to automatically list (and relist) items.

So what happened?

We got busy and sloppy.   That’s the bottom line.   No one person was delegated to intentionally review metrics on our account.  I suppose the Sales Manager assumed someone else was aware.  The Customer Service manager probably assumed the same.  And the Owner – well, I assumed that my staff had it under control and only discovered this when I happened to stumble upon it.   So who is to blame?   Well, we all take some responsibility but as the Owner, I take the ultimate responsibility because I should have been in tune with our marketplace metrics.  Furthermore, I should have made it crystal clear that there was an expectation that our metrics be monitored daily.

This is the type of failure that could be a fatal failure if you are not prepared.   How many businesses can take a $10,000 hit and keep moving?  For most of us who are just starting out or selling online in smaller volume, this could be catastrophic.

The Moral Of The Story …

I believe the lesson here is clear.   E-Commerce Owners:  don’t go on autopilot.  Don’t get sloppy.  Monitor all of your performance metrics daily.   Bookmark your Seller Performance pages for every venue where you sell.  If you see trends, fix them.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

And that’s our painful tip for all of you!