Introduction to Barcode Theory
A general rule of thumb for deciding where to list your items comes down to one factor, the barcode. Items with a barcode should be listed on Amazon for maximum revenue. Items without barcodes should be listed on eBay. Think of the barcode as a standard. The barcode is the description. When you sell items on Amazon, the buyer expects to receive the item to be comparable to the same item purchased at a local retailer. The item should be complete, whether it is new or used. Essentially, your item should conform to the information given on the Amazon Product Details page.
If you are selling a copy of this book, it should be the paperback 14th Edition with 480 pages, weigh 2.2 lbs and measure the same dimensions, and have the ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 (or both) shown on the back of the book or on the copyright page. The picture of the item on the Amazon sales page should look exactly like the item in your hand. Consider this the standard for a new or used book. A new book will be brand new with no flaws. Unless you deal directly with publishers or distributors, you should not list your books as new. Assuming that you are selling a used book, you will grade your book (Acceptable, Good, Very Good, Like New) and write your condition notes (highlighting, cover scuffs, etc) when you are listing your book.
Items that do not meet the standard set by the ISBN or UPC on the product are better candidates for eBay. Amazon buyers do not necessarily read the description of your item. They expect it to be complete. Your item will probably be one of many identical items offered for sale on Amazon, sorted by price and service. Your competition is all on one page. On eBay, your competition is individual auctions or fixed-price sales that show up after a user performs a keyword search. The eBay buyer must click through each auction/sales page to find an item that meets the condition and price point of interest. The eBay item might be missing components or have a tricky return policy. An eBay buyer is expected to read the entire sales page and understand the conditions of the sale before purchasing the item, as terms and conditions vary from seller to seller. An Amazon buyer expects the same terms and conditions of the sale independent of the seller, an expectation backed by the Amazon A to Z guarantee. Sellers that do not conform to Amazon's expectations will not last long.
How to List Your Items on Amazon Using a Spreadsheet
Listing items on Amazon is easy. No pictures required. Click through a few short forms, write a few notes, and your item is live on the third-party Marketplace. Literally, your item might sell within minutes of listing if the demand is there. If you have a lot of items to list, you can use a spreadsheet to work offline and upload your items in bulk. That means less clicking, less waiting, more listing. Like any skill, there is a learning curve here. Read my tutorial below to accelerate your learning curve.
- Inventory items
- Computer on the platform of your choice (Mac or PC)
- Spreadsheet - Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc (FREEWARE)
- OPTIONAL, but highly recommended - USB barcode scanner
USB Automatic Barcode Scanner Scanning Barcode Bar-code Reader with Hands Free Adjustable Stand (Black)
You probably have most of those things at your disposal. If you do not have a barcode scanner, I recommend buying one. I purchased one for $25 a few years ago when I got sick of typing in UPCs and ISBNs into spreadsheets. It's a very small price to pay for efficiency and you can use it for plenty of other websites (like Bookscouter).
Find an inventory template and the accompanying documentation provided by Amazon. You can find it in Amazon Seller Central by hovering over the Inventory tab and selecting Add Products via Upload.
You will be presented with the following page.
Click on the Download Template or Learn more links. Both take you to the same place. Read that page in its entirety. Scroll down to the Templates part of the page. This is where you will find the inventory templates you will need to modify to upload your products in bulk to Amazon. DO NOT SKIP THE DOCUMENTATION!
For the sake of simplicity, I use the standard Inventory Loader file. I use it to avoid specific details and speed up my listing process. I list many books, but I never use the Book Loader file. The Book Loader file is bloated with lots of bullet point type descriptions that enhance your listing, but will not necessarily help you sell more books. If you are selling Collectible books, the Book Loader is the way to go. I do not list many Collectible books on Amazon; they sell better on eBay because collectors are picky and want lots of pictures and descriptions.
Download the Inventory Loader file and open it in your favorite spreadsheet program. I use Microsoft Excel on my Mac. If you're a college student, you may be able to get Microsoft Office for free from your school. Look into it. You can get Open Office for FREE! It's even free from Amazon! I use it on my PC.
Your screen should look similar to this. Click on the image to expand it.
You've got a lot of columns there! What do they all mean? That's where the documentation comes in handy. READ IT. This is why I told you to read it. Print it out and keep it next to you for a quick reference. Before I get to explaining what these column headings mean, let's get rid of a few. We don't need all of them filled out to list our items. All that stuff about shipping and tax codes can be set globally in Seller Central when you upload the file. I'm going to cut out a few columns. Right click on the letter at the top of the column, K, for example, and pick Delete. The column will disappear. Let's get rid of the dead weight.
I cut out half of the columns and stretched out the names for readability. Let's talk about each one of these headings and what they mean.
- sku - Stock Keeping Unit. This is a number or letter or word you assign to the product in your inventory. I write SKUs sequentially, numbering at 1. So my first unit ever listed in inventory is 1, the next is 2, etc. Amazon doesn't care about how many SKUs you have in their system, it's just a relationship between your SKU and the next column, product-id.
- product-id - This is the barcode number: the UPC, the ISBN, the EAN, or the ASIN. The ASIN is the Amazon Standard Identification Number. You can find it in the product details page. They look like this: B008XAXAC4. For books, the ASIN will be the same as the ISBN-10. Instead of typing in a bunch of random numbers, you can use that barcode scanner I recommended to input the numbers for you.
- product-id-type - Defines what the number in the previous column means. 1 = ASIN, 2 = ISBN, 3 = UPC, 4 = EAN. I primarily use 1 for ASIN/ISBN and 3 for UPC.
- price - Your selling price. This one little column deserves a post all its own. If you're using FBA, make sure to factor shipping into your price. You don't need any dollar signs, just an integer. 10 = $10.
- item-condition - Another numeric signifier. Do not write any words here, just a number. Reference the Inventory Loader File Instructions for the numbers. I mostly use 1 - 4, where 1 = Like New, 2 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 4 = Acceptable. If your item is NEW, put 11 in this column. Collectible condition grades use 5 - 8, mirroring 1 - 4 for standard conditions.
- quantity - Number of items you are listing for sale. If you have 1 of an item, put a 1 in this column. Got 25 of the same thing to sell? Great, put 25 here. Advanced trickery - this column is not needed if you are doing FBA.
- item-note - DESCRIPTION! Talk about your item here. I keep it pretty generic and focused on condition. I wrote about that on my book grading post. Example: Softcover, light shelfwear. No writing, highlighting, or underlining in text. Fast shipping! Write it exactly as you want it to be seen. Include punctuation, spaces, a diary entry, whatever.
- fulfillment-center-id - FBA ONLY! If you are not using FBA, clip this column too! If you are using FBA, just write AMAZON_NA in this column for every item. Amazon figures out where to place your inventory for you.
Start filling in your boxes. All of the information should be right in front of you. You will want to open up a browser page on Amazon to get the job done. I used Wong's Essentials of Pediatric Nursing as an example. Not a lot of upside in this book, but I got it cheap and it fetched a higher price when I originally listed it some months ago with the intention of writing this post. Procrastination kills.
That's it. That's all I had to say about that book. Do that a few hundred times and fill up your file. No more clicking through pages on Amazon to get your stuff loaded. Fill it up with your skus and get back to me when you're finished.
SAVE YOUR FILE!
Alright, this is where it gets a little tricky. Amazon wants to see your spreadsheet in a plain text file. It doesn't want all of that Excel formatting with the color and fonts and all that business. It wants the text only. We need to save our inventory file as a text file. Save it as an Excel file (.xls) first. Then open Save As and find Tab Delimited Text (.txt). That's the option we want. If you have Comma Separated Values (.csv) format available, pick that. Amazon doesn't really care either way, it's just a text monster, eating all text presented to it.
Upload Your File
Get back to the Add Products via Upload page in Seller Central. Start going through the drop down menus. The page will change as you do this.
Pick Inventory Loader File if you followed my example. If you used one of the other templates, pick the appropriate one from the drop down.
Set your shipping information if asked. Choose the file you want to upload (the text file we created using a spreadsheet). When you have picked it, the name will appear on the page. Hit Upload now and wait for the file to upload. It shouldn't take long.
After a few minutes, maybe longer depending on the size of your file, you will get an update on your inventory status. Your status may say "In Progress" if the Amazon server is still chewing up your text. When it's "Done," the results will be provided. In this example I uploaded 156 skus, 156 skis were activated, and I made no errors in my file. If you make an error in your file, you have to click on View Processing Report to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Amazon provides error codes and tells you where to look in your file for the error. It's not always obvious.
I recommend starting small with this method. Try putting 5 items in to your spreadsheet, creating the text file, and going through the upload process to get your feet wet. When you feel comfortable with the process, start ramping up your files to include all of the inventory in your batch. This is merely an introduction to what can be done with Amazon's bulk uploading process. Pictures, bullet points, and other descriptive flourishes can be added to your listings if you are willing to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of the various inventory loader files. Personally, I keep it simple and list all of my media this way. If an item requires more description to sell it, it probably belongs in another marketplace.
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