Setting up an Amazon Seller Pro Account to use with Illuminate

This brief guide explains how to set up an Amazon Seller Pro Account to link to Illuminate’s multi-channel order and inventory management system.

Linking your Amazon Pro Seller Account to Illuminate is the first and foremost action to perform in getting started with Illuminate. If you don’t link your account, you won’t be able to take advantage of many features within the system:

– Manage all Inventory from within Illuminate. Enter all data – descriptions, mandatory and non-mandatory fields, stock levels, images, variations, prices…all within Illuminate. The Amazon system is then updated seamlessly.

– Illuminate links to Amazon and imports your sales and order data on a very regular basis. The most important information is always at your fingertips within Illuminate’s Order and Inventory Management modules. This enables you to stay on top of all of your Amazon orders and products.

On the Amazon Web-Site
(1) Go to the Amazon Seller Web Site, and set up a ‘Seller Pro’ account. This will cost £25 a month and is the best account for volume selling. This also allows you to sell in the UK as well as four EU marketplaces (France, Germany, Italy and Spain). Fill in the details to register.

(2) Go to ‘User Permissions’

(3) Click ‘Authorise a Developer’

(4) Enter the Developer’s Name and their Amazon Developer Account Number. You will then be issued with one ‘SellerID’, a ‘MarketplaceID’ for each marketplace, and an ‘MWS Auth Token’. You should make a note of these.

Within Illuminate
Open Admin->Amazon Accounts
Enter the following information :
MarketplaceID, AWS Auth Token.

Illuminate will then be able to link to Amazon, retrieve orders, and update listings.

Initially, we’d recommend uploading a simple product, followed by one with variations, just to check that all is working correctly. You should also be able to see your Amazon orders within Illuminate.

If you’d like to know more, please Contact Us.

Date : 19th June 2017

KPI’s for Order and Inventory Management

Order and Inventory Management KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) should be a vital part of your systems and operations. They can really help to highlight areas of your business where there are problems and opportunities for improvement.

We’d recommend around 20-25 KPIs, which together cover all aspects of your business, from customer acquisition and retention, right through the Inventory management and purchasing.

Order and Inventory Management KPIs
Illuminate Business Intelligence (BI) provides an easy way to set-up and monitor your KPIs. We provide many common KPIs ‘out of the box’, so you can get up and running very quickly. You can also define your own KPIs, and explore the underlying data to further understand the root cause of any problems which are highlighted.

A full drill-down capability is provided.

The main areas for KPis are :

Sales
KPIs such as total sales broken down by category, sales channel, margin, profitability and customer conversion rates are all available.

Marketing
Areas such as campaign effectiveness, sales per campaign, marketing cost per sale etc. can all be monitored.

Inventory Management, Operations and Purchasing
These KPIs cover areas such as overstocking, understocking, supplier delivery times, shipments per day, pick and pack rate and so on.

Customer Service
Customer services is an oft-neglected, but essential area of any online business. Illuminate’s KPIs help you to understand your customers better through visibility of customer queries, complaints, returns, chargebacks, refunds, exchanges and e-mails

You can also set up goals within Illuminate’s KPIs. For example, you might wish to set a target of increasing sales by 10% in six months, reducing customer complaints by 20% within a year, or reducing late deliveries by suppliers by 50% within a year. All of these can be set up and easily monitored. KPIs can even be shared with other team members, if required, to give a wider company audience a sense of inclusion in the business’s success.

If you’d like more information on our KPIs and how they can help your business, please contact us today to set up a free consultation.

Date : 12th May 2017

Using Illuminate’s Safety and Review for Best-Practice Inventory Management

In the latest of our articles on Inventory Management, we discuss in detail how to use Illuminate’s Safety and Review feature.
Safety and Review is the easiest way to manage purchasing and is key to good Inventory Management. The safety and review screen shows a detailed list of all the required stock and allows for it to easily be added to a Purchase Order.

The term ‘Safety and Review’ refers to two different concepts:

Safety Levels: Illuminate allows for a Safety level to be set for each product. A safety level is the level at which Illuminate will add a product to the Safety & Review screen if it drops below this value. Once an item has been automatically added to the Safety and Review screen, it will be automatically added to the Purchase Order unless the item is unchecked in Safety and Review.

Review Level: The Review level is a number calculated by Illuminate which states how much stock of a certain item needs to be available at all times in order to fulfil average selling rates.

Using Safety and Review to Add to PO
1. Navigate to the Safety and Review screen by going to Purchasing>Safety and Review Levels. This brings up the Safety & Review screen. Products displayed should be added to the Purchase Order.

2. Items which have reached their Safety level are automatically ticked and will be added to the Purchase order once the ‘Add to PO’ button is pressed at the bottom of the screen. Tick any other items that you wish to add to the Purchase Order and select ‘Add to PO’. The required items are now added to the Purchase Order.

Adjusting Safety & Review
Safety and Review will calculate Review levels based on the number of sales over a certain period of time. To adjust the average, change the Time Period Length (Days) and the Number of Time Periods to reflect the period that you would like Illuminate to calculate the average from, and click Re-generate at the bottom corner of the Safety and Review screen.

Goods Inwards
Once an order has been placed with a supplier and Saved to Goods Inwards, it will appear in the Goods Inwards screen waiting to be received. Receiving an order will update the stock for the relevant products, and allow the option of assigning new stock to any previous backorders that are awaiting specific stock. To receive an order through Goods Inwards:

1. Navigate to Purchasing>Goods Inwards. The Goods Inwards screen is now visible and shows all current purchase orders or purchase orders that have not been fully received.
2. Select a purchase order that you would like to receive by clicking on it once. Once an order has been selected, the details of it are displayed in the window underneath the list of current purchase orders. Purchase orders can be searched by their unique Purchase Order number, or purchase orders can filtered by supplier by selecting the desired supplier from the drop down list next to Search by Supplier.
3. Click the Receive Delivery button at the lower right corner of the Goods Inwards screen to open the Receive Delivery screen. This screen allows for goods that have arrived to be ticked off accordingly and will alert of any pending back orders that may require that is stock being received.
4. Tick off the goods by ticking each products box under the Receive All column. Once this box has been ticked, Illuminate will assume that the stock value on the purchase order has been received. If less or more stock has physically been received, the stock value can be altered by changing the value in the Received Now column.
5. Once all the desired stock has been ticked, selecting the OK button will allocate the stock into the database and the order will be received and stock levels will be adjusted accordingly.

If an order is incomplete, and all the goods are not ticked off within the Receive Delivery screen, the order will remain in Goods Inwards until all its items have been ticked and received or the Purchase Order has been closed. To close a purchase order:
1. Open the Goods Inwards screen as described above.
2. Select the Purchase Order you wish to close.
3. Click the Close PO button under the list of Purchase Orders. The purchase order will now be moved into the Purchase Order History

Purchase Order History
All Purchase Orders that have been fully received or manually closed are moved into the Purchase Order History. To access the Purchase Order History, navigate to Purchasing>Purchase Order History. The Purchase Order History screen is similar to the Goods Inwards screen.

The Purchase Orders in this screen can be searched on by entering the unique PO number into the Search by PO Number box and hitting the Search button, or by filtering the list by supplier by selecting the desired supplier from the drop down list next to Search by Supplier.

Date : 5th May 2017

Implementation Guidelines for the Illuminate System

Illuminate is a complex multi channel order and inventory management system. As such, it must be implemented correctly in order for you to get the best out of it. We know that customers like to get their hands on the system as soon as possible and start to use it, but we’d strongly recommend taking a structured approach. As such this article contains implementation guidelines.

Training and Implementation
We really enjoy working as part of a team, and working constructively and co-operatively with our customers to get the best out of the system. The steps outlined below give some insight into our preferred approach.

Week 1-2: A pre-implementation consultancy meeting with us, at your offices, so that we can understand your business and its requirements. Implementation and configuration work will then begin. If any new web Magento Web Sites, EBay or Amazon accounts are required, then these can be specified and started at this stage.

Week 4-5: Key users and system administrators should attend one of our admin courses. Courses are run monthly at locations in Brighton, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Week 5-6: System configuration and installation of any resources required at the customer’s office, for example label printers for Royal Mail Integration.

Week 6-7: Users attend one of our end-users courses. This is more focussed on day-to-day activities such as pick/pack/ship, despatch, refunds, exchanges and customer service.

Week 7-8: Key users attend a reports/Business Intelligence course. Attendees can use their own data and structure, if desired.

Approximately two months after implementation, a post-implementation review meeting is held in which any issues can be highlighted.

Ongoing, our annual Illuminate user group and training conference is the central event for customers to get together with us, and each other.

Implementation costs are included in all of our plans as an up-front cost. See here for details. Courses are free to attend.

Royal Mail Integration for Order and Inventory Managment

We’ve been busy in 2018. One of the cornerstones of our development is our new and enhanced Royal Mail Integration.

Royal Mail Integration
Illuminate can now create labels for more than 300 Royal Mail services types, offerings, formats and variations. This includes all inland and international services, returns, and enhancements such as Customer Text-Message notifications, Customer E-Mail Notifications and Saturday Delivery.

Illuminate’s Royal Mail Rules
Using Illuminate, you can set up rules which determine which Royal Mail services map to which settings within the Illuminate system. These rules can include order attributes such as order weight, order value, product size, number of items and item delivery address. For example, it is possible to specify that all items over £20 should go via a tracked service. Although these mappings are automated (and as such will save you a tonne of time), it is also possible to override these rules for specific orders and choose whichever service you believe is appropriate. For instance, you may wish to upgrade an urgent order to a Tracked 24 Service, as a gesture of goodwill to a customer.

Royal Mail Integration
Label Production
Labels are very easy to produce and can be easily married up to orders due to our optional enhanced label sheet, which be printed in addition to the Royal Mail label. Labels can be created on a thermal printer (such as a Zebra GK420D) or on a standard A4 sheet.

Royal Mail Manifests
At the end of the day (or at any points during the day, if you have more than one collection), the Royal Mail manifests can be easily created and printed, in readiness for collection along with the outgoing packages.

Royal Mail Tracking Number Auto-Updates
For tracked services, the Royal Mail Tracking number (e.g. AAA011060265GB) will be written automatically to E-Bay, Amazon and your web site, so that the customer can readily see the link to track their package.

For more information about our Royal Mail integration, please get in touch for a demo, or view our on-line videos.

Date : 29th March 2018

Our Recommendations on the Security of Customer and Business Data

Although our primary business is the development and implementation of our Illuminate Order and Inventory Management Software, we’re often asked about best-practice for data security. We’ve recently been through the ISO-27001 (Information Security Management) accreditation process, so we do have a lot of experience in this area. We’ve put together a few thoughts around this subject. Please let us know your feedback and comments!

A Holistic Approach to Data Security

Data Security
Running your business securely means more than just running a PCI-scan every quarter, important though that is. It means putting security at the heart of your company, and encouraging a culture of responsibility. That way, everyone is involved and takes responsibility for the security of customer and business data.

Magento Extensions

We all love Magento extensions. But before you use any new extension of your web site, we recommend undertaking some research and make sure that it is not vulnerable to SQL Injection, XSS or other attacks. We’ve received several e-mails in the past from Magento saying that such-and-such extension or feature is unsafe. If you do install any new extension, scan your site immediately afterwards to make sure it is still protected from hackers.

PCI/Penetration Scans

PCI and Penetration testingWe’d recommend subscribing to a service which performs at least weekly scans of your websites and internal systems, and reviewing all results thoroughly, including ‘Amber’ alerts. A scan-logo (showing that your site is safe) can also be promoted on your web-site giving your customers confidence that their data is secure.

Document Printouts

Our recommendation is to securely dispose of all documents (copies of print/pack slips, invoices etc.) which contain any customer information. Here at Illuminate we have an industrial grade shredder in which all such documents are disposed. We’re still amazed by how many sites we visit where documents are just placed in a normal waste-paper bin.

Access Control

We’d recommend having an Access Control Policy in place, so that users only have access to the systems they require. This includes your Order and Inventory Management system (such as Illuminate!), FTP, SSH, in fact everything. We’d also recommend using a Password Management Vault application to create strong passwords and manage them centrally.

Access Control also extends to USB keys and other portable drives. Firstly, are these really a business necessity? It may be easier to just decide never to use them rather than have the headache of tracking them. If they must be used, we’d recommend only using encrypted USB keys and drives, and restricting their use to only those people who really need them.

Thanks for reading this. If you’d like to discuss any of these issues further, please get in touch.

Using Illuminate To Improve Your Business Performance

Illuminate helps solves many common problems faced by e-Commerce vendors in 2017

Order Processing for e-Bay, Amazon and Magento

Problem #1 – Managing each sales channel separately is just-about-feasible at best, a nightmare at worst.
Illuminate provides a centralised system for managing orders from your e-Bay, Amazon and Magento sales operations. Orders are automatically imported, and stock levels adjusted automatically so that customers cannot purchase items on one sales channel when they become out-of-stock on another. Pick/pack sheets, supplier PO’s, despatch notes, invoices, correct sales tax and integration with couriers are all handled by the system. You can create e-bay and Amazon listings and upload these directly within Illuminate.

Inventory Forecasting and Demand Tracking

Problem #2 – Over and under-ordering of stock costs you money.
Inventory levels are continuously monitored and demand tracked within the system using statistical modelling, including seasonal factors such as Christmas, sporting events and so on. This helps you to manage the fine line between stock-outs and over-stocking. If the system senses that you need to place an order with a supplier, you are alerted to this and the purchase order generated.

Bar-coding integration

Problem #3 – There are so many inventory and order-management functions which can be automated, especially with bar-coding technology, but so many customers still do too much manually.
Our bar-code scanner functions enable you to perform stock checks via barcodes (just scan the barcode and enter the amount of stock you have in the warehouse – the system is then updated and any exception highlighted), accept goods-in via barcodes, pick, pack and despatch via barcodes. These all help greatly in reducing errors with stock and order management. Our recommended barcode scanner is lightweight and cordless.

Reporting/Business Intelligence

Problem #4 – Still using Excel as a reporting tool ? Illuminate provides a complete and integrated set of tools offering so much more.
All of your business data is available in the Illuminate report centre. Easily create reports via Product, product group, marketing campaign, region, time period (day/week/month/quarter/year)  and drill down to explore the underlying data. All report data is exportable and shareable with other users within the system.

An ISO27001 Company, implementing best-practice Information Security.

Problem #5 – Does your software supplier have the security, integrity and availability of its customers’ data as its top priorities?
During 2016, we were accredited with ISO27001 certification. As a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) provider, it is vitally important that our customer’s data is secure and only accessible to those who are have the correct security access. ISO-27001 means that we implement best-practice security standards and methodologies, and have been independently audited to confirm this. We are also re-audited annually. This relates to all our internal and customer facing processes & services, from hosting, application security, backups, penetration testing, in fact everything we do. For more information, see http://iso.org

Inventory Management in Practice

Inventory Management in Practice : Illuminate has best-practice Inventory Management built-in. It uses the ‘Safety and Review’ stock level model to ensure that you carry appropriate levels of stock – not too much (ties up too much of your hard-earned capital and warehouse space), not too little (customers will get annoyed if they can’t get their products quickly).

The safety and review levels are calculated by the system using statistical methods for demand-forecasting, and vary according to the sell-rate of the product, the supplier lead-time and the customer service % factor (i.e. the percentage of orders that will always be able to be fulfilled immediately from stock – usually 90% or higher is recommended).

Review Stock Level – When stock reaches this level, a decision should be made as whether to purchase the stock. Current demand and supplier lead times will dictate on whether to order at this point.

Safety Stock Level – The absolute minimum amount that you should hold, so that the customer service factor % can be maintained.

Safety and Review levels are re-calculated continuously and are built into Illuminate’s Purchase Order (PO) module. S&R levels can also be reviewed on a system wide basis from the Safety and Review module.

Order and Inventory Management KPIs
We recommend integrating Safety and Review into your daily routine, and reviewing it as appropriate throughout the day so that your supplier orders are never out of date. Exception and management reports are also available so that you can review performance on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Further reports on goods inwards, pick, pack and ship rates, stock loss are all available from within the reports module.

Amazon, EBay and Magento Consultancy

One of the major challenges for multi-channel retailers today is setting up your products to effectively sell on Amazon, EBay and a web site such as Magento. For too many retailers, their focus is skewed towards one platform rather than the others. We can provide Amazon, EBay and Magento Consultancy, in particular to provide help in setting up your product feeds effectively, so that all channels are optimised.


Optimize on-line sales with Illuminate

Amazon, EBay and Magento are very different platforms, and understanading how your products can gain better visibility on these platforms is crucial to the success of your business. Amazon, in particular, is very dominant and as such is extremely competitive amongst retailers.

Listing a basic product on Amazon, EBay and Magento is fairly easy, but configuring the product to be effective on each platform requires some special skills. Many retailers are put off by the rather daunting array of mandatory/optional fields, item specifics, descriptive text etc. The platforms are also changing fairly regularly (for example, ‘Brand’ should now be specified on EBay), so keeping up with these changes is essential.

We have years of experience with EBay, Amazon and Magento. We can provide advice, tools and best-practice methodologies for product and listing configuration, including :

– Product Titles
– Product Descriptions
– Choosing the correct category or categories for a product
– Item Specific Fields and Bullet Points
– Pricing Strategies
– Creating Images
– Specifying Related Items
– Customer Reviews
– Keywords for Search
– Optimising for Mobile

We can help if you already have a current set-up on any of these channels, or are starting from scratch. We can usualy work at your offices and will set up procedures, processes and maybe a software tool or two to optimise your business operations. We can charge by the day or give a fixed cost for the work. We also provide ongoing support, so we’re there whenever you need us.

If you’d like to know more, please get in touch on 0207 720 6531, or fill out our contact form.

Date : 29th May 2017

Beta Testers Wanted

We'd really love your feedback !

We're currently looking for customers to try our latest reporting, inventory management and order management software.

If you're an established UK-based retailer (annual turonver of £500k or greater), and you'd like to be involved, please complete your details on the form below and we'll be in touch.