How to use Excel to make a Category Filter

Here is a quick tip for getting a list of the most recent categories from your data feed.  This can be used when building a Category Filter or mapping names in the Categories tab of your Product Mapper.

The first step is to get a list of the latest categories from the data feed. i.e.

  1. Go to the “processed” folder, for example: /connections/my-store-connection/runtime/supplier/010-extract/processed
  2. Copy the “category.csv” file and open it in Excel
  3. Remove the SKU and position columns.  This leaves just the category names.
  4. Select all columns and do a “remove duplicates’ action so that it’s down to a unique list
  5. Custom sort by column1,2,3,4

This can then be copied into the Product Mapper “Categories” tab and “Category Filter” tab where you can make edits.

There’s no such thing as FREE shipping

People hate shipping fees.  They rank up there with getting a root canal. A customer will choose a store that claims to have “free shipping”. But is it really free?

Not really.  The shipping fees are embedded into the products.  That way, the checkout can show “$0 shipping”. The customer is still paying for shipping and in some cases, far more than what they would pay if shipping was calculated at checkout.

So how do you embed shipping costs?  These are some of the more common strategies out there.

Some suppliers provide Shipping & Handling costs for each product.  This is the simplest case, you can simply add this to your store price.

Other suppliers will provide a weight-based formula that you can apply to each item.  This allows you to embed the cost by running a calculation for each product.

In some cases a supplier will provide rates for dimensional weight.  They will also provide the length, width, and height of each product in their data feed.  You can use this, along with the dimensional factor, to calculate the shipping.  i.e.  (length × width × height) / (dimensional factor).

Then there is good old algebra.  Perhaps the supplier has really weird, non-standard shipping rules.  In these cases we can use the supplier’s shipping chart and create a formula that approximates the rate for each product.  i.e. store price = weight * factor + minimum shipping fee.  It is a ‘best fit’ calculation where the input is the product weight and the output is the approximated shipping rate.  This type of system requires a bit of give and take.  Some orders will have shipping calculated a bit too low, others too high.  The average will settle to a profitable range.

Three things you need to get right when selling aftermarket parts online

Selling online can be overwhelming.  There are so many choices and moving parts to consider.  But no matter what you do, here are some essential survival tips for selling aftermarket parts online.

MAP Pricing

Minimum Advertised Price (or MAP) will make or break your store. Some brands will assign a minimum price that you can sell at. It makes the pricing consistent no matter where the parts are sold.  It’s similar to what you see with a new iPhone model. You’ve probably noticed that there isn’t a lot of variation between stores when a new model is released. They all seem to have the same price. This is MAP pricing. It preserves the perceived value of the brand and ensures profit along the supply chain. If any store sells below this price they risk being blacklisted, unable to sell those products any more.

So let’s say you sell BELOW MAP.

This becomes tricky because most stores have automated pricing set up. The store owner might not even know that they are selling below MAP until they get a “Do Not Sell” letter in their inbox. Make sure that your store is enforcing the rules and not allowing products to drop below MAP pricing.

This applies to Web Stores and Marketplaces alike. It doesn’t matter which you are using, MAP pricing must be enforced.

Product Data Quality

We’re in the pioneer days of online shopping. Most people don’t realize that anyone can set up their own online store. But that’s what’s happening now.  Likewise, most manufacturers still don’t know how to create high quality product data for online selling.

– No product images
– Product images that are way too big and hurt SEO
– Brand logos or Prop65 images instead of images that show the product
– Terse product descriptions
– Product descriptions that talk about the company instead of the product
– Titles that don’t describe the product

These strategies are proven in dealing with data quality issues.

  1.  Set up a test store and a live store. The test store is hidden and seen by only the store owner. The live store is what everyone sees and is polished. Use the test store to preview new brands before putting them in the live store. If they look like garbage, don’t put them in the live store.
  2. Clean the data yourself. Some problems can be fixed easily by Excel or an automated process. For example, some brands will include a logo image for every product they sell. This looks very bad in a store because it shows a lot of products with a logo image instead of the products. It’s hard to tell what the customer is buying. An automated process can strip out these images, leaving the good ones in place.
  3. Report the issues back to the brand. This won’t provide an immediate fix but it’s important to tell them that there are problems with their data. If they want to sell their products, they’ll take your feedback seriously. Once it’s fixed you can import the products into your store.

Fitment

The way we search for auto parts is fundamentally different than a regular store that sells electronics, pet food, clothing, etc. In a way it is completely backward. For example, let’s say you are shopping for shoes. You typically start with the type of shoe then narrow it down to size. From there you might pick a color, then press the order button.

Automotive is very different. Instead, we start with the ‘size’ and work backward. Specifically, we start with the year, make, and model of vehicle that I have. So if I am looking for parts for a 2015 Ford F-150 I shouldn’t see Kia, Dodge, or Lexus parts on my screen. After choosing the fitment, a customer will typically go to the category…engine parts, electronics, performance parts, etc. to narrow the list of parts down further.

The store needs to live and breathe fitment. Each product needs to know what vehicles it fits and the store needs to give the customer a way to filter by fitment. Furthermore, when building a specialty store you’ll need a way to curate the products by fitment as well. The brand data you receive will have parts for a wide variety of vehicles. If it is a truck store, there shouldn’t be motorbike and sedan parts loaded into the store because it just doesn’t make sense.

There you have it.  Good luck and happy selling!

Filtering: what is it good for?

Product Filtering and Curation

A lot of suppliers have thousands and thousands of products. So why use filtering to narrow it down? Because when your customers have a world of choice available to them, filtering will help you run your store efficiently enough to put you ahead of the competition. For that you want customization aka product curation aka filtering.

For example: you just want to sell smart backpacks and not have your customers searching through pages and pages of the more generic kind of kid’s backpacks to get to what they want. It’s not like the “old” days of early eCommerce when you’d have a simple catalogue with only 50 SKU’s; nowadays things are in a constant state of flux and you want your list – and therefore filtering ability – to be dynamic. You, as a Data Here-to-There client, can define how you want your filtering done in our Product Mapper before you get your store online or upgraded to a “next level” store or even marketplace with our system. Here’s an example of what a store’s Product Mapper can look like:

But filtering isn’t just about curation to enable your customers to find what they want quickly and easily. It’s also a matter of your brand’s reputation, which can be make-or-break in the online world. If you try to put certain products into certain marketplace, you may find your reputation taking a hit — if you don’t get everything right — right out of the gate. Or you may even find yourself shut down. The right kind of filtering will enable you to protect your store.

Here’s an example. Shopify’s payment gateway has a ton of restrictions. Say your catalogue includes a type of beauty product that claims to make any woman who uses it look way younger, in a short amount of time. There are restrictions against this type of claim that will be noticed by Shopify’s bots and so your products will never pass their gateway. Other products including licensed toys, or rails (a certain type of gun accessory) can also cause a product or even whole store to not make it through the gateway.

Also you have to be aware of Shopify’s Risk Assessment team, which can send you a takedown notice. Or you could inadvertently violate their copyright protection rules.  Amazon also refuses to carry certain things, such as certain brands of cell phones, video game cheat codes, or Streaming boxes where you can get pirated movies . 

Trying to carry any of these can cause you to get a warning or even have your store shut down. It’s great to be able to load thousands of products into your store quickly via dropship suppliers… but the other piece of making that formula work is to have built-in category filtering.

What does Category filtering do?

Category filtering – lets you take any category — for example, clothing — and filter it down to just the specific types of clothing you want in your store, such as just women’s clothing → scarves (only, not ties), or just men’s clothing → ties (only, not scarves), certain brand names but not others, and so on. Here’s another example:

Stock level – You can also filter by stock level. Say for instance you have a pretty lean operation where you want to ensure that you only offer an item that you can be sure you have in stock, and can ship immediately.

Manufacturer names filter – This filter allows you to keep certain products out of your store. Say your supplier has 10,000 products and you want to leave out a certain brand for whatever reason: copyright issues, or you simply don’t feel that products from that brand fit with your brand.

Fitment Filters – select products by fitment

Poison word filter – allows you to keep anything containing one or more keywords out of your store e.g. explosive, ammunition, guaranteed, click here, links to, etc. You can also keep out specific SKU’s; maybe ones that have caused your store to be flagged in the past. Bot filters can also be problematic.

Custom filtering – Custom filtering will let you customize based on any of a number of criteria. For instance you can custom-filter by price. Say you only want high-end, or a certain margin; say 30% markup; or if it goes down to 10% you can set it to filter out. You can also filter by weight. Maybe an item is so heavy you would have to pay a liftgate service and/or a bulky shipping costs. You don’t, so you filter these out!  You can filter by dimensions if you only want to carry products that are within a certain range, or not over a certain size. You can even add custom fields in the supplier data. Say there’s a column for “dropship enabled” or a flag for “discontinued” or “minimum number of boxes”.

We can make custom filters for any of these. Custom filtering can be popular because doing this sort of operation manually in Excel (or whatever spreadsheet you’re using) can be very time-consuming for you or your employees. This is an area where automation really shines as it can result in substantial savings of both time and money for you and your store. You can add other fields too. Do you want to filter by title? Description? Shipping code? We can filter by just about anything!

Do you have an idea for a filter that you don’t already see on this list? Let us know! We can probably do it for you.

 

What is meant by “Order Synchronization”?

 

Online store owners are constantly in search of new ways to streamline their operations. With eCommerce growing at a ferocious rate, it becomes more and more necessary to deliver orders to your customers with accuracy and efficiency. Continued loyalty of customers might even come to depend on your ability to fulfill their unique specifications while still ensuring that orders are processed and shipping quickly and efficiently. Order synchronization and automation are the keys to achieving this.

What is the normal process without order synchronization? Well, something like this:

  • Your store gets an order. You have the products, so someone from your operation gets the items, pays the supplier for them through their payment gateway, whether that’s Stripe, PayPal, or something else.
  • Without order synchronization you must then communicate the SKUs to their supplier via a website, or maybe even just a phone call or simple email. Without automation this is a manual process. You then have to copy and paste all the order details over to the supplier.
  • Then the supplier boxes the items, adds the labels, and so on. There are also tracking numbers (UPS, Canada Post, FedEx, etc.) which need to be sent from the shipper back to your store — and then forwarded to the customer. These tracking numbers must also be manually copied over.
  • There may be other pieces of information which likewise would have to be copied and pasted, communicated manually to the customer. These can include line items, addresses, notes, or anything else required.
  • Finally the supplier gets the order and fulfills it, and you must then send confirmation to your customer.

This is a far cry from the ideal scenario, where your store receives customer order electronically in a clean and consistent format, which is then automatically translated into a sales order, which is then communicated to the supplier in the exact format they require, fulfilled, and the confirmation automatically received by you in a form that can be instantly transmitted back to the customer. The advantages of this process over the old one should be self-evident: your team can stay focused on doing what they do best – creating excellent products and, marketing them and making sure your customers remain satisfied. Better still, automating your order synchronization process decreases human error so you don’t have to worry about your store’s reputation being trashed at Amazon, Ebay, or some other crucial supplier.

Until recently this scenario has not been possible, but now it is. We can reduce your cost per transaction, shorten your dispatch time, and virtually eliminate the manual steps of the whole order fulfilment process. And we can automate this entire process for you, without you having to learn to use any new tools, or wade through any technical mumbo jumbo!

With order synchronization our system will automatically:

  • Map your store’s shipping methods to your supplier’s shipping method — since in the “real” world, those don’t always match
  • Synchronize the tracking data. Once the order is fulfilled by the supplier, we retrieve the tracking numbers and send them back to the store.
  • Notify your customer that their order has shipped, as well as transmit the tracking numbers.

Does that sound simple? That’s because it is! Sometimes you want to keep your order process simple, and keep the details to a minimum, but then when you go to your supplier they might have 5-10 shipping methods! We can help you pick the shipping and routing methods that will best streamline your process while still maximizing satisfaction to your shoppers. If yours is not a big store, that’s not a problem. Our solution works for all sizes of stores from a mom-and-pop style startup to a entire online marketplace. Whatever the size of your operation, Data Here-to-There’s Order Synchronization will virtually eliminate your manual labour and potential for human error.