IMA Announces 3rd Annual Conference Agenda

The Internet Merchants Association has announced their conference agenda for 2009 in Las Vegas, NV in conjunction with the ASD/AMD Trade Show.  There is still plenty of time to register, so be sure to go to www.imalasvegas.com right now and get signed up. You do not want to miss this conference packed full of information for increasing your online sales!

AGENDA: Updated 3/11/09

NOTE – The IMA is still adding more speakers, so times and speakers are subject to change.  In addition to the agenda below, there will be a Networking Suite open at Bally’s on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights where you can meet the speakers and ask more questions!

March 16-18 Internet Merchants Assn. Las Vegas register @ , www.imamerchant.org & www.imalasvegas.com Don’t miss out – Register TODAY!

Monday, March 16, 2009 – Internet Merchants Assn Workshops for ASD/AMD
Conference @ Sands Expo Convention Center Rm 107

8am – Marketing My Website on a Budget – Crystal Wells-Miller,Senior Marketing Manager, Vendio
930am – Successful Email Marketing –Charlie Bass, President, Las Vegas Int. Chamber of
Commerce
11am – Make Shipping Easy With Today’s Tools – Seth Birnbaum, Endicia
1230pm – Understanding Search Engine Marketing – Chris Finke,  Orange Soda

FIRST IMA EVENT:
ZAPPOS ON SITE TOUR:
3:30 p.m – 5:30 IMA Pre-conference on-site tour, Zappos.com
Meet in front of Bally’s hotel for transportation, reservations must be made in advance and are first come, first serve.

Hospitality Suite Open, Ballys Resort : 8 p.m. – midnight

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 – Sands Expo Convention Center Rooms 302/303

7:30 – 8 :15 am exhibits open & coffee

8 :15 am – 8: 45  YES WE CAN –case history, Mike Terpin, Social Radi’us Agency

9am-9:40am – Maximizing profit: How to make more money despite the economy – Sarah Brubacher senior manager of eBay’s top sellers programs,
Seth Birnbaum, Endicia and Charles Steinmetz, regional director CISCO

9: 45am-10 15 – Multi-channel Selling, Anthony Musselwhite, AuctionBlox

10: 15am- 10:30am – snack break

10 30-11: 00 am –  How to cash in on TWITTERMANIA , Dan Hollings Twitter Guru

11: 00 – 12:00 ROUNDTABLE #1 & exhibits area open

12 – 1:00 Lunch Exhibits open

2:30- 2:45 pm Snack break

2:45pm-3:30 pm – Driving traffic & attention with Video & Podcasts & online radio
in your marketing & ad mix: Mariana Danilovic, Hollywood Portfolio( former EVP Mediazone). Networks, Andrea Mitchell, Podcast Go, Charlie Bass, Host Vegas Talk Radio

3:30pm-4 00pm – Comparison Shopping Sites; Greg Haslam, Become.com

4:00pm- 4:30 pm Joyce Schwarz, Matchmaking for Business, JCOM, www.joycecom.com Marketing, PR & Joint Ventures

4:30 – 5:30  pm ROUNDTABLES #2

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 – Sands Expo Convention Center

8 am- 8:45 a.m. Morning Networking/continental breakfast

9am-10am – IMA Business Meeting /elections

10am-10:30am – Getting the Most from Your Websites –  Michael Levit, EVP Marketing & Business Development, Vendio

1045am-11:00am – snack break

11:00am-11 45am – “Rich” Email Marketing & Video that sells  Ron Cates, Regional Director, Constant Contact, Dave Boufford, creator of the viral video “THE DASH” 40 million views & counting.

12 pm to 12:45 LUNCH inspirational speaker. Author & poet, Linda Ellis,www.lindaellis.netTHE DASH which sold 200,000 books (only online) and online film that attracted 40 million viewers and counting.

1- 2 p.m. Zappos Keynote: Business Development 2.0 Business Development
at the cross-section of commerce, content & community, Aaron Magness, Zappos, www.zappos.com

2: 15 – 2:45  Subject TBA – Phillip Mulloy, CEO frooition, www.frooition.com  & Burne Hill, US Regiion Manager, frooition

3 – 4:45 Roundtables, workshops & demos & exhibits open

4: 45pm-515pm –-“SEO Link Building Techniques“, Alex McArthur, VP of Search, Orange Soda

5:15 – 5:30 – Closing Comments & Awards

Register today!  Get your business on the fast track to success! www.imalasvegas.com

Tips for Increasing Traffic to Your eBay Listings

By Dan Caplan

The eBay message boards are filled with posts by sellers about how eBay’s new Best Match has taken  seller’s items and made them nearly invisible to buyers. The result, of course, is a decrease in sales.

Trying to adapt to Best Match is a challenge for sellers and although time and energy should be put into maximizing Best Match results another essential course of action for eBay sellers is to rely less on eBay driving buyers to your listings and figuring out ways to drive buyers to your listings yourself.

I have compiled a list of ways to drive buyers to your listings to supplement Best Match.  If any readers have any additional methods, please add them to the list.

Google Base Store Connector
Use Google Base Store Connector to get your listings indexed in Google Search results.  Here is a link to the free program that will send your eBay listing info to Google.

[Read more…]

Third Annual IMA Conference Registration

The Internet Merchants Association is pleased to announce their third annual conference being held in Las Vegas, March 17-18, 2009. This leading e-Commerce conference is presented in conjunction with the ASD/AMD Variety Merchandise Show, the ASD/AMD Gift Expo and the ASD/AMD Jewelry Show being held March 15-18th. Register Here

“With the economy being a challenge to many in business, this year IMA is proud to offer free classes in conjunction with the ASD/AMD show on Monday, March 16th,” announced Steve Grossberg, IMA President. “We are excited to offer the free classes such as ‘Marketing My Website on a Budget’, ‘Successful Email Marketing’, ‘Make Shipping Easy Online’ and ‘Understanding Search Engine Marketing.” Registration with ASD/AMD is required for these free classes.

[Read more…]

Social Networking – What Every Business Needs to Know

Written by Pat

Social networking in an online setting is dramatically different than in-person networking.

Traditional networking involves swapping business cards at monthly meetings and having occasional lunches with a few new acquaintances.

In an online setting, social networking is about forming a vast community of people with common interests, and meeting on a platform where you can interact frequently with the use of online resources and tools. Through the platform and tools available from the social networking sites, users can submit content such as blogs, videos, and photo albums that help bring large numbers of like-minded people together quickly.

The more open nature of social networking sites is in contrast to the anonymous forums and bulletin boards that were very popular earlier in the decade. Those sites are rapidly losing users to more social outlets like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

Since MySpace first came on the scene, social networking has exploded. All businesses, particularly online businesses, should be watching and reaching out to their customers through social networking sites.

So, the question is: Why should a business be represented on social networking sites?

It’s about reputation management.

In the past, consumers had limited avenues to publicly discuss a company or its products. Their outlet was to complain to the company and maybe a few friends. Now everyone with an email account can be their own publisher and write a post on their blog about their experience. In fact, many people think nothing of jumping on twitter or myspace and complaining about the meal they had last night at Chili’s. They have an instant audience. Now what if Chili’s has a corporate rep that scans the major social networking sites to find opportunities like this. A smart business would use this information to:

  • reach out to the consumer
  • make changes to improve their business
  • If handled correctly, the positive effects would become amplified many times over by the viral nature of online networking.

    It’s about trust.

    Think about it. When you were going to buy a new digital camera, where did you look for information and guidance? Chances are you looked online at product reviews. You are not alone. In 2008, according to a study by PowerReviews and Forrester Research, 68% of online shoppers read at least four reviews before making a purchase. That’s a lot of people putting faith in the user-generated content of social networking.

    Here’s the hard truth: The consumers are making decisions without your influence. The consumer no longer has to rely on your marketing messages when they are shopping. They have their ‘friends’ and their ‘network’ to turn to. A savvy business will become a part of this process. If there’s a ‘tweet’ on Twitter about you or your product, reach out to the consumer. You now have a chance to dialogue with your customer and maybe an opportunity to gain some new customers while making changes to improve your business.

    It’s about change.

    My kids have never known a world without the internet. There’s never been a time in their lives when they couldn’t go online to research a product, find an answer or contact a company for support. They play games on Xbox Live, sometimes with people they’ve never met in real life. They are used to reaching out and having new people become myspace ‘friends’. They don’t understand why some people hide behind anonymous user IDs on bulletin boards while their own real name and pictures are on their facebook pages.

    This generation expects more when it comes to interactions with people online, but businesses haven’t embraced Web 2.0 practices like videos and blogs and they are struggling to keep up with the growth in social networking environments. The fact is they need to pay attention because interactive marketing is quickly replacing traditional marketing efforts. Once businesses understand the shift, they can be more innovative with their efforts, taking the conversations online with their customer base.

    So I’m ready to get into social networking. Where do I start? What are some social networking sites?

    You’d be surprised how many different places you can network and interact with people on the internet. There are as many social networking sites as there are interests. Are you into music? Become a DJ of your own station at www.blip.fm and chat with people with similar music tastes while serving up some tunes. Want to join an art related networking site? Try www.deviantart.com where artists and those that appreciate art interact. Need a site where you can network with folks from your local geographic area? Try www.meetup.com. There’s bound to be a meetup group with a focus area that you are interested in.

    Want to know the best social networking sites for businesses? Here are three of the most well known social networking sites that businesses should have a presence on:

    www.myspace.com – Still the largest online space in terms of visitor traffic; this is the site that began the trend. Here you set up a page for your brand or store, upload pictures that might include your logo and product shots, and write blog posts. Once you’ve set up, you start searching for ‘friends’ to add to your network. These friends might be people you already know or those who you want to reach out to like potential customers. You can even use your MySpace page to display some of your products. You have the potential to attract new customers by becoming ‘friends’ with many people and growing your network. MySpace is geared to the younger crowd; however, the latest demographics show MySpace gaining traction with the over-30 set. More than 75% of their users are under 35. MySpace is a great outlet to have a presence if your products are suited to that demographic or especially if you are in a music-related niche. Warning: busy myspace backgrounds may trigger migraines.

    www.facebook.com – This site appeals to a slightly older crowd; almost half (48%) of the users are in the 18-34 range. Facebook shares a very similar user base with Twitter, however, Facebook has substantially more visitors (51.6M for Facebook vs. 2.4M for Twitter). Originally started by a Harvard student, Facebook was first open only to students at Harvard and then to a limited number of other college campuses before becoming a mainstream site. Now anyone over the age of 16 can join Facebook. On Facebook, you connect by joining networks of users organized by city, workplace or school. Unlike the totally customizable MySpace page, your Facebook page uses only plain text. The emphasis here is on the connections, not the fancy page layouts. Your ‘friends’ can post messages to you on the ‘wall’ – a space that every facebook user has. One of the most cherished features on facebook is the photo album where you can upload an unlimited number of pictures to share with your friends. Bonus: Facebook is easy to set up and user friendly.

    www.twitter.com – Twitter is another site where you can directly connect with customers. In my opinion, Twitter offers the best opportunity for businesses and consumers to interact. The premise of Twitter is that you are answering the question, “what are you doing,” and you have only 140 characters of text to make your comment (also known as a ‘tweet’). You connect to other users by ‘following’ them. Those people who are interested in you or your business will ‘follow’ you back. You can also do searches on Twitter by keyword to find people that may have interests similar to you or your business. Follow them! And, don’t forget to put a badge on your web site with your Twitter user ID so that customers and potential customers will know you can be found on Twitter. There are many large corporations already set up with accounts. They use Twitter to post bulletins about service issues and respond to ‘tweets’ sent to them by their followers. Some businesses use Twitter to run contests and offer discounts to those that follow them. Starbucks uses Twitter to tweet about the changes coming to their menu – smart thinking for them; they can grab all the feedback from their followers. It’s like a free focus group. A word of warning: twitter is very addictive.

    Social networking is here and it’s time you joined the party. So if you’re new to social networking sites, and are ready to dive in, I have only two words for you: HAVE FUN!

    Feedback – Is it even necessary anymore?

    Written by Cyn

    Feedback is an issue that causes much angst to sellers both on eBay and Amazon.  Many times the negative feedback left is irrelevant to the transaction especially when the buyer has not even contacted the seller.  So I ask you – Is feedback even necessary in 2009?  How many buyers even review a seller’s feedback?  On Amazon the seller’s feedback is pretty much hidden, especially if the seller has the coveted “buy-box”.  It is also extremely lopsided since so few buyers actually leave feedback on Amazon.  On eBay many buyers do not understand the feedback percentages and don’t take the time to review the comments.  This is obvious when you see a seller with 89% feedback, yet all their 99 cent junk auctions have bids.

    So what other mechanisms could replace feedback and help reduce scam sellers?  Both eBay and Amazon already have the mechanisms in place, they just don’t publish the information derived from these mechanisms to the buying community.

    Amazon has the A to Z Guarantee and eBay has the Paypal SNAD and INR dispute consoles.  Just these programs could be used to guage a seller’s trustworthiness.  Yes, I know there are claims that are decided against the seller unfairly, but truely, if you are a professional seller what is going to be your percentage of these claims?  It should be extremely low.  By publishing the sellers number of transactions, as well as the number of claims decided against them, should be enough for a wary buyer to determine if they want to do business with the seller or not.

    Or to take it one step further, the venues could be more responsible for their sellers.  Amazon tracks A to Z claims, amongst other criteria, and supposedly takes steps to limit sellers who do not meet their criteria.  eBay is attempting to do the same thing, but not with very good results.  If eBay would focus more on their seller relations instead of on Worst Match, they could come up with a logical and fair way to rate sellers and determine which ones are not performing to expectations.

    To sum it up – What do buyers want?  They want to shop on eBay and Amazon and buy what they want and know they will receive what they bought in a timely manner.  They want to trust that eBay and Amazon are offering them products from reliable, honest sellers.  They don’t want to have to spend 2 minutes researching the seller before making a purchase.  I believe that buyers want the venues to vet the sellers, not make the buyers do that themselves.

    So do away with feedback, monitor the sellers, and let the buyers do what they do best – BUY!

    What Is Your Business Goal For 2008?

    Like individuals who make New Year’s resolutions, most business owners take time to set new goals and/or revise old goals at the beginning of each year. As more and more consumers and sellers become comfortable with ecommerce, merchants are branching out and adopting a multichannel selling approach, whether branching out to sell on Amazon (or another site or sites) in addition to eBay or whether opening a brick and mortar or starting up their own website.

    One of IMA’s most recent polls asked sellers what their business goals were for 2008. The poll choices were:

    Expand into other online selling venues

    Expand current product line/number of listings

    Add new products to business

    Open up or expand brick and mortar retail store

    As we had expected, the majority of respondents said they planned to expand into other online selling venues. In fact, 67/112 (59.8%) said this was true. From an informal survey of the IMA and other message boards, it appears that Amazon is fast becoming the most popular online venue for sellers looking to branch out. It will be interesting to see how Amazon and sellers deal with the influx of sellers to Amazon. Will Amazon experience some of the growing pains eBay has? Will Amazon be able to continue and sustain its growth? Will sellers remain enchanted with Amazon or will they become disillusioned if Amazon decides to raise fees or implement new policies like eBay has?

    The second most popular goal for 2008 (21/112 or 18.8%) according to our respondents was expand current product line/number of listings. It is not clear whether this means these respondents are expanding their current product line/number of listings on eBay or whether they are adopting a multichannel approach and branching out to Amazon and/or their own website. So many sellers focus on expanding their current product line/number of listings, but doing so often presents another set of business challenges such as how to keep growing your business yet maintaining and improving your profit margins, how to handle the increased listing/shipping volume, etc.

    Adding new products to business (19/112 or 17%) was the third most popular business goal of our respondents. While adding new products may offer another potential income source, it may also mean having to find and deal with new suppliers, having to research and evaluate profit margins for the new products, possibly dealing with some new buyer challenges related to the products, etc. Again, in the haste to grow, sellers must find a balance between growth and keeping their business running efficiently.

    Lastly, 4.5% (5/112) of respondents planned to open up or expand their brick and mortar retail store. Given the rumblings about the economy being in trouble and people and corporations tightening their finances, this is an interesting response. It would also help to know where these sellers live as often, the cost of acquiring and operating a brick and mortar retail store is significantly cheaper in some areas than it is in others.

    What do these poll results mean in the grand scheme of things? As has been the trend for the past few years, it appears that sellers are constantly adapting to the world of ecommerce and rules of various selling venues and in order to expand their businesses and remain competitive, sellers are branching out and remaining nimble.

    Jennifer

    How to Fix The eBay Feedback Fiasco

    Written by Cyn

    I applaud eBay management for taking steps to “fix” feedback on the site. The changes are in the right direction, but there are still some things that could be fixed to make feedback more fair for both buyers and sellers. After much thought, I agree with the proposal that sellers should not be able to leave negative feedback for buyers, IF the following changes are also implemented.

    First, I propose that eBay do away with “neutral” feedback as it doesn’t do anyone any good. It is unfair to call something “neutral” that really doesn’t have a neutral effect. I understand that eBay feedback percentage is “Positive Percentage” which is why neutrals now effect the score. However, many neutrals are left as a form of communication rather than showing dissatisfaction on the part of the buyer, and therefore should not be used to penalize the seller.

    Second, I propose that non-paying buyers be banned from leaving feedback at all. Isn’t feedback supposed to be only for members involved in a transaction? If an item is not paid for, that is NOT a transaction and therefore that buyer has no right to leave feedback. I understand that eBay cannot tell if a buyer has paid unless that buyer pays via Paypal. However, I propose that sellers be on the honor system to mark an item Paid in their My eBay when a buyer pays with a payment form other than Paypal. If an item is not marked as paid, the buyer would be unable to leave feedback. Should a buyer choose to pay with a method other than paypal, they will risk not being able to leave feedback if the seller does not mark the item paid. However, this would just be another risk a buyer takes when paying with other methods. In addition, it would encourage more buyers to use Paypal – and isn’t that what eBay wants anyway?

    [Read more…]

    Best Match – Podcast with IMA Member Larry

    In my opinion, Best Match is one of the most significant changes that eBay has introduced in the last few years. It is designed to change the Buyer experience in a big way. And every time the buyer experiences changes, it presents a challenge for sellers.

    There are three types of people in the world of ebay; those that watch a change, those that complain about a change, and those who find a way to make that change work to their benefit. For those of you in the third category, I strongly suggest you listen to a podcast that I had the pleasure to record with Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes. Here’s a link to the article, which will allow you to connect to the podcast:

    http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y08/m04/i11/s01

    [Read more…]

    The eBay Dictionary

    You may have noticed that recently eBay has been making up definitions for words that have been in the English language for hundreds of years.  Only eBay’s new definitions only apply to Sellers, the traditional definitions still apply for buyers.

    For example, the word Satisfied in DSR ratings means satisfied to buyers, or at least eBay doesn’t tell them otherwise.  However, if an eBay seller has all “Satisfied” ratings, versus “Very Satisfied” ratings, eBay is not satisfied.  No, if your buyers are only satisfied, you will lose Powerseller status and be downgraded in search.

    The other word is “neutral”.  A buyer can rate a transaction as Positive, Neutral, or Negative.  The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word “Neutral” as “ not decided or pronounced as to characteristics”, which would mean the buyer has no opinion either way.  However, eBay, in their dictionary, has decided that “Neutral” means a buyer had a negative experience.  When eBay figures a sellers perfomance rating they figure any neutrals as negatives.  However, once again, eBay does not tell the buyer about their new definition of Neutral.

    Feel free to contribute more new definitions from eBay!

    Cyn

    Katy, an eBay Pink, Passes

    If you are an eBay “old-timer” you will remember Katy.  I just read the news of her passing.  For full details please see the eBay Chatter blog here.

    You can read more on the eBay Memorial Thread. 

    I’m sure there are many IMA members who remember Katy, so I thought it was only fitting we should start our own memorial post to her, on our blog.  Please post your remembrances of her in the Comments section below.

    May you Rest in Peace Katy, the Pinkest of the Pink.

    Cyn