5 Tips for Small Business Saturday

November 26th, 2019 Comments off

Everyone knows that the frenetic Christmas shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Following shortly after Black Friday is Cyber Monday, a retail holiday started in 2005 as retailers sought to capitalize on the growing trend of online shopping. Sandwiched between those two retail extravaganzas, on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving is another shopping holiday known as Small Business Saturday.

What makes Small Business Saturday different from its well-known counterparts? While Black Friday and Cyber Monday attract people to national and big-box retailers as well as online shopping, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick-and-mortar businesses that are small and local.

What can small businesses do to take advantage of this special day that comes at the very start of the busiest shopping season of the year? Read these 5 helpful tips and find out.

Tip #1 – Introduce Customers to the Business

It’s easy for a small business to get lost in the massive world of retail. What can a small business do to rise above the fray and get noticed? Because fewer hands are involved in shipping packages to customers, each shipment can be personalized in some way. A business card that features the business’s physical address, website, and social media accounts can go a long way. A thank you note can be included in the package—bonus points if it’s handwritten and personalized with the customer’s name. Additionally, a social media page that includes photos of the business, owners, and employees will let customers know who the friendly faces are behind the package they received in the mail.

Tip #2 – Spread the Word Throughout the Community

While online promotion can be very effective, a small business can make its presence known offline as well. One of the main reasons people shop at small businesses is to support local businesses and put money back into the community. By engaging your local community, you can effectively boost your holiday sales—especially on Small Business Saturday. The local Chamber of Commerce, local organizations, and locally published newspapers and circulars can be used to get the word out.

Tip #3 – Maintain a Presence on Social Media

Any and every social media account can be used to promote Small Business Saturday. Remember, hashtags can be a business’s best friend; sales and deals can be promoted using #SmallBusinessSaturday, #SmallShop, #SmallBizSat, and others. The voice on a social media account should match the store’s branding and products. For example, a small business that sells toys and games would present itself a bit differently than one that sells haute couture clothing and accessories.

Tip #4 – Promote Products That Make Great Gifts

After all, the holiday season is all about gift-giving, so businesses should place emphasis on items that would make good gifts. Just like any other seasonal sale, product selection and merchandising are key. Grouping products by intended recipient is a great way to showcase your offerings. Categories like “gifts for mom” or “gifts for grandpa” are always popular.

Tip #5 – Don’t Forget About Loyal Customers

Any business is happy to get a new customer, but Small Business Saturday is also about engaging existing customers. The day can be advertised several weeks ahead of time by posting signs in windows and putting flyers in customers’ bags when they pay at the register to remind them about it. If the business maintains a customer email list, a brief but friendly email can encourage them to stop in and check out the deals on Small Business Saturday.

By following these tips, small businesses can start off the busy holiday shopping season on the right foot!

Categories: Small Business Marketing Tags:

How To Start Planning for the Holiday Season — In July

July 9th, 2019 Comments off

Christmas in July Blog PostThe weather outside may not be frightful…but successful e-commerce is so delightful! And just imagine how delightful it will feel just a few months from now when you fully appreciate your advance preparation for the 2019 holiday season. Remember, many retailers find November and December alone makes up as much as 30 percent of their yearly revenue. It definitely pays to be proactive in planning, even if you’re presently thinking more about sandcastles than Santa.

Here are 5 reasons why it pays to get into the holiday selling spirit well in advance.

1. Your customers are already thinking ahead. Google Trends indicates searches for “Christmas Gift Ideas” begin in August and only go up from there. With a plethora of holidays stacking up once October hits – including Yom Kippur, Halloween and Thanksgiving – almost everyone gets busier and more frazzled as the year draws to a close.

2. Non-calendar holidays are key. You know about Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Cyber Monday (Dec. 2), but these aren’t the only retail-friendly dates to mark on your calendar. They may not appear on everyone’s to-do list, but as an e-commerce seller, you absolutely need to be prepared for Green Monday (Dec. 9), a shopping holiday similar to Cyber Monday that tends to fall on the second Monday of December, and Free Shipping Day (Dec. 14), a one-day event when merchants are encouraged to offer this perk with guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. Create a holiday calendar so you know exactly which ecommerce promotions you’ll be participating in so you can be sure to plan accordingly as well as alert your customers.

3. Expanded holiday payment options and generous return policies appeal to shoppers. Many retailers extend additional payment options, discounts and loosened return windows during the busy holiday season. By taking the time to consider these factors now, you can make informed decisions once the busiest shopping season begins.

4. Intuitive mobile platforms attract shoppers on the go. Studies have shown that mobile shoppers make quicker purchasing decisions than desktop users. If you haven’t already done so, optimize your mobile site now to make it more responsive to mobile browsing.

5. Connecting with customers can benefit your bottom line. Whether it’s a curated Pinterest board of your holiday gift ideas, enthusiastic Tweets about products or personal emails to customers, your social media and personalized marketing can have a big impact on customers, especially during the stressful shopping season. Start your campaigns now by reaching out via abandoned-cart and after-sales emails or posting “Only 130 shopping days left!” teasers on social media. The more you connect with customers, the more you can be sure to offer them the products they want.

The bottom line
It’s often said that the days are long, but the years are short — so don’t let the holiday shopping season sneak up on you. Take steps now to consider your options and plan ahead for the busiest shopping season of the year. That way, when fall rolls around, you’ll be prepared to celebrate a successful season.

Using Two-Step Verification to Keep Your eBay Account Secure

June 28th, 2019 Comments off

A few months ago, I woke up to thousands of dollars of eBay sales.  I couldn’t believe how many iPhones I’d sold!  Unfortunately, I don’t sell iPhones.  Last weekend, the same thing happened to one of my former eBay students.  When she logged onto the site, she noticed that someone had used her account to list five PlayStation gaming consoles and a number of Samsung Galaxy Notes.  She changed her password over and over again, but that wasn’t enough to stop the attack.  Panic time!

 

The problem?  Our eBay accounts were hacked!  In both cases, eBay was alerted immediately, and customer service reps took care of the problem quickly.  Rumor has it that hackers prefer preying on seasoned eBay sellers who have accounts in good standing.  My former student has been buying on eBay for years and is now a successful seller.  And it was pretty obvious why I’d been hacked. I have a feedback score of almost 20,000, I’ve been on eBay since 2005, and I’d recently changed my password to one I’d used for years on numerous other accounts.  But that password change gave hackers the change to move in.  Bad move, Miriam.

 

Blocking hackers from your eBay account – installing two-step verification

Needless to say, I changed my eBay password again and followed the advice of a friend who supports his entire family selling estate sale items on eBay.  My friend cannot afford to have anything happen to his account, so his eBay account is set up for two-step verification.

What is two-step verification?
Basically, in order to log onto eBay, a person has to go through a two-step process.  The first step is inputting your eBay password.    Then, eBay will send you  a security code via text which must be entered as well.  If any of the two steps is not inputted correctly, the person will be blocked from logging in to eBay.

I set up two-step verification on both my eBay and PayPal accounts, and I haven’t had a problem since.

 

How to set up two-step verification in eBay

  1. Click on the “My eBay” link in the upper right-hand corner of the home page
  2. Go to the “Account” tab
  3. Click on the “Personal Information” or “Business Information” link on the left-hand side of the page
  4. Scroll down until you see the “Security Information” section
  5. Under this heading you will see “Two-Step Verification”
  6. Click on the link to the right of this section
  7. Follow eBay’s instructions on screen to complete the process.

 

How to set up two-step verification on PayPal
If you’d like to set up this feature on PayPal and you have a business account, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your account
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the summary page, click on “Profile”
  3. Choose “Profile and Settings”
  4. On the left-hand side of the page, click on “My Settings”
  5. Then scroll down and find the “Security Key” section
  6. Click on the link to the right of this section
  7. Click on “Register a New Mobile Device Number”
  8. Follow PayPal’s instructions on screen to confirm the process.

 

If you do not have a business account, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your account
  2. Click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the summary page
  3. Click the “Security” tab on the left-hand side of the page
  4. Go to the “Security Key” section
  5. Click on the link to the right of this section and follow PayPal’s instructions on screen

 

Setting up two-step verification may take a few minutes, but it’s well worth the security it provides.  This extra level of protection will give you peace of mind and will save you time in the future.

 

About the Author

Miriam Otto is an eBay blogger and credentialed teacher with 13 years’ experience selling on the site.  She was a frequent guest on eBay Radio and has participated in eBay seller panels and projects.  Her blog, The eBay Life, is an all-in-one resource for eBay sellers.

Categories: Small Business Marketing Tags:

Reusing Boxes – 5 Tips To Help You Stay Out of Trouble

May 21st, 2019 Comments off

Reusing boxes can make you feel good.  You’re saving the environment!  You’re reducing waste!   You’re saving money!  But are you making a mistake?  Well, that depends.

Cover Unfamiliar Markings

First of all, it is extremely important to cover all markings and symbols with which you’re not familiar.  When I first started selling on eBay, I sent a pair of shoes in a box marked “ORM-D.”  Packages bearing this mark contain hazardous materials. The package didn’t get far.  It was held hostage in a city 45 minutes away.  The Postal Service wanted me to pick it up.  I drove to the agreed upon location—an out-of-the-way USPS warehouse. I was shipping shoes, I tell you. Shoes! What a nightmare.

Hide or Remove Old Address Labels

In addition, be sure to cover or remove any old address labels.  As an eBay newbie, I had several boxes returned to me because the USPS only saw the original address label which showed the destination address as being my own!

Avoid Alcohol Containers

Sending items via the USPS in boxes that once contained alcohol can also be a problem.  I would avoid using them.  According to the USPS website, beer, wine, and liquor may not be sent through the mail. If you want to reuse a box for shipping that has alcoholic beverage labels on it, remove all logos and labels, so your package will pass through the mail system.

Check the Stability of the Box

If you plan to reuse a box, make sure it hasn’t lost its strength.  For example, a box that has endured the process of traveling across the United States is often not strong enough to protect the products you are shipping.  If you’re sending a stuffed animal, you might be OK.  But don’t expect Grandma’s dishes to arrive safely if you‘re shipping them in a box that has already seen the other side of the country.

Make a Good Impression

Finally, think about the impression you are making on your customer.  If you are planning to recycle boxes, reuse those boxes that are clean and professional looking.  I belong to quite a few eBay-related Facebook groups.  Every once in a while someone will post a picture of a box they received from an eBay seller that originally contained adult diapers. Not good!

Reusing boxes is a good idea, as long as you’re smart about it.  Stick to professional-looking, clean, sturdy boxes, and you’ll stay out of trouble.  Follow these tips, and your shipping journey will be smooth sailing!

Don’t forget – the USPS provides sellers free boxes for products being shipped via Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express.  And they’ll ship these free shipping supplies to your work or home for free.

 

About the Author

Miriam Otto is an eBay blogger and credentialed teacher with 13 years’ experience selling on the site.  She was a frequent guest on eBay Radio and has participated in eBay seller panels and projects.  Her blog, The eBay Life, is an all-in-one resource for eBay sellers.

Categories: Ecommerce Shipping Tags:

USPS Mailing Standards For Lithium Batteries

April 29th, 2019 Comments off

Shipping Regulations
When shipping lithium batteries, businesses must comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) standards for preparing shipments that contain lithium batteries.  The standards are in place to ensure the safe transportation of shipments that include these batteries and cells.  Shippers are responsible to comply with these regulations or risk fines.

Luckily the USPS shipping regulations align with DOT and PHMSA regulations—so as long as your shipment follows USPS regulations, you are in the clear.

USPS Standards for Domestic Shipments Containing Lithium Batteries

  • Each cell cannot contain more than 1 gram of lithium
  • Each battery cannot contain more than 2 grams of lithium
  • All packages must contain a complete return address
  • For non-installed batteries, your package must have a DOT-approved lithium battery mark (UN3090)

Standards for Shipping Installed Batteries

  • Installed batteries must be protected from short circuit
  • Devices with batteries must have protection to prevent accidentally being powered-on
  • Equipment must be cushioned

Shipping Lithium Batteries to International Destinations?

Lithium batteries can only be shipped internationally if they are installed in the equipment they operate.  Shipping carriers are not allowed to ship packages containing only lithium batteries or cells to international locations – they must be included inside a product.  No markings or documentation are allowed on these international mailpieces.  This rule applies to all international as well as APO/FPO/DPO destinations.

More info on the U.S. Postal Service’s Lithium Battery mailing standards is available on the USPS.com site.

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