Table Of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Chapter 1: What You Need to Know about eBay
- 3 Chapter 2: Deciding What to Sell
- 4 Chapter 3: Making a Feasible Business Plan
- 5 Chapter 4: Legal Framework
- 6 Chapter 5: Choosing the Best Suppliers
- 7 Chapter 6: Becoming a Successful Seller
- 7.0.1 Registering and Opening an eBay Account
- 7.0.2 Buying Items and Establishing a Reputation
- 7.0.3 Building Your Store from the Ground Up
- 7.0.4 Listing your Products and Finding the Right Category
- 7.0.5 Presenting Your Products
- 7.0.6 Going Auction vs. Fixed Price
- 7.0.7 Specifying Your Packaging and Shipping Policies
- 8 Chapter 7: Customer Service, Feedback, and Ratings
- 9 Chapter 8: Promoting Your eBay Business
- 10 Chapter 9: General Tips for Success
- 11 Conclusion
Imagine going on a trip to Europe. The first thing you would do, before booking a flight or deciding on a hotel, is to do a little bit of research to help you figure out what you’d like to do once you’re there. A big part of that research would probably constitute reading an all-purpose guide, like Lonely Planet, that can give you a valid idea of what to expect once you hit European soil.
Similarly, this guide aims at giving you a fair idea of what to expect in the online retail business. More specifically, it shows you all you need to know about working through eBay. But, before we can delve into the ins and outs of eBay, let’s answer a couple of pressing questions: What is eBay? And why should you work through eBay in the first place instead of a standard brick-and-mortar store?
What Is eBay?
Founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, eBay has been in the online retail business for more than 20 years. It first started out as AuctionWeb, where everything was up for grabs if you were willing to offer a price higher than all the other bidders. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that eBay introduced the “buy it now” option, which will be covered in more detail later on in the guide.
As things stand, eBay has more than 169 million active users scattered over 190 markets. Additionally, these 169 million users have uploaded more than 1 billion (with a b!) listings that are currently live and have downloaded the app more than 359 million times.
As a result of all of this, eBay has facilitated the online sales of merchandise worth 20.9 billion dollars during the first quarter of 2017, netting itself a revenue of 2.2 billion dollars in the process. This firmly puts it in the top 10 global retail brands.
Why Work through eBay?
Working through eBay has numerous advantages over working through a brick-and-mortar store:
- An online store can serve people from all over the world, with minimal constraints. The only real constraint is having an internet connection, and, with more than 1 billion people surfing the web, lack of internet access is becoming a thing of the past. Conversely, a physical store has access to the clientele that are within its geographical vicinity: a store in Times Square can only cater to customers either living or visiting New York.
- An online store is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whereas a physical store has hours to keep. The constant availability of online stores makes them extremely convenient for shoppers, especially busy ones with several responsibilities to juggle.
- The cost of starting an online store is considerably lower than that of a physical location. Accordingly, the initial investment, and associated risk, is lower for online stores.
- Online stores provide you with a measure of control that is unavailable in physical stores. With online stores, you don’t have to worry about the square footage of your place, you can alter anything you want on a whim without it taking too much effort, and you can make your store massive yet easy to navigate for your customers.
What Will We Discuss in This Guide?
Hopefully, by now we’ve sold you on the benefits of eBay and why you should start working through it. It’s time to take a look at what we’ll be exploring through this guide.
The guide is split into nine chapters, each handling a different topic that pertains to online selling. Here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect in each chapter:
Chapter 1. What You Need to Know about eBay: This chapter will cover all the essentials necessary for you to understand how eBay functions and how to navigate it smoothly.
Chapter 2. Deciding What to Sell: This chapter will help you start your journey towards having your own eBay store by helping you figure out what you’re going to be selling. This decision will be based off of plenty of market research.
Chapter 3. Making a Feasible Business Plan: Here we talk about the much needed plan and strategy for launching your business. A big portion of having an actionable plan is to calculate all your expenses.
Chapter 4. Legal Framework: This chapter deals with the legal side of starting a business as well as working through eBay. Whether you want to know the permits you’ll need or the legal structure available for your company, this chapter is for you.
Chapter 5. Choosing the Best Suppliers: In this chapter, we tackle how you can optimize your value chain by being very selective about your suppliers. It is worth remembering that in order to deliver high quality products, you need high quality suppliers who won’t let you down.
Chapter 6. Becoming a Successful Seller: This chapter delves into the tips and tricks that differentiate an average seller from the one that stands out.
Chapter 7. Customer Service, Feedback, and Ratings: This chapter discusses the importance of offering excellent customer service. As you will soon see, a big part of selling on eBay is maintaining a flawless track record, which requires serious customer care.
Chapter 8. Promoting Your eBay Business: Here we explore how you can best market your business both online and offline. After all, if your customers don’t know about you, how can they be expected to make a purchase from you?
Chapter 9. General Tips for Success: This chapter is devoted to covering information that may not have easily fit in any other chapter. Topics like online security and results analysis are dissected.
After all these chapters, the guide ends with a concluding section that tries to sum up all the important information that was dispersed throughout.
Chapter 1: What You Need to Know about eBay
Starting a business can help you achieve financial independence and put you in charge of your life. Of course, financial and time constraints can discourage you from stepping out on your own. One of the best-known internet brands, eBay has everything you need to work for yourself.
Millions of people every day shop on the site knowing that they can expect secure payment processing and a dependable policy for refunds and returns. The site also supplies a powerful set of built-in tools for selling and advertising products as well as reporting. To get started, this chapter will tell you what you need to know about eBay, so you can prepare yourself for a fantastic career as a business owner.
Even if you have shopped on eBay before, you should first spend enough time evaluating the site to completely understand the buyer experience. Upon arriving at the eBay home page, for example, spend time clicking on all the links. Familiarize yourself with available navigation tools and pay attention to the features that make the site appealing to shoppers.
Use the menus to find categories that apply to the products that you sell and click on them. Make an effort to learn about the products and sellers that you find in those categories. Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customers and absorb the entire buying experience from their perspective.
As you learn to navigate the eBay website, practice using the search boxes and find out about applicable policies and procedures. As you gain an intimate knowledge of the eBay user experience, start thinking of ways you can make your brand and products stand out.
Registration and Account Information
After becoming an expert eBay navigator, you have all the knowledge you need to sign up for an account using the registration links. After creating your account, you can return to your account information page at any time to change or update your preferences and personal information.
This, of course, is a starting point for anything you will do on eBay later. Before moving on, read all available material that gives you suggestions for safely using eBay without compromising the privacy and security of your account.
Buying and Selling on eBay
a) Buying & Bidding
Before becoming a seller, it is wise to first do some shopping on eBay and buying some things: just to get sense of a perspective from the other side. While doing that, you will have to pay attention to every step of the shopping process, including how checkout and payment functions work. For example, one of the things you will have to do is pay close attention to the packaging and condition of your goods when they arrive and then revisit the site to leave feedback about your experience. But remember: before you begin with these activities, make sure you know everything about them. In that sense, you need to explore how everything functions.
So, become intensely curious and learn about various things, such as return policies or purchase protection options. There are fun and interesting Buying Guides in different categories, so make sure to browse through those. Additionally, learn the differences between bidding and buying a fixed-price item. Notice what sellers do to impress you and what turns you off. At this stage, you can start thinking about how you will create the best customer experience possible.
After mastering the buyer experience, learn how to sell. Start by reading all available seller support pages, especially those that describe the selling basics. After configuring your account to sell, you should learn how eBay will calculate your fees. Such information will directly affect your profitability on the site.
Learn about other important topics such as how to create listings, how invoices work, and how to address customer issues. Of course, you must learn about and conform to eBay selling policies as well as about what happens if you fail to comply. You should also read about the process for appealing a decision made by eBay that affects your status as a seller. Learn everything possible about selling on eBay to give your new venture a smooth start.
Payment & Shipping
As a buyer, it is imperative that you know about available eBay payment options. As a seller, you need to know how to choose the payment methods that you accept. Additionally, you should learn about the payment processing fees that apply to each transaction, in addition to the standard eBay selling fees. PayPal plays a vital role in the eBay experience for buyers and sellers, so make sure that you have an account in good standing to use for accepting payments.
PayPal has a strong seller protection policy, which you must understand to avoid unnecessary claims against your business. To ensure that you stay in good standing with your customers and PayPal, you should always make sure carefully pack and promptly ship every order via a trackable service. Having proof of delivery can help protect you from spurious buyer claims.
Also, printing your labels from your PayPal control panel can improve the accuracy of your shipments and automatically track package statuses. All in all, make sure to get well acquainted with PayPal because you will need it for sure.
Participating in the eBay Community
As an eBay seller, you have access to a vibrant social atmosphere that helps you build relationships with other sellers. As you interact, you can learn from the experiences of others and get valuable tips for managing the many challenges that you face.
The eBay Community represents a vital lifeline for you as a seller, so try to participate in it as regularly as you can. Also, when you gain sufficient experience, you can enjoy the satisfaction of getting to know and helping new sellers get a fantastic start.
Policy changes can affect the way you operate your eBay business. The community gives you a perfect venue for discussing rule changes, new features and best practices for selling and shipping items. Other sellers can also give you advice on how to handle customer issues as well as disagreements between you and the eBay team. When you become active in the discussion forums, you can add value to your brand while also sharing your knowledge and experience.
Stay connected to the eBay Announcements feed, so you always know about changes to the website as well as policy and procedural updates. Another important part of the community, the System Status stream, lets you know when the eBay website has problems and keeps you updated regarding the restoration of services. This section can also help you rule out system issues when you have trouble accessing particular features.
Other parts of the community that warrant your attention include the buyer and seller knowledge bases that give you access to many of the answers you need without creating a support ticket. The community also hosts specialized Groups divided into categories, regions and special interests. By joining those groups, you can give support, share information, and connect with fellow members. Also, make sure to participate in eBay Discussions: share your tips and insight, connect with other members, and find boards about your interests.
Knowing Rules & Policies
Another important thing to study pertains to all the rules and policies that affect the way buyers and sellers operate on eBay, so nothing catches you by surprise. As you delve into the intricacies of eBay, you might notice that the site has policies that affect everything from how you list products for sale to the management of intellectual property rights. You will have access to a comprehensive A to Z policy library within your account, so make sure you bookmark it for easy reference.
Policies that commonly affect sellers include those that govern bid retractions and the handling of unpaid items. Meanwhile, the VeRO program gives property rights owners the ability to file complaints about listings. Trademark violations, selling unauthorized copies of media and the unauthorized use of content rank among the top reasons why eBay may cancel one or more of your listings. VeRO also helps prevent the sale of counterfeit goods on eBay.
Other Important Information
If you need a solid starting point in your exploration of eBay, you can find all the information you need in the eBay Seller Center. From a single page, you can either search for information or browse topics. Similarly, you can find detailed pages that explain what you can sell and how to create successful product listings. You should also familiarize yourself with the Resolution Center where buyers and sellers can communicate about common issues such as items and payments that were never received.
Furthermore, download the eBay app for your mobile device and practice using it. The app enables you to buy and sell from the convenience of your smartphone or tablet. You can also install the eBay plugin for your favorite desktop web browsers to help you stay up-to-date with the status of your auctions and fixed-price listings.
Be aware that customers can leave you feedback that can affect your standing on eBay and future sales. Make up your mind now to earn top ratings so that shoppers feel safe and confident when they buy from you. Also, learn about the rules that govern feedback and what actions you can take to challenge or remove negative ratings.
Finally, here are some other action items can further enhance your experience as an eBay seller:
- Listen to eBay radio.
- Read the eBay glossary to get acquainted with all relevant terms, and learn about eBay acronyms.
- Learn about other eBay companies.
- Read eBay-related news items.
- Subscribe to the Open for Business podcast.
- Explore opportunities for international sales.
To conclude this chapter, you should recognize eBay as a global force for good. The company aims to create a sustainable platform for commerce that everyone can with opportunities and power. As a seller, you should support the mission, values, and goals of eBay.
Spend time experiencing and mastering the buyer experience, so that you can create strategies that foster satisfaction and distinguish your brand. Additionally, you should learn everything you can about eBay policies and procedures that affect buyers and sellers. As you peruse the website, learn about the terminology used on the site and become an active member of the online community. After assimilating all the above knowledge about eBay, you can begin making plans to launch your business.
Chapter 2: Deciding What to Sell
Having adequately surveyed eBay and familiarized ourselves with the basics, we now need to take our first step towards having you make money from eBay: figuring out what you will be selling. The thing to remember is that eBay is a digital market place, or, to put in more modern terms, it’s a digital shopping mall. Because of this, your job is to set up a shop that caters to a specific customer base.
Naturally, like any brick and mortar shop, plenty of research and planning goes into establishing your online business. Yet, with enough effort, your store can be a great source of revenue that can sustain you, and if you want, it can offer enough income to replace your 9 to 5 job. So, let’s see how we can get you financially independent.
Get Inspired by Success Stories
Should you feel apprehensive about starting this adventure, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you are not the first person to start from scratch and establish an online business; it has been done several times before, and odds are more and more people will be doing it in the future. Knowing that others have done it before will inspire you whenever you start doubting yourself. Additionally, there is a huge support community out there, and every member in it is more than glad to share their experience with you. This can come in handy for the times when you feel lost or uncertain. Moreover, the more you take in from other people’s experience, the fewer mistakes you’ll make in your own endeavors.
It is an excellent idea for you to watch a couple of videos documenting the successes of other sellers, and you can find said videos on YouTube or through the seller’s community on eBay. Here is a quick story to get you started:
John and Gill Hewitt were a married couple living the corporate life. John loaned out his talents to the telecom businesses, whereas Gill received her hard-earned paychecks from Kraft foods. However, feeling dissatisfied, they decided that it was time for a drastic change: they were going to quit their jobs and start an online business.
In 2005, the Hewitts began their journey with only 2000 British pounds. Their initial plan was to focus on house hold appliances, such as baby clothes and pet products. Yet, as time passed, they came to the realization that they could make more money if they decide to specialize. Consequently, by the time the 2008 recession hit the world, the Hewitts reasoned that a struggling job market would force people to head towards the do-it-yourself (DIY for short) mentality when it came to house hold chores. This line of reasoning led the Hewitts to specialize in tools and hardware.
As of May 2014, the Hewitts’ company, Bamford trading, achieved sales of 5 million British pounds through eBay. As a matter of fact, from May 2013 to June 2014, Bamford trading sold merchandise for over 1.5 million British pounds.
Pursuing Your Interests & Doing Market Research
Now, let’s think about what you will be selling, which is an essential part of this whole process.
In order to answer the question of what you should be selling, you need to answer two fundamental questions:
- What are you interested in?
- What does the market want to buy?
We will tackle both questions.
What are you interested in?
The most important quality your products must have is that they must be interesting to you. There is no point in selling a product if you don’t know anything about it. You need to remember that eBay is a community, and potential buyers are bound to ask you questions about your products. If you receive the reputation of someone who knows little to nothing about his products, you’ll drive all your business away. You would never buy a laptop from someone who couldn’t tell you the kind of processor the laptop was running, would you?
eBay is an enormous digital store where almost anything can be found. Hence, the best place to start is to scour all the categories along with the available sub-categories. You’re bound to come across a few that interest you. For example, if you’re big on sports, then you might like the sports category or even the sports memorabilia category. Conversely, if you’re a seasoned mother with plenty of experience rearing those beautiful, but sometimes exasperating, angels, then you should look into the baby category where you can capitalize on your experience of strollers and baby diapers. Here is a link to eBay’s sitemap.
Another excellent avenue that can help spark your creativity is researching wholesalers and dropshippers. It might seem premature, but you should always be thinking that you’ll need a stable reliable source of products when your business takes off. This is where wholesalers can make all the difference. Check out the website worldwidebrands.com, which has a large database of wholesalers who ship to online businesses.
Although eBay is a huge market, there are a few things that are prohibited and a few others that can only be sold to select clientele. For example, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are prohibited, while products intended for a mature audience can only be sold in the Adult Only section. Therefore, you need to revise the entire list of prohibited items so as to avoid making the wrong choice at the outset. This link will lead you to the list of all the prohibited items on eBay.
What does the market want to buy?
Once you have a semblance of an idea of what you want to sell, it’s time for you to do your market research. The broad overview of market research can be summarized as follows: you need to figure out whether the market wants to buy what you’re selling, plus you need to know how much competition you face over that particular product.
When it comes to figuring out what the market wants, there are several resources at your disposal. For starters, there are specific websites, like Terapeak, with the sole intent of offering you up-to-date, accurate research about the market. Terapeak is probably the go-to reference for anyone trying to study the eBay market, especially since it offers market information far more sophisticated than what can be garnered from eBay alone. A service like Terapeak can help you answer fundamental questions, like what items are popular on eBay right now, how popular your item/ category is at the moment, what time is best to sell your products and so much more.
Despite the fact that Terapeak requires a monthly subscription fee, this should not put you off using the service. After all, a lot of your competitors will rely on this software. Thus, without some form of advanced information, you will be at a clear disadvantage. Furthermore, any fees paid for a service like Terapeak are recouped when you use the information to increase your sell through rate.
Another phenomenal source of information is social media. You can look to websites like Pinterest with its 100 million active users, almost half of which are millennials using the platform to make shopping decisions. Don’t forget Facebook that is brimming with ads and trending news. You can also check out blogs, which can be quite informative. A case in point is the blog “The Inside Source” that offers invaluable information for anyone specializing in fashion.
The important thing to remember is that unless there are customers for your product, you will risk considerable time and money. For example, imagine passing by a store in the street that sells old VHS tapes. You might go in out of pure interest. Yet, you probably won’t buy anything. The same can be said for an online store: if the store doesn’t stay current an up with the market, it risks becoming obsolete.
As for competition, you can use Terapeak to analyze their performance. It is in your benefit to know how much your competitors sell as well as the amount of time required to make that sale; your numbers will probably be similar to theirs. Furthermore, you can learn a great deal from how your competitors list their products.
Finally, understanding the market will help you find your Goldilocks zone when it comes to the amount of things you want to sell. This is something you need to identify in the beginning because it will affect your later decisions. Nevertheless, you would do well to remember that, at the end of the day, you are starting a store. Therefore, you should make sure that everything you sell in your store is related to each other. Selling diapers along with vintage baseball cards is just bad business.
To bring everything together, all you need to remember is this: to choose a product, you should find something that interests you and has plenty of demand. Once you do this, everything that follows will be substantially easier. For example, investors have much more faith in some who’s done their homework than someone who’s hunting blindfolded. Simply put, whatever you choose to sell, be smart about your decision, and be prepared to defend your choice using well researched arguments.
Chapter 3: Making a Feasible Business Plan
Having spent considerable time acquainting yourself with eBay and researching the market, you are now ready to start planning your business. This includes developing your business strategy as well as thinking out the little details. Once you’ve done this, you need to put what you’ve come up with on paper, effectually creating your business plan.
It’s important for you to remember that although it tends to be very difficult to follow any plan to the letter, especially in the business world, a business plan offers you clarity, vision, and a semblance of order in an otherwise chaotic world. Let’s take a closer look at what planning your business entails.
The Business Strategy and the Business Plan
The first part of any strategy is identifying the goals, both the short-term goals and the long-term ones. Without these goals, what measure will you have to know whether your business has succeeded or not?
Long-term goals can differ from one individual to another: some want to sell things on eBay to make a little extra money on the side, whereas others intend to make eBay their main source of income. Furthermore, you should decide how you want your customers to perceive you: do you want to stand for quality products, cheaper prices, or exquisite customer service? Once you decide on these goals and others, you can plan your short-term goals.
After clearly defining your goals, you need to figure out how you’re going to make them happen. What tactics are you going to use to make your strategy realizable? In order to answer that question, you need to decide on the amount of required inventory to achieve your sales target, the format for your listings, the entire procurement process, and so much more.
To make things easier, let’s break down the requirements for a successful plan:
Organizational structure: If you truly plan to build a formidable online business, you will probably need people to help you. You need to define the amount of personnel working for your business along with the responsibility of each individual. You should also define the ownership structure of your company, which says who owns what. However, if you plan to make eBay a side business, or you just want to do it on your own, you need to define the amount of time you are willing to put into this project.
- Operational structure: What do your operations look like? Do you manufacture your products or buy them wholesale? When it comes to storage, do you need a large space or can you use your closet? These are all questions that have to be tackled head-on. We will discuss your relation with your suppliers more in detail in Chapter 5.
- Marketing plan: This is different than your market study. While the market study focuses on what customers want and how your competition operates, your marketing plan has to specify how you intend to let customers know about you and persuade them to buy from you instead of your competition. Consequently, you will have to consider your social media strategy, your use of keywords, and your reliance on promotions. Additionally, it goes without saying that both your listing format and your prices are integral weapons in your arsenal when it comes to winning customers. We will discuss promotion methods in more detail in Chapter 8 of this guide.
- The legality of it all: Seeing as you are starting a business, there will be legal aspects you should be aware of. As a matter of fact, some wholesalers won’t deal with you unless you are a legally registered online business. We will take a more in-depth look at the legal side in Chapter
- The financial plan: Your financial plan has to answer a few important questions: how much money do you need to start your business? Where are you going to get that money? How profitable do you expect your business to be?By responding to all the questions posed above and putting your answers down on paper, you will have written your business plan. Hopefully, you have noticed that your business plan can be divided into sections, with each section focusing on a particular side of your business. Also, it should be clear to you that there is an inherent logic within each section, just as there is an inherent logic tying all the sections together; nothing in the business plan should be placed haphazardly or without a specific purpose.
As mentioned earlier, a business plan’s purpose is to give you clarity. Nevertheless, given the fact that the world is an unpredictable place, you should be prepared to deviate from your plan if need be. In fact, it is advisable that you regularly revise and update your plan at fixed time intervals.
The Financial Plan
So, what goes into working on your financial plan? We’ll look at two main aspects:
- Calculating your costs and figuring out how much start-up money you need.
- Different ways you can finance your business.
Calculating costs and figuring out how much money start-up money you need:
When it comes to calculating your expenses, you’re better off breaking them into two categories: one-time payments and on-going payments. One-time payments mostly cover any money used to purchase assets; these payments will account for the majority of your start-up capital requirements. Conversely, on-going payments represent the money necessary for running the business. On-going payments can be categorized in a multitude of ways, such as direct and indirect costs or fixed and variable costs.
A perfect example to illustrate how you can calculate your expenses is to imagine that you decided to sell used books. As a result of your decision, you realize that you need a laptop to keep track of the books you have, a camera to take pictures of the books you buy, and storage space to put the books in till they get sold. Now, since you’ll own the laptop and the camera, you can consider them assets, and any money that goes into buying them is considered as part of your start-up capital.
As for the storage space, unless you buy it, you will probably have to pay monthly rent for it. It is worth noting that the price of rent is in no way related to the number of books you sell per month. Consequently, your storage rent is an on-going fixed cost. Because you probably won’t sell enough books to cover your on-going expenses for the first few months, you have to include those on-going expenses in your start-up capital requirements. Another on-going expense you need to consider is the cost of purchasing the books, your inventory, in the first place, which is directly affected by the number of books you plan to sell each month.
Ideally, your business plan should attempt to predict when your business will start to break even, which means that your profits cover your expenses and your business pays for itself. The minute your business begins to show a profit, you can start reinvesting those dividends into the business itself.
What follows calculating your costs is seeing the resources you have at your disposal. At this stage, you need to compare between the capital you have and the capital you need to start your business. In the event that you don’t have enough money to start your business, you can do one of two things:
- You can tweak your plan so as to make it more feasible. This can be attained by decreasing the amount of assets you purchase, postponing buying some of the assets, or finding a way to reduce your on-going expenses.
- Your other option is to find a way to help finance your project.
Different ways you can finance your business:
Besides paying for the whole thing yourself, there are numerous other options at your disposal to get your business off the ground. Here are just a few possibilities you could explore:
- Friends and family: If you’re going to start your own business, the people most likely to have faith in you and support you are bound to be the ones closest to you. Therefore, you should never be afraid to reach out to your friends and family.
- Crowdfunding campaigns: Should you offer a product that is unique enough, you can opt for starting a crowdfunding campaign. Websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are excellent venues for you to explore.
- Resort to bartering: When you’re starting your business, a good business is to barter your skills for services. You can trade your excellent cyber security skills for an office to work from, for example.
- Sell equity: You can treat your business like any other business and raise funds through selling shares to outside investors. There are several kinds of investors, each of which specializes in a type of start-up at a specific stage in growth.
- Get a bank loan: If you don’t want to give away shares of your company, you can take out a loan from your bank. This loan can either be a direct cash loan or be a line of credit.
- Seek financing options for your purchases: Another form of loan you can acquire is specifically related to the assets you buy. Instead of paying for your assets in one lump sum, you can pay for them over installments. Naturally, the asset will cost more, but this option allows you to significantly reduce your initial start-up requirement.
In conclusion, we’ve discussed the importance of drawing up a business plan as well as how to do that. Afterwards, we took a look at a specific section within the business plan: the financial plan. In the financial plan, we answered the question of figuring out how much money you’ll need plus where you can get that money.
Chapter 4: Legal Framework
Armed with your business plan, you can now begin establishing your business. The first thing you have to do is to follow the legal requirements for starting a business; after all, you are starting a business, and any business must follow a set of legal procedures, regardless of whether the business is online or not. With that in mind, let’s talk about the permits you’ll need to start selling on eBay.
To start with, remember that the permits you need to issue differ from state to state: some states demand more licenses than usual, while others need you to get your permits from distinct governmental authorities. Naturally, how big your business is will also factor into the licenses you need. However, there are a few licenses that are ubiquitous, no matter where you are or how much you are selling.
Choose a Legal Structure
The first decision you have to make is to figure out the legal structure of your company; your business can take many shapes and forms, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some of the main differences between various legal structures are connected with ownership (who owns the company), liability (how responsible are the owners for their company), and taxation (how will the business be taxed).
There are several legal structures possible. For example, a company could be a sole-proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, and a corporation. Here is a table that identifies the main distinctions between each type of legal structure according to the factors mentioned above:
|Sole-proprietorship||Partnership||Limited liability company (LLC, for short)||Corporation (we’ll look at the C-corporation in particular)|
|Ownership||The company is owned by one individual, usually the same person running it.||The company is owned by two or more people. It is not open to outside investors unless all the owners agree. No public shares are issued||The company is owned by two or more people. It is not open to outside investors unless all the owners agree. No public shares are issued.||The company is owned by two or more people. It can also issue shares on the open market, inviting new investors.|
|Liability||The owner is personally liable for his company. In other words, if the company goes bankrupt, the owner might have to sell his shoe laces to cover the costs.||The partners are personally liable for their company, just as a sole-proprietorship.||The owners of the company are not liable for their company. If the company goes bankrupt, it ends with the company. The only liability is the amount of money invested in the company.||Similar to the LLC., the owners are not liable for the company beyond their investments.|
|Taxation||The IRS considers a sole-proprietary and its owner as one and the same thing instead of treating the company as a separate legal entity. This means that all the profits are treated as personal income for the owner and taxed only once.||The IRS offers a partnership the same treatment it offers a sole-proprietary: the company profits are taxed once.||An LLC enjoys the same benefits enjoyed by a partnership and a sole-proprietary: profits are taxed once.||Seeing as the IRS recognizes a corporation as a legal separate entity, profits and dividends are taxed twice. They are taxed once as the company’s income and another time as the stockholder’s income.|
The distinctions between these types of legal structures are more nuanced than this table shows. There are countless loopholes and little tricks to maneuver around the double taxation problem surrounding corporations, for example. Additionally, there are other types of legal structures available to you.
Consequently, your responsibility is to research the matter thoroughly so as to make an informed decision that best suits your needs and goals. It is a very good idea for you to sit with a professional to help you out with this.
Get a Name for Your Business
Furthermore, it is necessary to register your business name with the state in order to create a bank account or merchant account for your business. On the other hand, the state insists on you registering the name so as to know who is responsible for the business. When you think about it, it would be a huge problem if a restaurant were to open in your street, yet no one knew who ran it or who should be held accountable if something were to go wrong. In addition, several wholesalers will only work with you if you have an official business name.
Now, the requirements for registering a business name may vary from state to state, but, broadly speaking, there are three main ways for registering the name:
- Issuing a “doing business as” (DBA) name: In case of starting a sole proprietary (we will discuss the types of legal entities in the next section), you can do one of two things: you can either run the business under your name, or you can run it under a fictitious name. In the latter case, you don’t always have to create a formal entity; it is enough to file a “doing business as” name. Also, if your business is listed as a limited liability company and you want to use a different name other than the one currently registered, you may resort to issuing a doing business as (DBA).
- Establishing a formal structure: When you register your company as an LLC or a corporation, you automatically bestow a legal name upon your company. What’s more, your business gets exclusive rights to the name in your state. Nevertheless, your business’s name is still fair play in the remaining 49 states. The only way to truly protect your name on a nationwide basis is to get it trademarked.
- Getting your name trademarked: Filing a trademark with your patent office protects your name over all 50 states. Naturally, you need to make sure that the name you choose for your business is not currently taken by another entity, otherwise you’ll infringe on their trademark.
Aside from the legal side of things, you need to realize that your business’s name is a large part of your brand. Therefore, you should take your time when choosing your name: most marketing professionals advise going for a catchy memorable name that is easy to pronounce.
Apply for a Federal Employer Number
If you choose to have employees working for you and you run the company as partnership, limited liability, or corporation, then you need to apply for a Federal Employer Number, also known as Federal Tax Identification Number and Employer Identification Number (they’re all one and the same thing). Other abbreviations for this number you may come across are EIN and FEI.
A Federal Employer Number comes in handy when a business wants to report tax withheld on behalf of employees among other things. Simply put, it is a nine digit number that uniquely identifies the business. It is easy to apply for: you only need to go to the IRS website, and everything is self-explanatory from there.
Conversely, if you’re running your business as a sole-proprietary, then it is sufficient to use your social security number come tax season.
Obtain a Seller Permit/ Reseller License
When dealing with wholesalers, this license may prove to be a vital piece of document. It allows you to make your purchases without having to pay taxes for said purchases. Instead, you can charge the tax requirements onto your customers.
This license goes by many names, including Sales Tax Certificate, Reseller’s Permit, Wholesale License, Seller’s Permit, and Reseller License. Interestingly, should you be operating out of more than one location, you will need a seller’s permit for each place.
To get this license, you should get in touch with the correct state agency, depending on your state.
Get Other Potentially Necessary Documents
Depending on the state you’re in, you’ll probably need other licenses and permits than the ones mentioned above. An excellent case in point is how some states require you to issue a business license to operate within their geographical jurisdiction. This is done so that both the state and federal government can ensure that you abide by the necessary regulations, especially if you have employees working for you. You should bear in mind that if you’re registered as a corporation, you, yourself, are considered an employee of the company.
Another requirement you might have to fulfill along with the business license is applying for a city license or a city tax registration certificate. Furthermore, in the event that your state has a sales tax, you will have to get a sales tax number.
Learn eBay Rules by Heart
A perfect example is how eBay has a list of prohibited items, like guns and nicotine. Should you try to sell either of those things, eBay has the right to take punitive action, including calling the proper authorities if necessary. Over and above, you need to recognize that a transaction over eBay is the same as signing a legally binding contract, which is another reason why you need to be fair and lawful in all your dealings. Plus, when the time comes, the taxman will come to collect his due.
To conclude this chapter, we’ve looked at the main requirements for starting a business: a legal structure, a legal name, a Federal Employee Number, a Seller’s Permit, and any additional requirements. What’s also important is for you to follow eBay’s rules in order to have a sustainable, thriving business. With the legal part out of the way, it’s time for us to look at how you are going to get your supplier.
Chapter 5: Choosing the Best Suppliers
So far, we’ve seen how eBay functions and figured out what you’re going to sell. Afterwards, we set the layout for a business plan, after which we delved into the legalities involved in starting an online business. The next step for us is to figure out where you are going to get your products from. After all, when selling on eBay, you need a stable, reliable stock so that your clients can come to rely on you. Furthermore, if you end up buying your products from different vendors at different prices, this will result in wide price fluctuations in your store, which is never good for business. Therefore, let’s take a look at how you can find suppliers who are worth investing your money in.
The Kinds of Suppliers Out There
Your search for dependable suppliers will always lead you to one of three possibilities:
Your first option is to work with manufacturers directly. In this case, you will have a limited number of products to choose from, and you will have to place large orders for the manufacturer to take you seriously. In return, you can buy the products at extremely low prices seeing as you are buying them from the source, which in turn means that you can sell these same products on eBay at bottom prices compared to your competition.
It is easy to see that the large order size plus the difficulty of finding good reliable manufacturers makes this option more untenable for any beginners starting out. However, when you get more seasoned, this should be the path for you.
Wholesalers buy a large amount of products from several different manufacturers and sell to you. Consequently, they’ll have a wider variety of products to choose from. Additionally, you don’t have to buy from them as large a batch as you would have bought from a manufacturer. Nevertheless, you will be in better hands if you are able to find a wholesaler that understands, perhaps even deals exclusively in, your product rather than a generalist or someone who specializes in a completely different product.
With that in mind, you should bear in mind that not all wholesalers will be willing to work with you as an online retailer. This allows plenty of more middle-men to come in between you and the wholesalers and sell you the products at a mark-up. You might initially feel that you are willing to pay this mark-up in order to avoid the hassle of finding that perfect wholesaler, yet why keep lining anyone else’s pockets with your money in return for a job that you could do once and get it over with?
Whereas the difference between manufacturers and wholesalers lies in where the products come from, the main distinction between manufacturers and wholesalers on the one hand and dropshippers on the other is how the products are handled after the sale:
Manufacturers and wholesalers ship the products to you, while a dropshipper ships your product directly to your customer. In other words, once you make the sale and send the order to the dropshipper, the dropshipper will deliver your product to customer. As a result, you don’t ever have to handle the product, worry about storage, or hassle yourself about shipping. Unfortunately, the flipside of working with dropshippers is that you risk having problems down the road and knowing about these problems when it’s too late: it is very possible that the dropshipper will send the wrong product, and you will only get to know about it when your customer files a complaint.
You might have noticed that a wholesaler or a manufacturer can also function as a dropshipper should they choose to ship your products on your behalf; being a wholesaler doesn’t preclude the supplier from being a dropshipper. Nevertheless, your business plan and strategy will be affected by whether you opt for dealing with a wholesaler who will deliver to you or with a dropshipper who will save you the trip to the post office.
Finding Your Suppliers
Having understood the three main types of suppliers out there, let’s take a look at how you can find the best supplier out there:
- Find out what kind of supplier you are looking for
The kind of supplier you go after will depend on both the product you intend to sell and the business plan you’ve drawn up. For example, if you plan to sell a very unique product, then you will want to focus only on specific websites and pay less attention to others. Furthermore, each kind of supplier can be broken down into unique subtypes. A case in point is how dropshippers can be separated into two categories:
a) As previously mentioned, dropshippers can be the original manufacturers of the product. These kinds of dropshippers expect large orders, just like normal manufacturers. Furthermore, they are difficult to find, but, once found, business with them can be very rewarding.
b) Another type of dropshippers is composed of middle-men who source their products from several wholesalers and ship them for you. Relying on the services of these middle-men incurs a membership fee as well as a mark-up.(be wary of intermediaries who claim to sell you their products at cost; there usually is a mark-up somewhere.
2. Look for the supplier who helps you accomplish your goals
Regardless of the tools you use, the results of your search for a supplier will always boil down to a few things: a list or directory with plenty of suppliers willing to work with you, a handful of recommendations for a specific supplier, and a referral by a friend or a trusted colleague.
So, let’s take a look at the tools at your disposal:
a) The Internet
Naturally, the internet will be your largest asset. Simply put, if you write the name of your product plus the word “wholesale” into the google search bar, you are bound to come up with thousands and thousands of results. Other online options include using a website like WorldWideBrands.com that offers you a database of wholesalers who are willing to work with online businesses. These databases are available to anyone willing to pay a fee for them. Aside from lists, you can find classified ads on some websites that act as intermediaries between you and suppliers, such as Craigslist and Kijiji. Over and above, several wholesalers have their own websites.
However, if you’re willing to invest time and effort, you can use the different online community boards to find genuine reviews of suppliers. The eBay community can be a great guide in this matter.
b) Offline options
As strong a tool as the internet may be, you should not underestimate the usefulness of other resources. For example, wholesale tradeshows are an excellent venue to find hidden gems that aren’t available to everybody. You can also resort to syndicates or experts. Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid of using the phone or knocking on doors.
The Selection Criteria
Armed with your list of suppliers, you have to choose one or two of them to do business with. At this point, it would be very useful to have a list of criteria for filtering the prospects. Upon researching how each supplier stacks up against your criteria, you will be better equipped to make an informed decision. Here are a few suggestions you can look into:
- Price: You need to make sure that the supplier is selling you the products at a reasonable price. Otherwise, you might end up suffering a loss and going beyond your budget.
- Quality: Although good quality is an absolute essential aspect of any product, you need to bear in mind that extremely high quality translates into high prices. Hence, you need to find that goldilocks zone between selling cheap products that don’t satisfy your customers and expensive products that could break your business before it even starts.
- Reputation: In a previous chapter, we established that your reputation on eBay was important for your business. Similarly, a supplier’s reputation is a big indicator on how well they conduct themselves and how reliable they tend to be. You will be better served by working with a supplier who has a long history of doing good business as opposed to a supplier with less than stellar reviews. Another thing to look out for is a supplier’s website, which can tell you, to a large degree, how much a particular supplier cares about their image and reputation.
- Customer service: Customer service encompasses several things, including the supplier’s ability to answer your questions, their flexibility, and their speed of delivery. It is true that even though a supplier might seem at the outset to take exceptional care of their customers, they may prove indifferent to their customers’ plights later down the road. However, it is never the case that a rude, unprofessional supplier at the beginning proves themselves to be a good choice at any point in time. In addition, good customer service takes a load off of your mind because it ensures that all future problems will be resolved with the utmost expediency.
The Questions to Ask and How to Ask Them
At this stage, you should have selected a supplier or two to work with. Yet, your work is not over yet; you still have some digging to do to make sure that you are building your business on a solid foundation. The first thing to do is to try to establish direct contact with your prospective supplier: you can use social media, e-mail, Skype, or a phone.
When you have your supplier’s attention, you should start by asking to see a few financial papers. Basically, you need to make sure that your supplier is financially stable; it goes without saying that a company that might declare bankruptcy tomorrow is in no way a reliable partner. Given that you know their prices but would like to have a more in-depth understanding of the minutiae, you should take a look at their catalog and pricing guide. Moreover, it wouldn’t hurt to hear what the suppliers themselves have to say about their products.
Speaking of questions to ask, you should explore the possibility of getting a discount should you help the supplier in some way, such as offering to pay on delivery or helping your supplier promote their business. The main mentality to adopt is that nothing is impossible and that if you never ask, you’ll never know. Perhaps your supplier won’t be able to give you a discount, but they’ll able to shoulder part of the shipping costs.
At the end of the day, your supplier wants to foster a healthy business relationship with you, where both partners benefit and neither one of them feel used by the other. Consequently, they’ll be open to extending a helping hand so long as you show your willingness to do the same.
What follow are a bunch of tips that will come in handy:
- Keep a tight leash on your expenditures. Being careless with your spending is the fastest way to run your business into the ground.
- We’ve already mentioned this, but it is worth repeating. Just because something is cheap doesn’t make it a good sell. Conversely, just because something is expensive doesn’t mean you can pay now and worry about the costs later. You need to find that sweet spot that balances price and quality.
- Another interesting source for your products can be eBay itself. You can resell some of the items already being sold there, in which case you probably want to focus on high quality items that can pass from one person to another without losing value. Alternatively, you can explore wholesale categories and learn which sellers supply others.
- Be wary of bad wholesalers. The reason this advice should be heeded is that plenty of reviews that you’ll find online aren’t exactly genuine. A lot of wholesalers write reviews for themselves under fictitious names, and, through the miracle of SEO, these reviews tend to be the first that pop-up when you look up a specific supplier.
To conclude, through this chapter we’ve investigated how you can locate the ideal business partner who can complement your value chain. Accordingly, we started by looking at the different kinds of suppliers out there as well as some methods of finding them. Subsequently, the topic of selection criteria was brought up, followed by specific questions you should ask your potential partner. We ended things by considering a few tips, and now let us find out how you can become a successful seller.
Chapter 6: Becoming a Successful Seller
The past five chapters have delved into how you should plan your eBay business, from understanding the site and coming up with a business plan to taking into consideration the legalities and picking out a good supplier. Given that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time appreciating the big picture, it’s time for us to take a look at the more detailed aspects that will make up your business: the tactics that will distinguish you from your competition.
Registering and Opening an eBay Account
When starting out on eBay, the first thing you have to look forward to is setting up an account. Naturally, you’ll choose to go with a seller’s account. In return, eBay will demand two kinds of information: basic information that all accounts have to fill out and special information specific to a seller’s account.
The basic information includes your name, your address, your e-mail, and your telephone number. You will also have to provide eBay with a method of payment, such as a PayPal account, an active credit card, or a bank account. This information should be given to eBay without pause seeing as it is integral for your account. And, don’t be worried about the privacy of your information: anything you share with eBay is completely safe so long as you use a strong password to protect your account. Besides this basic info, you will come across some optional boxes to fill. Afterwards, you need to agree to the User Agreement.
At some point during the registration process, you will need to come up with a user name. This name is very crucial to your business since it will be the main handle through which your clients can communicate with you directly. Therefore, you should pick your user name carefully; it should be something that speaks about you and your business. For example, if you sell scarves, your user name can be scarf man or the scarf witch, depending on what catches you fancy.
Finally, in the event of starting an eBay seller’s account, eBay will want to know what you intend to sell and what kind of seller’s account you want. This is where your previous research will come in handy: not only will you know what you plan to sell, but you will also know how many items per month you intend to ship.
Buying Items and Establishing a Reputation
We mentioned earlier how a community based market like eBay values a seller’s reputation, which must always be preserved. Moreover, we stressed the importance of experiencing the customer journey through your clients’ eyes in order to spot any problem areas they might go through.
Accordingly, the best way to kill those two birds with the same stone is to start your experience on eBay by buying actual products from other sellers. This will also expose you to several different kinds of listings as well as give you a feel for how the mechanics of the auction system work. So, your first step should be to scour through eBay’s listings and buy things you need.
Once you feel that you’ve understood what buyers go through when shopping on eBay, you can easily transition into the role of a seller.
Building Your Store from the Ground Up
Creating an online store mainly entails two things: coming up with a name for that store and designing a digital space that gives off the right vibe for you to sell your products.
For starters, you need to come up with a great name for your store. It needs to be memorable and relevant.
Although we’ve discussed picking a name for your business at length in the legal section, it is worth remembering that the name of your business doesn’t necessarily have to be the same name as your eBay store. The former is used for accountability purposes when it comes to official entities, whereas the latter is more prominent when it comes to search engine results.
Nevertheless, the same guidelines that apply to choosing a business name are relevant when picking out a store name. After all, if you’re selling first edition books, Google will send you a lot more relevant traffic when your store’s name is “Bob’s first edition books” as opposed to a name like “Bob’s antique and wondrous collections”.
As for the design of your store, it should go without saying that the look and feel of your store are crucial to your conversion ratios (which are basically numbers that express the amount of people who visit your store and end up buying something). Luckily, eBay offers its sells free tools to customize their stores: eBay lets you choose your arrangement of pictures, headings, and interactive tools that can optimize your customers’ online experience.
Moreover, with a little money, you can incorporate a couple of graphics and logos, which will truly set you apart from the rest of the competition.
Listing your Products and Finding the Right Category
As a seller, you are responsible for paying eBay a seller’s fee every time you list an item which gets sold. There are two ways you can pay this fee: You can either pay a commission every time you make a sale, or you can pay a “one-time payment” that will be charged to you every billing cycle. You can pay this fee using a Paypal account, an automatic credit card, a direct payment from your checking account, or a check (this last option is only reserved for businesses).
At this point in the game, you should have ample experience with buying stuff from eBay. However, you might feel lacking when it comes to selling, which is why you should start getting used to what will soon become your bread and butter. The best way to do that is to start slowly: sell something you no longer need. It could be an old jacket, a dusty unused bicycle, or a TV you just replaced. For further inspiration, you can check out eBay’s list of hot items being sold.
The minute you settle on something you are willing to part ways with, you should start thinking of a title for your listing. It’s not enough for the title to be relevant: it has to be detailed and well thought out. Otherwise, your listing will disappear among the thousands of other listings flooding eBay.
The best way to demonstrate this would be for you to compare the search results between a search for “car” versus a search for “Ford car with 200 horsepower 2008”. You’re bound to notice that the more specific the search query, the fewer results show up. As always, you ought to feel free to learn from your competitors the best way to name your product.
eBay offers several tools, most of them for a fee, that upgrade your listing. Among these tools is the use of a bold title to make it pop out more, the scheduling tool that allows you to decide when your product goes out on the market, and international site visibility which displays your product in other eBay websites all over the world. For those of you looking to make an even more detailed listing, eBay offers its users a subtitle option.
Regardless of how you label your product, there are a few pitfalls you want to avoid. Firstly, you must avoid making any spelling or grammatical mistakes in your listings. A mistake like that can cost you dearly, especially when it comes to search engines. Another mistake you need to dodge is being unaware of eBay’s lingo: eBay has a lingo that is unique to it, and not knowing what Mint or one of a kind means, or using them incorrectly, can spell catastrophe for your business.
A third mistake to look out for is forgetting to mention specific qualities about your product that might make it more desirable, such as it being rare. Interestingly, whereas not giving enough information about your product is a mistake, divulging way more than the customer requires is a mistake as well. At the end of the day, you’re not writing a story; saying what the product is, to where it ships, and stating its price is more than enough.
Upon choosing the item you wish to sell along with its title, you will have to figure out in which category you will post your listing. Bear in mind that if you list your item in a wrong category, the item will probably not sell because the right audience will not find it. Thus, this will be an excellent opportunity for you to familiarize yourself with eBay’s categories.
Having said that, it is worth mentioning that an item can easily fit in more than one category. So, you should endeavor to post your listing in more than one category, with the knowledge that eBay will charge you an extra fee for each added category. Alternatively, eBay actively discourages its members from bombarding categories with items that don’t belong. In fact, this sort of behavior may be penalized.
Seeing as how there are competing needs between placing your product in as many categories as possible on the one hand and avoiding putting a product in the wrong category on the other, the following question arises: how can anyone find the proper categories for each product? One answer resides in the title of your product. Going back to the example used in the title section, a product with the title “ford car with 200 horsepower 2008” can be filed under cars, ford, 200 horsepower, and 2008.
Presenting Your Products
There are two main aspects you should take into consideration when presenting your products: the pictures you show and the descriptions you write.
- Product Photos
Human beings are visual creatures by nature. Ergo, the pictures you post along with your listing are probably the strongest tools you have to close a sale. Despite allowing to post up to 12 pictures of an object with each listing, eBay lets you put up the first one for free and charges you for every consecutive picture.
Here are a few tips to maximize the effect your pictures have:
a) Keep the background of your picture as clean and neat as possible. If you can take a picture of your product against a white background, then go right ahead.
b) A steady picture is a more powerful selling tool than a shaky one. Therefore, bringing in a tripod come photo day is an excellent idea.
c) Photograph your product from every angle imaginable. Try to make the pictures descriptive enough to convey an accurate portrayal of your product. Don’t be afraid to capture all the imperfections. It’s better for a customer to know about a fault beforehand than to discover it when the product arrives at their doorstep.
d) Another way to convey an accurate portrayal of your product is to convey a sense of scale. A case in point is when you sell your phone; you can photograph it next to an average sized banana so as to give the customer an idea of how big the phone is.
e) Try to make your photos as high resolution as possible. Not only will this display a clear picture of the product, it will also allow the customer to zoom in should they want to.
Make the product the focus of your photo. In other words, avoid having a lot of empty space in your picture, and steer away from any props or unnecessary ornaments.
2. Product Descriptions
Writing clear informative product descriptions can make all the difference between a listing that doesn’t sell and a listing that sells out before its time runs out. The main reason for this is that, after seeing your pictures, customers will always have several questions related to the product. The more answers you are able to provide upfront, the more trust your customers will have in you.
As a result, the first thing you want to do is to make your product description cover all the essentials: the physical measurements of the product (length, width, and height), weight, material it is made from, color, state (used or brand new), model, and any other basics. It is in your best interest to illuminate as many particular characteristics as possible because
eBay’s search engine relies on the specifics you use to describe your product in order to facilitate a buyer’s search
Besides the essentials, you want to cover all the characteristics that are particular to your product. For example, if you’re selling a laptop, then you need to discuss its processing power, the operating software, the size of the hard drive, etc. Moreover, if you’re selling a unique product or something that is vintage or collectible, then you need to bring that up. A nice little sales technique you can attempt to incorporate is to focus on the benefits of your product, especially for your target market.
It is completely fine to scrutinize your competitors who are selling the same product as you and see which product descriptions sell best. Subsequently, you can try to emulate what made their listing successful, without copying them verbatim. At the end of the day, you don’t want to plagiarize someone else’s work.
It is very important, and this cannot be stressed enough, that you mention the history of your product along with any flaws in it. It is worth repeating that your rating and reputation are everything on eBay. Therefore, unless you want a disgruntled customer leaving you a scathing review, you should manage your customers’ expectations as much as possible.
Finally, you should try to have fun when you’re writing your product description; buyers who come across your description are usually tired individuals who have sifted through several other descriptions before yours. Consequently, the last thing they want is to force themselves to read another long and boring description. Have pity on them, and they’ll appreciate you for it.
Going Auction vs. Fixed Price
When selling your products, either you can go the auction route or you can set a fixed price. Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages, making each system ideal for a particular situation.
|Auction listing||Fixed price listing|
|When is it used?||• You’re uncertain of how much the item should be sold for.
• The product you’re selling is unique
• Your item’s price in the market is very unstable
|• A lot of the products in your possession can be pooled into one listing.
• Your stock of product is overflowing.
• You are fully aware of how much your product is worth on the open market.
|How long is the listing?||An auction listing can take 1,3,5,7,or 10 days||A fixed price listing can last up to 30 days|
|What are the advantages of each method?||Auction listing offers plenty of exposure. They attract plenty of attention seeing as bidding can have an entertainment value to it. Moreover, since an auction format lets your listing stay online for a fixed amount of time, while a fixed price listing is removed the instant the product is sold, auctions tend to keep your listings alive and attracting customers. This helps in building brand recognition for your store.||A fixed price listing offers a speedy transaction. The instant someone is willing to pay the ask price, the transaction is done, and everybody gets what they want.|
|What are the disadvantages of each method?||Auction listing can be costly. Over and above, you have no control over the price you get.||With fixed price listing, you may accidently sell your product cheap. Conversely, you could list an exorbitant price that no one will be willing to pay.|
Specifying Your Packaging and Shipping Policies
Congratulations! You’ve made a sale. Now, it’s time to deliver the goods. This is where your packaging and shipping policies come into play.
Until your customer receives their product, you are liable for it. In other words, if someone buys a camera from you, and, on the way, it broke, you must either reimburse your customer or send them a new one. Consequently, carefully packaging your product is a necessity. It also helps you dodge bad ratings due to dissatisfied customers as well as conveys the message that you have your customers’ best interests at heart.
Unfortunately, packaging your products is easier said than done; it is a time consuming process that is riddled with pitfalls and speed bumps. Therefore, you would be wise to sidestep some of the more common problems, like using a box that’s the wrong size, neglecting to use packaging material, and writing the wrong address. As for the amount time packaging takes, the whole process can be considerably streamlined should you use a few time savers, such as labels, package pick-up, and a stock of shipping supplies.
When it comes to shipping, you should try to find the best postal service with the lowest rates for you. This requires plenty of research as shipping companies have varying rates depending on where you are, where you intend to send your package, and what your package is in the first place. Because of this, each seller has to find the company that suits them.
Another important decision you have to make is how you intend to price your shipping costs. You could opt for personalizing the postage costs and billing each buyer according to their location. Another option is to have a ubiquitous cost that you charge to all your customers, regardless of where they are geographically located. Just as auction and fixed price listings are suitable for distinct situations, the same applies here: having a blanket shipping fee that is applicable to everyone is suitable for sellers who have a limited geographical coverage and mostly sell to people close to them. Alternatively, charging a unique postal charge for each buyer works when the seller has international customers from all over the globe.
Establishing Your Return Policy
What if your customer buys your product and then realizes that it’s not what they want? What happens then? This is not a farfetched scenario, and, in today’s customer centric world, you need to be prepared for that. Due to this, you should have your return policy in order, and said policy should be made public to all your customers.
There are several aspects that need to be mentioned in your return policy:
- How do you intend to reimburse your customers? An idea would be to offer a full monetary refund, while another idea could be to only offer exchanges.
- Who pays for return shipping? A customer returning a product means that someone is going to have to pay for that product to be shipped back from the customer to you. This means that either you shoulder that extra cost or your customer will be left saddled with additional shipping fees they had not anticipated.
- How long does the customer have to return a product? Any return policy is limited by a time limit of sorts. You need to figure out yours.
- What kind of condition can the product be in for it to be acceptable for a refund? Obviously, you can’t allow a customer to break a perfectly good product, only to ask for a refund afterwards. Therefore, you need to figure out where you draw the line when it comes to the product’s condition.
- Can anyone return their purchases or is it geographically limited? Simply put, accepting a refund from your next door neighbor is different than accepting a refund from someone living halfway around the world. The logistics, hence the cost, are substantially different. You need to account for that.
However, what’s better than planning for return requests is to optimize your listing and selling process so as to receive minimal to no requests at all.
To conclude, we’ve taken a look in this chapter at what it takes to thrive as an eBay seller. We started with the registration process, moved on to garnering a healthy online reputation, and then listing products for sale. After that, we explored the different ways a product can be sold and took a look at the requisite packaging and shipping policies. Finally, we concluded by discussing return policies. As you might have noticed, the main theme that was pervasive throughout all the different sections was building and maintaining a solid reputation.
This can be achieved through excellent customer service, as we have seen. Another trick you could use is to give positive feedback to your buyer the moment the purchase is concluded, which we will explore in more detail in the following chapter. Most importantly, you should always remember that selling is a process and it is OK to not be able to sell your entire inventory from the get go. These things take time.
Chapter 7: Customer Service, Feedback, and Ratings
In the previous chapter, we discussed how to sell your products as well as briefly touched on the topic of customer service and reputation. Continuing down that path, we will explore the dynamic duo of customer service and reputation more in depth in this chapter.
If your customers don’t enjoy interacting with you, they probably won’t come back for seconds regardless of how magnificent your products are. Moreover, it is much easier and cheaper to have a current customer buy from you again than to try to sell your products to new ones. Consequently, exquisite customer service must be a staple of your business if you want to increase your sales year after year. Additionally, the level of your customer service will directly reflect on your feedback, which will be discussed later on.
Providing excellent customer service involves several factors; however, for simplicity’s sake, we will look at two main aspects: resolving problems and establishing clear communication. Aside from these two factors, we will look at a few tips to generally shape up your online business.
- Resolving Problems
The first step to helping your customers is to know what their rights and obligations are along with what tools are available to protect both you and them from future problems. Some of the tools you should be aware of are your return policy, a money back guarantee, shipping insurance, and the Business Equipment Purchase Protection program.
You also need to be aware of how to get in touch with your buyer in the event of a problem. There are two main ways to do this: You could either send them a private message or contact them through eBay’s Resolution Center.
You might think that you don’t need to concern yourself too much with trouble-shooting, as you plan to run your business smoothly and without hiccoughs. Unfortunately, this will rarely be the case, and your business is bound to run into problems that harm your buyer, such as late shipments, transaction issues, damaged items, and items that differ substantially than their description (Ideally, this last one can be avoided with enough care).
When that happens, you want to be prepared, and you want your customer to feel safe, knowing that you’ve got things covered. Conversely, it is possible that your buyer somehow fails to pay you in full, at which point you’ll be glad that you know exactly what you need to do to protect yourself.
However, the most important aspect of fixing someone’s problems is to treat said person with respect and to understand how their needs have not been met. If your customers feel that they are interacting with a caring, emphatic human being instead of a heartless, materialistic company, then you’re already well on your way to offering superb customer service.
Part of displaying this respect is to apologize when you make a mistake, or as Herb Cohen, world renowned negotiator, puts it, “Fess up when you mess up.” Another part of treating your customers with decency is to be patient with them and understand their frustration. Just work on solving all their problems to the best of your capability.
- Establishing Clear Communication
When it comes to efficient communication, plenty of the rules that apply to eBay are, more or less, the rules that apply to any service industry. For example, you should answer all your buyer’s questions as promptly as possible and thank them for their time considering your item.
Angry customers should be met with understanding and tolerance: try to reach out to an angry customer privately and get to the bottom of their gripe. In such a manner, you’ll be able to transform an angry customer into a satisfied one, all the while conducting yourself with the utmost professionalism. Generally speaking, be friendly but formal, under promise but over deliver, and be honest but concise.
Having said that, there are a few unique aspects you should bear in mind when it comes to eBay: customers should be able to reach you in more than one way. The more channels you offer customers to contact you through, the more seamless the whole process seems to them. Therefore, you should actively encourage your customers to reach out to you in the way that best suits them, be it eBay, e-mail, social media, or even phone.
Apart from exchanging messages, your communication with your customer includes your listings: good clear listings translate into good clear communication. Thus, the best thing you can do is to follow the advice laid out in the previous chapter and to follow the listing specifications there. The only thing you can add to those specifications is a section that addresses frequently asked questions.
What follow are a few extra tips that can help you with your communication:
- Tailor your interactions to your audience. Instead of having a one size fits all response, you will be better off if you write each message with the target audience in mind.
- Try not to sound too technical when talking with your customers; you do not want to alienate them. Give them the information they need, and take the time to explain it to them in simple layman terms.
- Make sure that your information is up to date and accurate.
- Check and double check your spelling and grammar. The last thing you want is for your customers to lose respect for you because you kept writing “you’re” when you actually were supposed to use “your”.
- General Tips
Here are a few more tips to look out for:
- Demand personal feedback after every interaction. This sends the message that you care about what the customer has to say beyond the ratings. Over and above, it helps you spot any additional problems as early as possible.
- Try to establish a professional relationship with every customer of yours. This relationship goes beyond the simple buyer-vendor dynamic; you should try to send them gift cards or coupons on their birthdays and during special occasions. This advice harkens back to what was said at the beginning of this chapter: “It is much easier and cheaper to have a current customer buy from you again than to try to sell your products to new ones.“
- Always think of added services you could tag onto your product. A perfect example would be to offer free gift wrapping services or expedited shipping. Come to think of it, by anticipating your customers’ needs, you can attempt to sell to each customer products that are relevant to their current purchase, which is known as upselling or cross-selling. A case in point would be selling someone fishing hooks, fishing lines, and bait after having sold them a fishing rod.
Feedback and Rating System
A big part of any business is the reputation it builds: you go to the doctor whom your friends recommend, you buy your house from the real estate agent who had gotten your sister her house, and you send your kids to the school that has the best track record of graduating successful students. Similarly, when online, people tend to buy from sellers with impeccable reputations. And just as the reputation of a doctor or a real estate agent is built through their past dealings and the ensuing word of mouth, the reputation of a seller on eBay is composed of the opinions of all those who have dealt with him in the past. This, in essence, is the feedback system.
Every time you interact with someone on eBay, whether by buying or selling something, you can rate your experience with them as well as leave a comment. In turn, every member develops a feedback profile that is filled with all the feedbacks and ratings they’ve amassed. In order to see a member’s feedback and rating, all you have to do is to click on the number next to their name, their feedback score.
A rating can go one of three ways: it can be positive, neutral, or negative. According to the ratings you amass, eBay assigns you a feedback score, which is always displayed next to the member’s name plus the top of the feedback profile. Now, understanding how this feedback score is calculated is a relatively simple process: for every positive rating, you get a +1. For every negative rating, you get a -1. And every neutral rating amounts to a 0. Afterwards, all your points are aggregated, and the final result is your feedback score.
The two main aspects you want to look out for when it comes to your rating is your total feedback score and your percentage of positive feedback. To start with, a high feedback score indicates that you’ve been doing this for a long time and that several of your buyers were satisfied with your services.
On the other hand, the percentage of positive feedback gives your buyers a more comprehensive view on your selling history by comparing your number of positive interactions with your number of negative interactions. Your percentage of positive feedback is more important than your total feedback score, so you should always strive to keep this number as close to 100% as possible.
Given the importance of your rating, it stands to reason that you might want to challenge or change a negative rating in the future. When that time comes, you have one of two alternatives: you can ask the buyer to alter it, or you can relay your contention directly to eBay.
Moreover, eBay employs a star system, where they assign a star next to your name. Depending on your feedback score, your star can vary from a simple yellow star, which indicates that your feedback score is somewhere in between 10 to 49, all the way to a silver shooting star, which indicates that your feedback score exceeds one million.
Along with the original feedback and rating, a buyer can leave you a detailed seller rating that goes more in depth and analyzes your services based on the following four criteria: accuracy of description, seller’s communication, speed of shipping, and shipping and handling charges. Each criterion is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.
Once you’ve managed to build a healthy online reputation, you should strive to become a top rated seller. A top rated seller is a category of sellers that enjoys unique benefits, like a 10% discount on final value fees, plus a seal that is displayed next to the seller’s name. For you to qualify for being a top-rated seller, you need the following:
- Your account needs to have been working for more than 90 days.
- You need to meet a minimum set of requirements when it comes to sales. You must have made at least 100 transactions and 1000$ with US buyers throughout an entire year.
- On 90% of your transactions or more, you need to upload on eBay a valid shipment tracking, and you need to do this within your promised handling time.
- Your transaction defect rate has to be kept at a maximum of 2%. The transaction defect rate represents the amount of transactions that were problematic and were not resolved.
After becoming a top rated seller, you can aim for top rated plus status through offering a return policy that is 30 days or longer. Should you ever qualify for a top rated seller status, only to fall beneath the requirements after that, eBay will offer you a grace period to get your numbers back up.
To conclude, we’ve looked in this chapter at what makes good customer service plus what kind of feedback and ratings result from that. Having gained a solid understanding of how to run an eBay business and succeed as a seller, we are now approaching the end of our journey. The next stop for us is to explore how we can market an eBay business.
Chapter 8: Promoting Your eBay Business
We’ve spent the past seven chapters mainly focusing on how you can run the day to day operations pertaining to an online business: we’ve looked at what makes a good seller, how you can offer world class customer service, how to find that perfect supplier, and many other things. By now, you should have a well-established business that is ready to take off the ground; the only thing left for you to do is to let people know that you exist, which is where marketing comes in.
Marketing your business is an integral part of building your online presence: unless people are aware of your offerings and know how to find you, your products will remain firmly on your shelf gathering dust, regardless of how awesome your store is. This is true of any business, not just yours. As a result, companies devote millions of dollars to grab their customers’ attention: actually, the average is usually somewhere between 3-10% of a company’s annual revenue.
Your business will be no different; you will have to direct a significant portion of your earnings and effort towards promoting yourself. As a matter of fact, the amount of money and time you pour into your marketing will dictate the best strategy for you to adopt.
As a rule of thumb, marketing is divided into two main aspects: online marketing and offline marketing. Let’s take a look at each one individually.
Seeing as this entire guide is about starting an online store, you would be justified in thinking that online marketing will play a major role in your overall strategy. Let us see what that entails.
Building a Website
Starting an eBay store shouldn’t preclude you from starting your own website as well. A website that is linked to your eBay store can greatly increase your reach and enhance your brand. To understand why this is the case, you need to consider what advantages a website might offer you.
To start with, a website for your business is the perfect platform for all your future content marketing plans, offering the ideal exhibition space for all your blog posts. Over and above, a website gives you much more online exposure than a store alone ever could. For example, any Google search that is related to your product will yield your online store as well as your website, especially if you deal in unique products.
Now that you’re sold on the importance of building a website, here are a few tips and pointers for you to follow:
- Building a website is a relatively simple and straightforward process, and there are countless tutorials online to make the whole experience as fruitful as possible.
- The most important aspect of your website is the design. Navigating through your website should be a seamless and enjoyable experience, like navigating through your eBay store. To make this happen, don’t cram too much information in one place, use plenty of photos, and don’t be afraid of using your white spaces.
- You need to make sure that your website is mobile accessible. In 2013, it was found that 55% of people buying things online were doing do through their mobile devices.
- When it comes to the content of your website, try to steer away from material that might come across as too promotional. The interest is already there; all you have to do is to cultivate it. Give your customers the kind of information that would put their mind at ease.
- In order to make your site more visible, you will need to work on SEO. You can either hire an expert to do it for you or do it yourself. Regardless, make sure that your website is easy to find.
Creating Quality Content
If this entire chapter could be summarized in one sentence, it would be that good relevant content sells. People want to read something both educational and fun, but the internet is swarming with repetitive and spammy dribble. Therefore, an original piece that is of high quality has a good chance of spreading through the internet like wildfire.
This, in turn, will allow you to build several high quality links, which means you will be able to create plenty of alternative paths for your customers to find you. For example, should a customer be looking for a good post that compares two different types of cameras, they can find an extremely helpful, informative blog post that tells them everything they want to know in your website.
After finishing the post, the customer will probably explore your website to see what other types of cameras are out there. Additionally, you can take this customer’s information by having him subscribe to your e-mail list. Or, using cookies, you can keep track of what this customer visits in your website and target them accordingly. The possibilities are endless.
So what kind of content should you write? Write about your products. Try to answer frequently asked questions that are related to your products. Interview experts or influencers in a field that is related to your products. Basically, write about anything that would interest your customers while promoting your store.
As for where you can publish your writings besides your website, you can write on other people’s blogs, which is known as guest blogging. Conversely, you could have someone of interest guest blog on your website. What matters isn’t that you write in this blog or that one, but that all your posts link back to your store and website.
It is worth pointing out that your content doesn’t have to be exclusively written material. You should explore making videos, and, if you are willing to spend some money, you could dabble in infographics. People’s proclivity for preferring visual over written material could make an infographic video seem like a worthwhile investment.
In the previous chapter, we stressed that the importance of customer service lay in retaining current customers. Similarly, an e-mail marketing strategy leverages your database of all your previous clients along with any potential ones whose email address happens to be in your possession. Armed with all these contacts, you will find yourself with a wide pool of buyers who will be interested in your new deals and offers.
Interestingly, a poll found that up to 60% of marketers believed that e-mail marketing is beneficial for their business: According to these marketers, if this benefit were to be translated into an ROI, it could reach 119%.
You should bear in mind that your ability to carry out an e-mail marketing campaign through eBay is somewhat limited by your subscription package. A Basic Store package allows you to send up to 5,000 emails per month for no charge, while the Anchor Store gives its owner the right to send 10,000 emails every month for free. However, upon reaching these limits, you, the owner, will be charged an extra 0.01$ per email.
With the prominence that social media plays in all our lives, it comes as no surprise that you need to pay special attention to the invaluable opportunities social media offers.
The first thing you need to do is to sign your business up on as many social networks as possible: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Reddit. Each social network offers unique ways for you to interact with your customer base, which means that you have to tailor your messages to each platform.
So, when it comes to Facebook, you’re better off starting a page for your business that can be used to notify your customer base of any interesting developments. Twitter, on the other hand, allows you to have brief but meaningful interactions with the same customer base. LinkedIn can be a perfect platform to find potential partners for your business (more on this later). In addition, Facebook, twitter, and Google all have eBay social media accounts. You stand to gain a lot by joining these accounts.
Generally speaking, when interacting online, you want to engage your customer base as well as promote your business to them. Having said that, you do not want to focus too hard on the promotion aspect but neglect the engagement part: you will come across as spammy and desperate for attention, which is the fastest way towards losing your customer’s attention.
Speaking of customer’s attention, let’s look at a few tips that can help you be relevant in the fast paced world of social media:
- A good rule of thumb to follow is the one in seven rule. Simply stated, for every post that blatantly promotes your business, you should post six others that are informative and of high quality. Ergo, out of every seven posts, six truly captivate your audience.
- When conversing with your customers, try to get them talking by asking open ended questions. The more your customers talk, the more insight you gain and the more buzz is created around your brand.
- It goes without saying that any post you write should link to your site and store.
- Human beings are visual creatures. Therefore, you should insert as many relevant pictures as possible.
- Orchestrating competitions and prizes is an excellent way for you to stir excitement for your store.
- Try to put your product in the hands of influencers. This will definitely let other customers take notice of you, especially if the influencer in question begins singing your praises.
- Do not rely on one size fits all messages. This cannot be stressed enough.
eBay Cross Promotion
Cross promoting is when you offer relevant products to a client who’s bought or considered buying something from you. For example, in the event of a customer looking at a specific brand of camera, eBay will show said customer four other products that you sell and are somehow related to that type of camera: eBay could show something complementary, such as a lens, or it could display something similar to the product itself, like a different brand of camera.
Fortunately, eBay lets you decide which products are shown to which customers by allowing you to set the categories and rules. The bottom line is cross promotion helps you sell more products by letting you anticipate your customers’ needs ahead of time and try to fulfill them.
Other Types of Online Promotion
There are so many other online tools to choose from. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them:
- There are several business forums worth joining. They can be a great resource so long as you don’t overwhelm the forum with spam. Otherwise, you will be ostracized.
- Although this guide is devoted to starting an eBay business, there are several other online platforms that can be used to sell products. Other popular platforms are Shopify and Cartel. You might want to consider using them.
- Working with an affiliate partner is usually a good idea for most businesses. In a nutshell, an affiliate partner is someone who aids you in selling your product in return for a commission. Finding the right one can boost your sales considerably.
- Google offers plenty of services for online vendors. You should try your hand at something like Ad-words to better get a feel for what can be done. Google also offers pay per click advertising, which can be very profitable if you are aware of your conversion rates.
- A different side of marketing involves collecting information from your customers instead of feeding it to them. Consequently, you need to always be aware of the analytics and statistics related to your store; Google offers several tools that can prove instrumental in gathering that information. Furthermore, in case you want more information than your statistics provide, you can always perform a survey. Just make sure to give your customers an incentive to take it.
- Assuming that you sell high quality goods, you should add a link in both your website and your store to a review site that critiques your product. Ideally, the review site will speak positively about your product, which will encourage other potential buyers.
- Aside from having your website rank high on Google search, you want your products themselves to rank high on comparison shopping engines, like Google shopping and Nextag. This can be achieved by focusing on your pricing, being patient, and abiding by the rules of each engine.
- Another interesting option to investigate is using a banner ad exchange. In simple terms, a banner ad exchange is putting up your ads in someone else’s website, and, in return, they get to put their ads up in your site.
- Check out daily deal websites, like Groupon. They might come in handy.
Despite the immense importance of online marketing, you should plan to invest resources in offline marketing as well: it can be a very powerful tool if wielded correctly. This explains why up to 69% of e-commerce websites invest in offline marketing, which has the potential to be more personal and intimate than online marketing, particularly when done right. Accordingly, here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
- First thing’s first: get yourself some business cards and personal stationery, including envelopes with your logo and website on them. Once you have these items, give them out liberally. In fact, you should get creative and leave your business cards where your potential customers can find them.
- Press releases are the offline versions of blogs. Thus, anything you want published must be newsworthy, or else no publication will run it.
- Along with publications (which encompasses newspapers and magazines), you can advertise your business through the radio, TV, or old-fashioned billboards. If you’re looking for something a bit more hip and effective than billboards, you should consider using vehicles. Mobile billboards were found to have a 97% recall rate, which is quite impressive. Over and above, the majority of individuals believe that mobile advertising is more efficacious than more orthodox outdoor ads.
- It’s always a good idea to give away promotional items so long as those items have your logo on them. They will act as a constant reminder of your brand.
- Regardless of whether you run an online business or a brick and mortar shop, networking offline with other business owners is a winning decision. You’re bound to come across other businesses that can be excellent allies. And who knows, you could start your own cartel.
- Given that people are being overloaded with information day in day out, marketers have had to come up with inventive ways of reaching their customers and grabbing their attention. Enter guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing is all about the non-conventional and surprising.
- Most important of all, word of mouth marketing is indispensable, be it online or offline. People are more likely to buy a product based on a recommendation from a friend or family member than from any other source. The other side of the coin is that your customers will always share their experiences with your products. The added caveat here is that a bad experience will be shared more than three times than a good one.
To conclude, this chapter looked at marketing from both an online and an offline perspective. Naturally, all the tools covered above are much more effective when they work together. This can only be accomplished if you have a clear vision and marketing strategy that guides your decisions. A big part of this vision is to be able to discern how everything ties to everything else: how each blog post affects your website, which affects your store, which affects your social media, and so on.
Chapter 9: General Tips for Success
This is it: we’ve made it almost through the entire guide. We’ve looked at what it takes to start and run an eBay business. With the explicit objective of making sure that you thrive online, we’ve discussed the broad strokes and looked at the nitty-gritty of online stores. Nevertheless, there’s always more to learn; it’s easy to run into countless issues for which you need to be prepared. As a result, let’s explore a few problems you could encounter as well as the solutions to said problems.
Shipping and Delivery Issues
The importance of perfecting the packaging and shipping process cannot be overstated: A mistake will cost you money along with potentially harming your rating. Therefore, you need to be ready for any and all complications that may arise. Additionally, your ability to solve these complications fluently will prove invaluable.
Bearing all that in mind, let’s review a couple of pointers to keep in mind. To begin with, you need to be very diligent with your packing. You need to remember that if the product gets damaged en route to your customer, it is your fault, and you’re liable. So, do everything in your power to preserve your product and to keep it safe. Another thing you should strive for is to keep track of the product as it is being shipped. So long as you know where the product is, you will be able to put your customer at ease should the product be late to arrive.
Despite your best efforts, you are bound to hit a snag or two: a broken product here or late shipment there. When that happens, your preparations will be your best friend. Also, you have to keep communicating with your customer to make them know that their money is safe and their interests are protected.
Handling Livid Customers
Another aspect we’ve devoted an entire chapter to was customer service. Unfortunately, regardless of your best efforts, you will inevitably come across a few angry customers. Your customer’s sense of dissatisfaction may stem from a mistake you made or from some other force outside of your control. In either case, your rating is at stake, which is why you need to get a handle on the problem as quickly as possible:
- It goes without saying that you have to offer your customer a sincere apology, especially if you’re the one at fault.
- During the entire interaction with your customer, be courteous and patient. Remember that you have more to lose than your customer does in the event that things turn sour.
- Building off of the last point, refrain from getting into a scuffle or verbal argument with your customer, no matter how much you want to or how much you think your customer deserves to be told off. Just be the better person. In case you feel that a particular customer has been particularly horrid, you can report them to eBay. Moreover, you can block them altogether. Additionally, bad customers usually show the world their true colors sooner or later.
- An excellent way to placate a dissatisfied customer is to offer them some sort of compensation; giving them a gift or token of appreciation for their understanding and patience can go a long way.
- No matter what you do, be sure to always keep the communication lines open between you and your customer. When you send your customers a replacement product instead of the one that got lost in shipping, take the time to get in touch with your customer and to make sure that everything went by without a hitch this time around. Your customers will be grateful for your exquisite care.
Pay Attention to Online Security
Seeing as your business will be carried out through the internet, maintaining your online security is like installing a large steel door to protect your store from thieves and criminals. Consequently, let’s look at what you can do to make that door as sturdy as possible:
- Your password strength can make all the difference between an account that can be hacked in less than a minute and an account that would require several consecutive lifetimes to break into. Accordingly, you should aim for a long password with letters, number, and symbols. Furthermore, if you have several different accounts, use a different password for each account. Otherwise, losing one account will be tantamount to losing all your accounts.
- While answering security questions, try getting creative. For example, instead of supplying your actual childhood pet’s name, write down your favorite childhood toy or film. Bottom line, you don’t have to answer the question directly.
- Have an email account that is specifically designated for recovering lost passwords. This can help you manage your accounts.
- Change your passwords every once in a while, especially for your recovery email.
- Work only on secure internet connections, and if you’re using a public internet connection, then don’t access anything you don’t want breached. As for your home Wi-Fi, be sure to protect it with a password.
- In addition to this, keep delicate information to yourself and don’t share it over an unsecured connection.
- Steer away from unfamiliar links or any links that you don’t know where they came from. They could easily contain malicious software or viruses.
- Speaking of protecting your computer from viruses, maintain anti-virus software that is always up-to-date.
- Worst case scenario is a virus hits your computer and you lose all your data. When that happens, you’ll be glad to have backed up all the important information on your computer.
It’s not enough that you make a few sales every month; you need to keep analyzing your results and improving on your performance. So, let’s discuss how you can optimize your store.
Your “My eBay” provides you with a seller dashboard, which aids you in keeping an eye on your progress. The seller dashboard displays your current status as well as what’s trending. Also, it supplies you with alerts and notifications when you need them. Over and above, it gives you access to advice and to coaching that is tailored for you and your business. Apart from the seller dashboard, eBay gives you access to a sales report, which has important data that helps you monitor your performance and comprehend your business.
Additionally, there are several tools at your disposal to always be aware of the fair market price of your products. On the one hand, you can use a website like Terapeak, which can also help you keep an eye on the competition, locate the optimal group of keywords and titles, and appreciate the seasonal demand for your product. On the other hand, using eBay advanced search can give you an idea of how different products have performed on eBay.
Along with the tools provided by eBay, you can come with your own tools to track your progress and monitor your business. The simplest case in point would be for you to use an excel sheet to document all your listings and sales. Your excel sheet can be an excellent place to do some basic accounting, write down your costs, figure out your margins, and see how long your business cycle is.
Tips and Tricks to Increase Your Sales
Finally, let’s revisit some of the tips given throughout this guide to help you dominate on eBay:
- Your business starts with your products; great products with excellent quality translate to high demand with phenomenal margins.
- When it comes to photos, don’t cut any corners. Use good photos that represent the product. Moreover, never use stock photos unless you’re selling brand new products. You have to manage your customers’ expectations, and that starts with your photos.
- Be patient and amicable with your customers. Remember that top notch customer service is a necessity if you want to have a stellar reputation.
- Don’t be afraid of using the occasional gift or reward to entice your customers into dealing with you again.
- Don’t forget that a large portion of your customers will be buying from you using their mobile phones. In fact, during 2013, people tended to shop more through their mobile phones than through their desktops, while, in 2016, 57 % of all purchases through eBay were touched at one point or another by a mobile phone. Consequently, you should optimize your store for mobile users. You can start doing that by revising your font specifications plus ensuring that your item description elements scale well, regardless of the device size. Another thing you can do is to speed up the load times of your listings.
- Market your business, and make sure that you’re always extending your reach as wide as possible.
- This guide may have been the beginning for you, but you will always find more space to grow and learn. So, never stop looking for resources to expand your horizons and evolve as a seller.
To conclude, we’ve looked through several topics that may prove problematic for you down the line. We’ve reexamined the importance of your packaging and shipping process, after which we focused on how to deal with angry customers. Subsequently, we discussed how to amp up your online security and how to analyze your sales results. In the end, we took one more look at some of the important pointers sprinkled throughout this guide.
Having said all that, the most important piece of advice I can offer you is this:
Once you’ve been selling for a while and have learnt the business, figure out whether you enjoy working as an eBay seller and how willing you are to commit to this business full time. You need to remember that this business has its highs and its lows, and you need to be prepared for both. If you find out that this is your passion and that you enjoy the whole thing, then jump with both feet and don’t look back. You’ll come across plenty of hurdles, but, with the right attitude, you can easily run over them.
Throughout this guide, we have discussed several different aspects of starting an online business. However, if you were to only take away a few things from this guide, then perhaps these pointers can be of service:
- eBay is a big site, and no amount of instructions can replace the importance of you navigating the site on your own and experimenting with the different options it offers.
- Before starting to sell, you should start out as a buyer. This kills two birds with one stone: on the one hand, you get to experience first-hand what your customers will go through. On the other hand, you build some positive feedback that can prove helpful when you decide to start selling.
- When choosing what to sell, there are two main criteria you should look out for: you need something that you are passionate about selling and that has plenty of demand. This is where market research is of paramount importance.
- One of the most important activities you will perform is developing a meticulous business plan. It will prove instrumental when moving forward, and should you decide to approach an outside investor, your business plan will be the first thing said investor asks for.
- A big part of your business plan is figuring out the legal structure for your business; usually start-ups tend to opt for an LLC structure, due to its limited liability along with its tax benefits.
- When choosing a supplier, the main criteria you want to be looking out for are the price of the supplier, the quality of their products, their reputation, and the level of their customer service.
- Once you begin selling, there are numerous aspects you will learn on the job. Naturally, there are plenty of guidelines about how to post a listing or to upload a photo. Yet, there will always be subtle details you have to figure out for yourself. Nevertheless, this does not absolve you from not learning the broad strokes of the business.
- eBay is a market place, and, like any market place, reputation plays a big factor in the performance of each individual seller. Consequently, you need to do everything in your power to keep your rating as high as possible; buyers may not approach a seller with a rating less than stellar.
- When it comes to marketing your business, content is king. Don’t come across as too spammy or too self-serving, but rather try to take part in online conversations and focus on educating your customer.
An online business can be a worthwhile investment if you put the prerequisite effort and thought into it. It can be a second source of income or a full-time job that replaces your 9-to-5 grind, depending on how far you want to take it. The internet is riddled with success stories of people who have flourished on eBay. And all of this takes place from the comfort of your own home, wherever that may be.
Interestingly, it is reported that Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, used to run eBay as a hobby in the beginning. It was only after Pierre’s internet service provider informed him that he would have to transfer to a business account, thanks to the large volume of traffic hitting his site, that he decided to take things more seriously. Today, eBay is one of the biggest retailers in the world.
In the end, the only thing left to be done is for you to go out there and try. Granted, you will run into several obstacles along the way, but you will also learn how to overcome them. So long as you are willing to commit to your business and to have a little heart, you will be just fine.