September 2018 Brags

Welcome to the newest edition of my brag posts, where I brag about the prior month and encourage you to do the same thing. It’s a great way of staying present to wins without always focusing on the next thing.

With that said, in no particular order, here are some wins from September.

1. Don and I got engaged! He planned a perfect day for my birthday on September 25th.

First, on the day prior, we’d found a really great bakery while walking around NYC. That night while I was on a call downstairs in the hotel lobby, he snuck out and got a bunch of treats I could wake up to on my birthday.

He had pre-planned a bunch of things as well: brunch at a delicious restaurant, then sent me to a spa for 2 hours of bath time and a massage, then we went on a 2 hour limo tour through NYC. After that we went to a 9 course dinner at Per Se (an insanely good Michelin rated restaurant) and were supposed to do a Broadway show after that.

Somewhere between the 4th and 5th course at Per Se, he got down on one knee and proposed.

It was perfect.

2. I made so much time for personal FUN in September. I flew out to Denver for a dear friend’s wedding, reunited with some of my best friends in Denver, went on a “food tour” in NYC with some friends and family, attended a bridal blessing for my friend, and spent every weekend filled with people I love. It was wonderful.

3. I filled out my gratitude list 27 of 30 days in September. It’s a great habit that I’m proud of continuing.

4. For 17 out of 30 days I took time to have silence and journal on things I wanted to get clarity about. Ideally I’ll be doing this more, but still – I did it over half the month and I’m counting that as a win.

5. The warehouse shipped out over 52,000 items (not including another several thousand from fulfillment clients) in September. And speaking of the warehouse, our survey results I mentioned in the last brag post are still going great. People love our services.

6. I finished a big chunk of the relaxation room in our house! Here’s an image of some of it. I love this room!

7. I started going to cryotherapy on a whim. I saw a Groupon for it and thought I’d try it out — and while it’s a bit uncomfortable going into a tank that blasts you with cold air, it’s done wonders for my mood and has all kinds of other benefits.

The first day I went, I’d been having an extraordinarily rough day. I noticed that after I left the appointment I felt way more zen. Everything felt very natural and I didn’t even notice the change until I reflected how much calmer I felt versus before going in.

8. I found an incredible naturopath to work with! A few months ago I was diagnosed with “Premature Ovarian Failure”, while other specialists say I have “PCOS”, and from what I understand, I can’t have both at the same time.

Anyway, I did a podcast search for “Premature Ovarian Failure” and found exactly one episode about it. I reached out to the woman giving advice, not having any idea if she did individual consultations, but as it turns out – she does! We will be talking once a month or so and I’ve gotten started with her protocol. I’m excited for hopefully turning my hormone nonsense around.

9. This is sort of a bummer, but I’m concentrating on the “brag” part of it.

A few months ago I found out that one of my ex-employees, who I really loved, was stealing from the warehouse. He was selling overstock mugs to someone and pocketing the money (and telling the buyer that all proceeds were going to the warehouse).

We took him to court.

I haven’t been to court before and assumed it would be a scenario where the judge would ask us questions, make a decision, and we’d be done…

But I was wrong.

The ex-employee brought a lawyer. The judge asked who was “representing” CustomHappy. All at once, I suddenly had to be a lawyer.

Now, my childhood dream was to be a lawyer (and then president). I didn’t end up pursuing that, obviously, but being put in that position almost got to ignite the little girl’s dream in me.

The situation was unfortunate and makes me sad. BUT… I killed it in court. I cross-examined and asked great questions, read statements while listening to testimony and found discrepancies in stores and asked about them, and overall really explained our point.

I could have had more finesse had I been prepared — but in the end, we won. Over the lawyer.

Again – the situation sucked, but the “win” from it is that the little girl in me felt so redeemed.

10. We started up a new Jumpstart this quarter and I feel very happy with the value the attendees are getting each week, and happy with all the people who signed up. It feels nice to be able to help people on a bigger scale like this.

11. People in LHS and the Jumpstart group are getting great results. Here’s some of the wins from September:

 

I think that’s it for now. It was a great month for the most part and I’m looking forward to a win-filled October. Feel free to share your September brags!

Everything you need to prepare for the holidays (done-for-you-graphics, social media templates & more)

Here is everything you need to prepare your ecommerce store for the holidays

Believe it or not, the 2018 holiday season is here. The decorations are out and people are planning for their parties and gift-giving.

For most businesses, this time of year is the most lucrative. And so, you need to prepare.

You need to have a promotional plan to optimize your sales, and you need to have a strategy to effectively handle customer service.

To help with both of these things, I’ve put together a bunch of resources you can use to make your business thrive this holiday season.

Below, you’ll find a table of contents outlining the resources I’ve included:

Table of contents

Now, let’s dive in!

Here are 200 promotional holiday graphics you can download

We had holiday 50 designs made into 4 formats each – one for Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There are 10 promotional graphics for Halloween, 10 for Thanksgiving, 10 for Hanukkah, 10 for Christmas, and 10 for New Year’s Eve.

You can see 15 of the designs below.

To get all 200 graphics, just head over to Dropbox where you can download them.

Social media post templates to use with your holiday graphics

Halloween

Template 1: #HappyHalloween, everyone! Don’t miss out on the spooktacular sale happening now: [link]. Use promo code ___ to get ___% off

Template 2: #Halloween2018 is almost here! No tricks, just treats. Save ___% with promo code ___. Check out our sale happening here: [link]

Template 3: Give someone special a fun #Halloween treat this year: [link] and save ___% on any order over $___. #TrickOrTreat

Thanksgiving

Template 1: #HappyThanksgiving, friends & family! Don’t miss out on the #TurkeyDay sale happening now: [link] It’s definitely one to be thankful for

Template 2: #Thanksgiving2018 is around the corner. Make it extra special with a unique holiday gift: [link]. Promo code ___ saves you ___%. #grateful

Template 3: There is much to be thankful for this #Thanksgiving, like friends, family, and lots of holiday savings: [link]. Save ___% with promo code ___

Hanukkah

Template 1: Wishing you a #HappyHanukkah! Check out the #Hanukkah sale happening now: [link]. Save ___% with promo code ___

Template 2: #Hanukkah2018 is almost here. Light up someone’s day with an extra special gift: [link]. Promo code ___ saves you ___%

Template 3: Our #HanukkahSale is happening now! Celebrate and save big with promo code ___. #LightItUp

Christmas

Template 1: #MerryChristmas! ‘Tis the season for big savings. Check out our #Christmas sale here: [link]. Use promo code ___ to get ___% off

Template 2: May your #Christmas2018 be merry & bright. Make someone’s day extra special with a gift from our store: [link]. Promo code ___ saves you ___%

Template 3: #ChristmasIsComing. Shop now for gifts: [link]. Save ___% when you use promo code ___. #HoHoHo

New Year’s Eve and Day

Template 1: #HappyNewYear, everyone! Ring in #2019 with big savings: [link]. Use promo code ___ to get ___% off

Template 2: Start the #NewYear off with awesome gifts and big savings. Shop now: [link]. With promo code ___, you get ___% off. #midnight

Template 3: Our #NewYearSale is happening now! Promo code ___ gets you ___%. #Hello2019 #Goodbye2018

Here’s a list of popular holiday hashtags to use with your posts

Halloween

#Halloween
#HappyHalloween
#Halloween2018
#HappyHalloween2018
#TrickOrTreat
#HalloweenParty
#HalloweenGiveaway
#HalloweenContest
#HalloweenNight
#HalloweenHaunt
#HalloweenFun
#HappyFall
#October31
#October
#Autumn

Thanksgiving

#HappyThanksgiving
#TurkeyDay
#Thanksgiving
#HappyThanksgiving2018
#Thanksgiving2018
#TurkeyTime
#ThankfulDay
#ThanksgivingDinner
#ThanksgivingCountDown
#ILoveThanksgiving
#TheBestThingAboutThanksgiving
#ThanksgivingPromotion
#ThanksgivingSale
#ThanksgivingGiveaway
#GiveThanks

Hanukkah

#Hanukkah
#HappyHanukkah
#Hanukkah2018
#HappyHanukkah2018
#HanukkahSale
#HanukahGiveaway
#HanukkahCelebration
#8Days
#LightItUp
#HanukkahPromotion
#FestivalOfLights
#HanukkahGifts
#Chanukkah
#CelebrateChanukkah
#Chanukkah2018

Christmas 

#MerryChristmas
#Christmas
#MerryChristmas2018
#Christmas2018
#Xmas
#ChristmasIsComing
#ChristmasGifts
#ChristmasPromotion
#ChristmasSale
#ChristmasGiveaway
#ChristmasEve
#ChristmasCountdown
#FelizNavidad
#ChristmasFun
#ChristmasLove
#StockingStuffer
#FelizNavidad
#HoHoHo
#Noel
#ItsChristmas

New Year’s 

#NewYear
#HappyNewYear
#NewYear2019
#HappyNewYear2019
#NewYearsDay
#NewYearsEve
#NewYearsResolution
#Goodbye2018
#Hello2019
#NewYearGiveaway
#NewYearSale
#NewYearPromotion
#Happy2019
#Midnight
#NYE2019

Other

#HappyHolidays
#Holidays
#HolidayCheer
#HolidaySale
#HolidayPromotion
#HolidayGiveaway
#HolidaySavings
#BlackFriday
#CyberMonday
#BlackFri
#CyberMon
#SeasonsGreetings
#Gifts
#Celebrate
#Celebration

Here’s a calendar of shopping days to note during the holiday season

Holiday season calendar - October
Holiday season calendar - November
Holiday season calendar - December

Holiday gift guides where you can promote your products

People who look at gift guides are people who want to buy. And so, promoting your products via gift guides is a great way to reach more potential buyers.

(Last year, my assistant and I did a case study involving gift guides. You can read it here.)

You can look for gift guides on your own by searching for things like Halloween gift guides, Hanukkah gift guides, or Christmas gift guides.

Or, you can search more specifically by niche or person – for example, dog owner holiday gift ideas, holiday gift guides for mom, or teacher gift guides.

I’ve also compiled a quick list of websites offering gift guides that you can reach out to. (Note: I haven’t contacted these sites myself so I don’t know how likely they are to respond, etc.)

Here’s the gift guide list

ChristmasGifts.com
WhatToBuyYourGF.com
GiftBeta.com
GuilianaRancic.com
PersonalizationMall.com
BradfordExchange.com
TheGreatGiftCompany.co

Copy-and-paste customer service response templates

In addition to reaching more potential buyers, another crucial component of managing your business is taking care of your existing customers.

And that means providing excellent customer service.

Customer service is time-consuming, though, especially during the holidays when you’re dealing with a lot more orders.

To help with this, I created customer service templates, fitting common ecommerce scenarios, that you can copy and paste.

(I recommend storing these, and any other templates you make, in a Word or Google doc for easy access.)

Here’s what to say…

When customers receive the wrong item

Hey [first name],

We are very sorry for the mix-up and any inconvenience it has caused! We do our best to get our orders right 100% of the time. But unfortunately, mistakes can sometimes occur. We will get the correct item shipped out to you asap and make sure to send it priority.

Please accept our apologies again and let us know if there’s anything else we can assist you with.

Thanks.

Best,
[your name]

When items arrive damaged

Hey [first name],

We are very sorry your order arrived damaged! We do our best to package our products securely with the highest quality packaging materials. But unfortunately, sometimes things do still get damaged during the shipping process.

We will get the correct item shipped out to you asap and make sure to send it priority.

Please accept our apologies again!

Thank you.

Best,
[your name]

When items haven’t arrived yet

Version 1: If customers did NOT pay for expedited shipping (This applies to 99% of cases – for example, if customers ordered via UseGearBubble where all shipping is standard.)

Hey [first name],

We are sorry your order is taking so long to arrive! Your order has shipped, though, and is currently in-transit with USPS so you should receive it within the next few days.

Here is the tracking number: [insert USPS tracking number]

According to it, your order is due to arrive on [insert the new estimated arrival date]. Please accept our apologies again for the inconvenience and let us know if we can do anything else to assist you.

Thanks.

Best,
[your name]

Version 2: If customers DID pay for expedited shipping (This would be if customers purchased an item from your Shopify store, for example.)

Hey [first name],

We are sorry your order is taking so long to arrive! Your order has shipped, though, and is currently in-transit with USPS so you should receive it within the next few days. I have also gone ahead and refunded your expedited shipping costs since the expected delivery date has passed.

Here is the tracking number: [insert USPS tracking number]

According to it, your order is due to arrive on [insert the new estimated arrival date]. Please accept our apologies again for the inconvenience and let us know if we can do anything else to assist you.

Thanks.

Best,
[your name]

When customers just aren’t happy

Hey [first name],

We’re sorry that you weren’t completely satisfied with your purchase! If the item arrived not as described or was damaged in any way, then we would be happy to get you a replacement sent out asap.

If you could please let us know more about why you were not satisfied, we will do our best to address your concerns. Or, if you would like to proceed with a refund, then, of course, we can do that for you right away.

We strive to create top-of-the-line products that our customers love, and we want you to be satisfied with everything you purchase from us.

Please let us know how you would like to proceed and our apologies again that you weren’t completely satisfied.

Thanks.

Best,
[your name]

I hope you find this compilation of ecommerce holiday resources useful! Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re preparing your business for the holiday season!

Here is everything you need to prepare your ecommerce store for the holidays

Avoid these ecommerce mistakes and stay on Amazon’s good side

I’ve always found Amazon to be pretty easy to work with. There are rules, though… and they are getting stricter about enforcing them.

With the holiday season getting into gear, now is NOT the time you want to risk getting into trouble with Amazon.

By far, the holiday season is the busiest and most lucrative time of year for businesses. And that’s why I decided to create a list of the most often cited mistakes ecommerce companies make with Amazon that can get them suspended, or even worse — banned.

Again, you generally don’t have to worry too much when dealing with Amazon. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

I’d recommend taking a close look at the list of mistakes below to make sure your Amazon account and listings are all up to snuff.

That said, let’s dive into the top ways you can get onto Amazon’s bad side…

Late shipment rate

Have too many late or incorrect shipments can get you suspended or audited.

According to Seller Central, “The Late Shipment Rate (LSR) represents orders ship confirmed after the expected ship date as a percentage of total orders, over both a 10-day or a 30-day period. LSR only applies to seller-fulfilled orders…

Our policy is that sellers should maintain an LSR under 4% in order to sell on Amazon. An LSR above 4% may result in account deactivation.”

To view your LSR, follow these steps:

  1. Under the Performance tab, visit your Account Health page.
  2. Click Late Shipment Rate in the Shipping Performance column.

Make sure that your handling times are set generously, as it’s better to have peace of mind than a suspended account.

Pre-fulfillment cancel rate

This calculation refers to the number of orders cancelled by you, the seller, before the shipments are confirmed divided by the total number of orders received in a given time period.

Miscalculating the amount of inventory you have is usually the reason behind a high pre-fulfillment cancellation rate, which you want to keep below 2.5%.

(And for most LHS sellers, this won’t be an issue since you don’t have to worry about inventory.)

To view your pre-fulfillment cancel rate, follow these steps:

  1. Under the Performance tab, visit your Account Health page.
  2. Click Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate in the Shipping Performance column.

Valid tracking rate 

According to Amazon…

If you are a North American seller, “you are required to provide valid tracking numbers for 95% of your US shipments. The following items are not included in this calculation:

  • Items shipped by freight with a carrier not integrated with Amazon.
  • Small items (such as screen protectors and greeting cards) that cost less than $10 (including shipping charges) and are shipped in USPS Standard Mail envelopes or First Class Mail envelopes.

If you don’t meet the 95% target in a specific category, you risk losing your ability to sell non-FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) items within that category.”

And if you are an international seller, “Where Amazon integrated tracking solutions are available (such as China Post Express and Logistic ePacket service), [Amazon] require[s] valid tracking numbers for at least 95% of your shipments on orders greater than $5.00 (with shipping).

If you sell fast-moving, small, and light products that are generally priced under $10, you might consider FBA Small and Light program. This program offers lower fulfillment costs and Amazon will fulfill the orders for you. Learn more about this program.”

To view your valid tracking rate, follow these steps:

  1. Under the Performance tab, visit your Account Health page.
  2. Click Valid Tracking Rate in the Shipping Performance column.

Order defect rate

Your order defect rate (ODR) factors in the percentage of orders that receive the following:

  • Negative feedback (1- or 2-star ratings)
  • an A-to-Z claim
  • chargebacks

Negative feedback rate – If have too much bad feedback in terms of your products’ quality, inaccurate information, delivery issues, or poor customer service, you can have your account suspended or audited.

A-to-Z Guarantee claim rate – Filing an A-to-Z claim against you is usually a customer’s last resort. And so, if you have too many customers using this path to return items or to get refunds, that can also be grounds for suspension.

Credit Card Chargeback rate – A chargeback occurs when customers dispute their orders as a credit card purchase. So if you have too many of these, that’s another reason you can be suspended.

You should aim to have an ODR rate that’s less than 1%.

To view your ODR, follow these steps:

  1. Under the Performance tab, visit your Account Health page.
  2. Click Order Defect Rate in the Customer Service Performance column.

Including external links 

A lot of Amazon sellers, myself included, sell their products on other platforms or they have their own websites. And sometimes, sellers will promote these other platforms or websites on Amazon by including external links.

Whether these links are added to your products’ listings or included in your communications with customers, it’s a no-no with Amazon that can get your account put under review. Additionally, you cannot watermark any of your images with external links.

Duplicate ASIN and product pages

Amazon has a strict no duplicates policy. So if you list the same product under multiple ASINs or on multiple product pages, your account can be suspended.

Similarly, you can also be suspended for opening multiple seller accounts, unless Amazon has expressly given you permission to do so.

Selling unauthorized items

Unauthorized items can occur in a few forms:

Counterfeit – Common counterfeit or imitated items include DVDs, movies, and beauty and skincare products. If you sell any of these types of things, make sure everything is authentic.

Rights infringement – Any item that’s registered under another brand name or has another brand’s slogan or trademark constitutes rights infringement and can get you banned.

Restricted – Amazon has a list of items sellers are restricted from selling. Here is that list (click the links to learn more details about the restrictions):

False advertising or unsubstantiated claims 

If Amazon becomes aware that you’ve provided inaccurate or false information about a product (e.g. false info about pricing, the manufacturer, or freight and logistical costs), you can get suspended or put under audit.

You can also get into trouble for trying to pass used items off as new. Always double check your products’ listings for accuracy.

Fake reviews or offering compensation 

It’s understandable to want lots of positive reviews and few to zero negative reviews. If you do get negative reviews, though, don’t offer to compensate people with money or free merchandise for removing or altering their reviews. There are other means of accomplishing this goal.

A while back, I wrote a post about the right way to fight back against negative feedback. You can check it out here.

You also don’t want to buy positive reviews. Amazon takes the integrity of reviews seriously, so abusing the reviewing system is an easy way to get suspended.

Here’s what to do if your account is suspended

(NOTE: We’re talking about being suspended here. If your account gets banned, you, unfortunately, don’t have any recourse. But if your account is only suspended, you do have a chance to appeal.)

If your Amazon account gets suspended, you have 17 days to submit an appeal. Here are the steps you should take:

First, you need to find out why your account was suspended. To do that, check your Performance Notifications in Seller Central.

You should have received a notification with the subject “Your Amazon.com selling privileges have been removed.” The message should include a list of all the ASINs that in some way violate Amazon’s policies. Plus, it should include a link where you can submit your appeal.

There are three basic reasons Amazon stipulates for suspending an account: 

  1. Performance issues – Under the Performance tab, check your Account Health Dashboard where you can see which metrics aren’t doing well (e.g. negative feedback, A-to-Z Guarantee claims, chargeback claims, late shipment rate, pre-fulfillment cancel rate).
  2. Seller policy violations – Your selling practices need to be in line with Amazon’s community rules, which you can review here.
  3. Product rule violations – Amazon should note the specific prohibited item(s) in their notice. But if not, you should review your inventory and inventory intake process to assess which items need to be removed.

Then, Amazon expects you to create a Plan of Action based on what the notification says the issues are and how you plan to remedy the situation.

Here are some tips for writing an effective Plan of Action: 

  • Be as precise and clear as possible when detailing your solution suggestions.
  • Be brief. You want to convey all the necessary details but in a way that’s to the point and concise.
  • Don’t be overly emotional or defensive. Avoid the temptation to prove you’ve been falsely accused. Amazon has already seemed you responsible, so your best bet is to accept that and be objective and stay on message.

To learn more about the appeal process, click the Help tab in Seller Central and search “Appeal the restriction or removal of selling privileges.”

Or, to see how Amazon suggests dealing with specific suspension reasons, search “Create a plan of action to reinstate selling privileges.”

Here’s a basic Plan of Action template you can follow:

Dear Amazon Performance Seller Team,

Thank you for allowing me to appeal my Amazon seller suspension. Below, you’ll find my Plan of Action for resolving [the reason for your suspension according to Amazon]. 

The following issues have been identified to me:

[Issue 1]

[Issue 2]

[Issue 3]

[And so on]

Here’s how I plan to remedy these issues: 

[Solution to issue 1]

[Solution to issue 2]

[Solution to issue 3]

[And so on]

Thank you again for reviewing my appeal. I look forward to your response. 

Best,
[Your name]

What do you think of this list of ecommerce mistakes? Has anything ever happened to your Amazon account? If so, how did you handle the situation? Please leave a comment below and share your insights and experiences!

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