||Posted - 04/30/2007 : 15:13:08
Welcome to Atomic Avenue! This is the first email newsletter for people who are engaged in selling on Atomic Avenue. If you find you ever want to change your newsletter subscription (or change to plain text or HTML format) just head on over to https://www.atomicavenue.com/atomic/Profile.aspx and make the changes you want under the Newsletters section at the bottom of the page.
System Status Update
Having been open to the public for a month today, I’d have to say we’re off to a very nice start! Right out the door we had more comics available on Atomic Avenue than on all of eBay auctions—combined! Currently, there’s over $1.3 million dollars worth of inventory available for sale on the system, and we’re setting our sights on exceeding the total number of comics available for sale on the entire eBay system—including eBay stores—in the near future. With your help, I know we can make it happen!
New Regrade Feature
We’ve just added a new feature to the system—the ability for seller to regrade a comic after the sale. If you’re getting ready to ship out an order and notice you’ve goofed on grading a comic, you can now go to the order detail page (under My Account), select the comic(s) in question, then click a new “Regrade Selected” button to change the grade and price on those comics. The order will go into a “suspended” status, and the buyer will be given the opportunity to accept or cancel the regraded items. Once they’ve made their decision, you’ll be able to ship out the order, and the buyer will receive a credit for the difference in value between the original grade and the new one.
At the end of the day, it’s best to get your grading right the first time, but this gives you the chance to prevent the user from being dissatisfied, and salvage a sale if it turns out you’ve missed the mark when you entered that comic into your inventory. Having been faced with this situation myself on more than one occasion, I suspect we’ll find this feature to be a useful one.
New Buy/Buy Later Buttons on your Inventory Page
As the result of a great suggestion from folks on the forums, we’ve added “Buy” and “Buy Later” buttons to your inventory listings (visible when people search for you by Seller ID or click on your name when looking up a comic). This lets customers see what you’ve got for sale at a glance and make their buying decisions right there and then, economizing on ship charges in the process.
Posting Your Comics for Sale
Any ComicBase user can post their comics for sale using the new ComicBase 11.1 or 10.1 software, posted as an update for ComicBase 10 or later on the ComicBase web site. Just mark the items you want to see, set any minimum quantity you want to hold onto, then use the new Sell command under the Internet menu. For more on posting your comics for sale, see http://www.comicbase.com/Support/Tips/2007-03-07.asp
What to do When That Order Comes In
When Atomic Avenue went live and orders started coming in from my printer every morning, I found myself getting a quick education in becoming an online retailer. Here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the past month or so—please feel free to write me back at email@example.com with your own comments or additions so we can pass them on to other sellers.
1. Be Awesome
If there’s a Golden Rule to making friends as a retailer, this is it. Do whatever you can to exceed expectations. The goal here is to blow away your customers with sheer awesome competence. If you do, they’ll come back. Everything else that follows is a mere embellishment of this rule.
Long ago, I remember Scott McCloud (of “Understanding Comics” fame) giving a talk to comic retailers. The point I remember most vividly is when he advised retailers to imagine a $1,000 bill blowing into their door whenever a new potential customer walked into their shop. That’s how much (at the time) a longtime customer was estimated to be worth in sales to the average comic shop. His advice was for retailers to pay close attention to everyone who walked in their door, and do whatever they could to make sure that $1,000 bill didn’t blow right out of the shop again.
2. Be a Grading Nazi
Be your own comics’ harshest critic when you enter them into ComicBase, and be sure to give them the once-over again before you ship them out. If you do find you’ve missed some defect, let the buyer know right away, and use the new Regrade feature as appropriate to give them the option of accepting the downgraded comic or cancelling the sale altogether. For more on grading, see: http://www.atomicavenue.com/atomic/Help/GradingGuide.aspx. Remember, your customer will be irked if they have to pay to ship some comic back because it’s not up to scratch.
3. Respond Immediately to Questions and Problems
If you’ve got items for sale on the system, make sure you check your emails daily, and respond right away to any customer questions or problems. There’s probably no better way to earn the customer’s trust than to respond right away when they have a concern (and no better way to turn a little problem into a catastrophe than by making them stew for days without a response from you). In general, I’ve found that customers have been almost ridiculously sensible and tolerant as long as I make sure to always keep them up to speed on where things stand.
4. Check it Twice
I’ll confess to making just about every boneheaded mistake possible when filling orders. Ultimately, I’ve come to a system where I tick off the items on the packing list once when I pull the books from their storage boxes, lay them out on a table, then check them over one more time before I send out the order. (You’d be truly frightened how many problems that second check prevents!)
When you’re doing that second check after pulling your books, be sure to check the following:
- The picture on the packing list should match the book you’re sending.
- If it’s a variant or special edition, double-check the variant’s description. Things like Gold Foil or special logos are often hard to see in a picture preview.
- Make sure the books’ actual conditions match the grades listed on the packing slip.
- Note the “Total items” count at the bottom of the packing slip, and make sure the physical book count matches. (This is especially useful for catching those odd times when a customer buys more than one of a given comic).
- Make sure you’re using the proper level of shipping service. Most orders tend to use Standard Shipping, so it can easily slip by when an Expedited Shipping order shows up.
5. Get it to them On Time, and in One Piece
The shipping reimbursement for each order on Atomic Avenue does its best to reflect the cost of the appropriate shipping, along with proper packaging, with a little bit of slack in the seller’s favor. On orders over $20 in value, it also automatically adds in the cost for insurance and tracking.
Avoid the temptation to cut corners when you pack and ship items—it has a way of coming back to bite you in the end, even if the vast majority of your packages arrive at their destinations without problem when you do so. Remember: the buyer is going to look to you if the package is damaged or goes missing before getting to them. As the seller, you get to choose the exact means you use to get the comics to the buyer, but you’re also responsible for the end result of that decision. Pack wisely. (For more on shipping, see: http://www.atomicavenue.com/atomic/Help/Shipping.aspx).
6. Consider Overdoing the Shipping Service Level
Sometimes you’ll discover that it’s possible to ship a package out First Class or Priority Mail for a tiny amount more than going the slow route. If so, you might be able to win a fan by purposely exceeding the customer’s expectations by shipping it out using a faster service even when they only paid for Standard Shipping.
I’m the king of stupid when it comes to doing anything repetitive (like shipping orders). Over the past month, I’ve found that the best way I can get my own personal order fulfillment error rate under control is to automate as much of the process as possible. Whether it’s having your mail program automatically print out your orders or keeping a bookmark to the USPS Postage Calculator handy in your web browser, look for anything you can do in your own setup to take the human equation (you) out of the process. In my case at least, this is usually the best way to make sure it gets done right.
(I’ll be posting some of the automation macros I’ve developed to print packing lists and shipping labels to a new “Community” section of the web site in the near future (update: this is now up). If you have similar techniques or scripts you’ve worked out for your own use, I’d encourage you to drop me a note so we can get them posted for everyone else to share!)
8. Spread the Word
Let folks know you’ve got comics for sale on the system by posting a link to your inventory page as part of your mail signature, blog, personal web site, etc. We’ll also be showing off some cool tools to let you create automated “Sig” banners for this purpose (like the one below) which link directly to your online inventory on Atomic Avenue.
Got tips of your own to share? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a note to the Atomic Avenue forum at http://www.atomicavenue.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=4