Monthly Archives: March 2015

Password Security

Passwords Passwords Passwords

It is time to get serious about your passwords.

The list of major hacks and attacks against retail chains, web sites, health care networks, and banks is long and troubling. You can’t do anything about their poor security, but you can take steps to protect yourself.

Don’t Reuse Passwords. You’ve heard this advice for years, and maybe you’ve been meaning to change that easy-to-crack but also easy-to-remember password that you use everywhere. But you just haven’t found the time.

Here’s the problem: maybe you used AOL email sometime in the distant past, but you switched years ago. However, you used your son’s name as your password with AOL. It was so easy to remember, you also used it at Amazon, at work, with Google, for eBay, for Yahoo, and for some web store you’ve completely forgotten about.

If that web store you’ve forgotten about is hacked, the hacker now has the password for your bank account. Or he can buy stuff on Amazon and charge it to you. He can log in to your email account and change your recovery email address to an email account he controls.

Because you used a simple password 10 years ago at some site whose name you can’t even recall, your personal information and your bank account are now at risk.

You may not be able to go back to every service you’ve used or abandoned and create secure passwords. But you can change your passwords for the services you use now.

Use Strong Passwords – this is also common advice.

Hackers sometimes use “brute force” attacks to steal passwords. They run a program designed to enter word after word into a password field. They also substitute common numbers or symbols in place of letters. For instance, “letter” might be spelled “l3tt3r” with “3” substituted for “e.”. Software can crack these passwords in minutes, if not seconds.

Strong passwords mix upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols in a nonsense phrase. The longer the password, the better. But it should be at least seven characters long.


That’s a strong password.

It is also impossible to remember, which is why everyone resists strong passwords.

Even if you manage to remember that one particular password – can you remember another, and another, and another … for all the sites you visit on the web?

If you are worried about strangers, rather than co-workers or family, stealing your passwords, you can keep a password notebook by the computer. That might work, although the typing is cumbersome.

A better solution is a password manager.

Password Managers can securely encrypt and store your passwords and then fill them in on web sites when you need to log in. Although features vary from program to program, they usually also include a strong password generator.

Some password managers will work on your mobile devices as well as your desktop or notebook computer.

Some are free, some have a one time fee, and some require a yearly subscription. Many will offer different free and paid versions, depending on which features you want.

Both LastPass and 1Password are popular and easy to use. They are certainly worth a look if you want to increase your online security.

The final step in securing your online identity is Two Factor Authentication.

This doesn’t protect your passwords – what it does is ensure that, if your password is stolen, a hacker still can’t access the account that you’ve enabled Two Factor Authentication for.

Here’s how it works: when you enable two factor authentication for a web site – let’s say Google – you are then required to enter not only a password, but a one-time code that will be sent to your cell phone. So even a hacker who has your password cannot log into your account.

We’ll look at how this works in more detail in another article.

Photo Credit: Ron Bennetts
Creative Commons License

Use Amazon S3 for Inexpensive Screencast and Podcast Storage

Screencasts and podcasts require lots of bandwidth. Amazon S3 provides an inexpensive alternative to free sites like You Tube or expensive video hosting sites like

While S3 can be complicated and difficult to use, S3 Fox, a Firefox add on, provides a graphical interface that greatly simplifies the process. This tutorial will introduce you to both Amazon S3 and S3 Fox.

What Is Payments By Amazon


What is Check-Out or Payments by Amazon? Much like PayPal — Payments by Amazon is a payment gateway between the online seller and the customer. It allows a customer to conduct a payment using the same account they have set-up as an Amazon customer. This doesn’t mean that you must use an Amazon store or the Amazon site. You can put the payment link on your independent website.

How can it help your business to have another payment option?

A recent study found that sellers are enjoying a 14% increase in conversion rates when they offer 3 or more types of payment options (not just different credit card types).

By having more than one payment option your customer can decide which method they prefer. Now, on the same check-out page you can offer PayPal, Google Check-out and Amazon Payments as their choice. Many consumers dislike PayPal and will do just about anything to avoid it — and still, other non-PayPal savvy buyers think you must set up an Account and assume they can’t use their Credit Cards using PayPal. I like Google check-out, but know many buyers are still new to it.

One online retailer, Jockey, recently added Amazon Payments and has seen that 30% of it’s customers are using the Amazon Check-out service to buy.

As Jeff Pandolfo Amazon Business Development Manager puts it you can “leverage the Amazon retail experience.”

With Payments by Amazon — if a customer has purchased from Amazon (and Amazon has millions of customers) they are familiar with the payment process. In addition, the customer may prefer the Amazon ‘one click check-out’ for its convenience.

Another aspect of having more than one payment option helping your customer’ book keeping. I know personally, that while I have a business and a personal PayPal account — if I had the option — I’d choose the Amazon checkout. Using Amazon I don’t have to go through all the extra hassle of logging out of my business account and into my personal one.

Using Payments by Amazon also helps build trust between your site and the customer. Amazon is a familiar interface and payments through the service are protected under the Amazon A to Z guarantee.

Amazon has a suite of tools to help you manage the payment process including:

  • Setting up shipping charges, per zone, per product — fully customizable (PayPal gives you limited shipping set-up).
  • You can set up promotions — and use promotion codes (none offered by PayPal)Sales tax per zip code (this is a big issue for me as my state collects tax based on destination).
  • Easy refund, cancellations and charge back capability.

These functions are set up through Seller Central, or for more advanced user through their own payment platform.

Other features include an ‘up sell’ feature that cross promotes your other products as the customer is going through the payment process. Most shopping cart features take the customer off site to complete the checkout, but by using Amazons check-out you can display products from your catalog.

Here’s the really nice part — if you don’t have an up-sell product of your own, that’s OK. You can add similar Amazon products and receive an affiliate commission when a purchase is made.

The customer’s money is deposited into your Amazon seller account as soon as you mark the item as shipped. Unlike PayPal where you must go into the account and toggle the payment transfer, Amazon payments are sent direct deposit to your account on file.

How much does it cost to use?

No monthly fees, you only pay when customer uses the service. Here’s the breakdown:

If monthly receipts are: % of transaction Per transaction

  • Under $3,000 2.9% .30
  • $3,000 to $10,000 2.5% .30
  • $10,000 to 100,000 2.2% .30
  • $100,000 –plus 1.9% .30

Here’s the sweet part for sellers who have smaller value items for sale. Amazon lowers the fees on items under $10.00 — the fees for under ten is 5% plus .05 cents per transaction.

As an online seller using Payments by Amazon is certainly worth looking into. Their prices are competitive, services robust and using the familiar Amazon brand will build your customers confidence.

PS: Did I mention that it’s compatible with Fulfillment by Amazon? It is!

More information can be found at:

How To Win The Amazon Buy Box


Customers naturally choose the yellow “add to shopping cart” button on most sales. If Amazon doesn’t have the item in their inventory but third party sellers do, winning the all important ‘buy box’ placement is possible.

Here’s how chooses which vendor will be placed in the top spot:

    • Best price – lowest cost, including shipping
    • Best ship time – the seller who overs the quickest turn around time
    • Sellers with the most volume of sales on the site are more likely to be promoted

Seller with highest seller performance (fewer returns and A to Z claims)

Things that don’t necessarily affect the chances of you receiving placement in the Amazon buy box include the quantity on hand. As long as you have at least one in stock and you have outperformed the competition you will win the buy box.

If there is more than one seller and they both have prices within a penny of each other and all the other performance criteria is the same, will rotate sellers in and out of the buy box placement.

Ready To Start Selling Media On Amazon – but don’t know which books to buy?

When I first started selling used books, dvds and video tapes online in the late 1990’s it was a guessing game. I knew there was a huge market online for the right books, but it was mostly trial and error.


There were bestselling and most wanted lists on, and others. I spent every extra second scouring them before heading out to the sales – but I was competing against seasoned book pickers.

I wish these tools had been available then! Now, with the help of a PDA or cell phone you can get all the information you need in less than a second.

Here is a short list for vendors – who provide these services:

Of course they are all subscription based, but well worth it – if you are not a seasoned book picker.

A subscription to one of these services can save you time and many trips back to the donation site (to return those lemons).

The Amazon Detail Page

Amazon just released a new video about the Amazon Detail page. It’s filled with tips on how to create a listing if you have a Pro Merchant account.

(you may need to log into your Amazon Account to view the video)

The highlights of the video include information about:

Specifications about the title. Whenever possible use exactly what the manufacture calls the item to prevent confusion and make it easy to find.

Use the unique identifiers that the manufacture provides. Use either the UPC, EAN or ISBN number to make sure you are listing in the correct detail page. Even if your item is slightly different (ie: box color or item color) if you use manufacture provided numbers you’ll match it to the correct listing.

An ASIN number is the Amazon assigned number to identify the product in the Amazon Catalog. The acronym stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. This number is also part of the item’s URL.

When uploading a picture, use only white backgrounds and make sure they are at least 500 pixels on the largest end.

When creating the bulleted list include information such as size, material and any accessories that may come with the product.

If you see an error on the page notify Amazon by using the feedback form on the lower part of the listing page. An Amazon employee will review the page and update it if required. If there is a URL that backs up your correction be sure to include it when you contact them. Product pages can NOT be deleted by users. If you see a page that should be removed, contact Amazon through the feedback area on the page.

Finally more tips on how to win the Amazon Buy Box

While this may change, here is the latest information about winning the buy box. Amazon bases the results on the seller criteria below:

  • Price (lowest price including shipping)
  • Item Availability (how many of the SKU you have in stock AND how fast you ship)
  • Customer Feedback (number of refunds and A to Z claims)
  • Sales Volume

You may not meet the criteria, even if you are the only seller of the item. In that case no items show in the buy box, but they are still listed on the “all seller listings” page.

Payments by Amazon

Do you know that over 95% of customers leave ecommerce sites without purchasing and only 50% of customers who put items into shopping carts actually purchase?

That’s according to a Javelin survey.

You can better your odds of getting those shopping cart customers to convert by 14% if you offer three or more payment types (other than just three different credit card types).

These alternative payment types include: PayPal, Google Check-out, Bill Me Later and now Amazon Payments.

Recently added Amazon Payments and now see about 30% of their customers are the Amazon service.

Amazon has three payment structures to choose from:

  1. Amazon Simple Pay – good for digital products with no physical delivery and non-profits who are collecting donations
  2. Amazon Payments – for merchants who have physical products to ship
  3. Flexible Payment Services – merchants who need customized shopping cart integration via API

Amazon payments offer existing customers their ‘one-click’ payment service – which we all love!

And, they offer merchants no start-up charges. Payment processing is 2.9% of the total plus .30 per transaction. They also offer a lower value payment processing option for items under $10.00 – 5% of the total plus .05 cents per transaction.

Unlike selling directly through amazon’s catalog online, payment processing services have no category restrictions (except of course government restriction like tobacco and alcohol).

For more information go to:

Selling on Amazon – Taking your selling to the next level


If you have a Pro Merchant Account you can offer customers “special promotions.”

With the Manage Promotions feature you can create promotional discounts, free shipping, and free-product offers.

A promotion can be a percentage or dollar amount off the purchase price, free shipping, or a free product.

Promotion claim codes are optional. If you select the option, customers must enter this code when they place their orders.

You can schedule promotions to start and end at a future date and time.

A complete tutorial on how to set these promotions up can be found on Amazon at:

(please note – the above link will only work if you have a Pro Merchant account)

Cross Promoting

Other features available to Pro Merchants to up sell and cross promote include using the accessory widget – which allows you to set up which other products you want displayed on the listing page for the item pages you create. This tool is powerful! The easiest way for customers to find your items is by clicking on the ‘similar items’ links on the Amazon pages.

More information about the Cross Selling via ‘creating accessory relationships’ can be found here:

(please note – the above link will only work if you have a Pro Merchant account)

Offering Gift Services

You can use Gift Services to offer customers gift wrapping and gift messaging. These services can help increase your sales conversion rates by offering your customers an enhanced buying experience.

(please note – the above link will only work if you have a Pro Merchant account

A Word Of Caution About Signature Lines

One of our group of Amazon/eBay sellers just recently ran into a spot of trouble with Amazon – without intending to. I wanted to pass this information along because many of us have clickable email signature lines. (You know those lines at the end of the email with a link back to our store – see mine below).

Amazon is very clear that they do NOT want you to direct traffic away from the site. However, they do want you to update your buyer each step of the way through the process of shipping.

Our unlucky seller, was doing just that. She uses to create the shipping label and to automatically create the ‘item shipped’ email. The problem was (as far as Amazon was concerned) is that the seller had a clickable link directing off Amazon to her ‘Everywhere I Sell’ listing, which includes links not only to her Amazon store, but to Bonanzle, eBay, etc.

The bottom line is; be sure that you are not sending traffic away from when you communicate with them. Amazon doesn’t even want you to put a flyer (other than the packing slip) in the box when you ship items.

The Internet Sellers Conference — The Amazon Selling University!

A few points surfaced over and over during the conference this year. Some facts were no surprise to sellers who have sold on the Amazon platform for years. However, a few radically different approaches to selling, especially if you’ve sold mainly on other platforms may enlighten those who are just approaching Amazon as a third party merchant.

One fact I heard repeated over and over at the conference was how the Amazon buyers choose which item they purchase. Shoppers make their purchase decision based on price 85% of the time. Coming in second is seller reputation or feedback.

This is a radically different approach for sellers used to other platforms. Often it is the emphasis is on buyer ‘experience’ or how you can position yourself apart from you competition that makes the purchase decision. On Amazon the real bottom line is price — you must offer your product at the least expensive prices to float to the top on the Amazon buy pages. This makes automation extremely important — as a third party merchant you can’t spend time nurturing the customer relationship (that’s Amazon’s job), and in many cases you must average your margin. In other words, you can’t sell every product at your ideal markup. Some inventory will sell for more, but others for a smaller margin. The idea when selling on Amazon is the overall profit at the end of the day.

Positioning your seller ID at the top of the buy page and as the lowest price is a challenge. Here are a few conference takeaways to consider:

    1. Automation — use inventory, listing and shipping automation tools to minimize order processing times. Free up as much time as possible to use for product sourcing and bringing new products online.
    2. Do not manage your items SKU by SKU — many eBay sellers are used to romancing the buyers by adding additional information about the product. On Amazon buyers only want to know that they’ll get the cheapest price, shipped to them quickly in the stated condition. Use one cut and paste blurb in the inventory condition field to save listing time.
    3. Consider using Amazon FBA to keep the cost to the buyer lower. When you use FBA it will allow your buyers to use Prime or combined purchases to receive free shipping.
    4. Be aggressive when negotiating with your suppliers. Buy in as large a quantity as possible for the best price breaks.

Retailing on Amazon is about offering the least expensive price possible. That combined with the free shipping incentives are the driving engine for the continued growth of the site. Figure out how to offer your products at the best price and you’ll be a successful third party merchant on the site.