Want to succeed on eBay? Why not … it’s an enormous marketplace that gives you the opportunity to sell your products just about anywhere in the world. But, nothing is as easy it seems. Being successful on eBay takes skill, time, hard work, and an entrepreneurial drive. Many people have found a livelihood here, and have learned a few things on the way. Here is what I learned from a handful of successful eBay merchants.
1) Explore different channels
“I would say less than 15 percent of our sales are on our eBay executed sales,” says O.J. Whatley, the CEO and founder of watchuwant.com, a reseller of luxury watches. “We think it’s important to diversify.” Whatley sells his products on his website and through at least a half dozen other outlets. The internet is a big place. To get your products out to the widest audience possible you need to use different channels. Many successful online merchants at eBay also sell their products on their own websites. They use Amazon. They explore Alibaba. Each of these channels requires resources — time and money — to be successful so you must be careful where you choose. But it’s important to use at least more than one channel to sell your products – if not just to expand your reach but also to diversify in case anything goes south or relations sour with one outlet.
2) Be careful about postage
When you sell something, it needs to be shipped, and someone needs to pay for shipping. Sellers new to eBay sometimes forget to figure in the cost of postage, particularly when the item is headed to an international destination. Forgetting this means that the profit you thought you were going to earn quickly turns into a loss. Many eBay merchants are offering “free” shipping on items to meet customer expectations in an ecommerce world ruled by Amazon. Justin Dube, a top-rated eBay merchant who sells motorcycle and car parts worldwide, learned this. He’s had a huge success selling auto parts from his eBay site and free shipping is an important part of his service. “I take care of all my shipping through eBay Labels whenever I can,” he said on an eBay blog. “One, I don’t have to upload any tracking information; it’s already done for me. And two, the rates I get for FedEx and USPS shipping through eBay Labels are cheaper than any I’ve found anywhere else.” Of course, it is not free – but if these kinds of incentives are what’s needed to make the sale, then you’ve got to consider it. Just make sure you’re covering this expense in your selling price.
3) Collect data for outbound marketing
Any savvy marketer will tell you that the cost acquiring a new customer is multiple times the cost of selling to an existing customer. I’ve bought hundreds of items from eBay over the years and rarely do I hear back from the seller. Why is this? I’m a happy customer. I’m interested in products that the seller offers. I pay. I’m buying on eBay. I’d be interested in new deals and products or even accessories for the stuff I bought. eBay provides tools that will allow you to collect your customer data. Take this data and import it every day into a good (and affordable?) customer relationship management (CRM) application like Zoho CRM or Hubspot. Then use your CRM application to make sure your eBay customers are being “touched” with great information on a recurring basis driving them back to your eBay store. Ben Doyle, a very successful eBay merchant said that the biggest contributing factor to his success was the ability to get data and use it for follow-on marketing. “Like most people, I was guilty of just trying to make that one sale with no thought as to a ‘backend sales funnel’ to increase the amount of sales I made,” he said on Salehoo.com. “But if you want to grow your business you absolutely have to build a database of customers and subscribers. Once I started doing this, my business changed forever and grew at a rate that I could never have imagined.”
4) It’s service, service, service
When it comes to service, fishing tackle eBay reseller Paul Nieuwenhuys of Hooked Online and Sinker, gets it. “I am a very demanding and pedantic customer myself and expect exemplary service wherever, and whenever I spend my money,” he said in this blog on Small Business Big Marketing. “Be passionate, honest and have a genuine interest in meeting customer’s demands. Pick, pack, and post as advertised, offer a service unmatched by others and be prepared not to sleep. It will take time.” eBay is no different than any other channel for selling your products – the businesses that provide the best service are always the ones that profit in the long term. Make sure you’re engaged. Respond quickly. Go the extra mile. Be professional. Treat your customers with respect. We’ve all experienced the very best and the very worst of customer service in interactions we’ve had big companies. We want to be treated with respect.
5) You get out of eBay what you put into eBay
Did you notice Nieuwenhuys’ advice above about the time it will take? He’s right. To get his business to a successful level he says he spent “at least 12 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past 5 years to build not only our online presence, but researched and listed 1000’s of new items.” Sure, you can stumble on a few bucks if you sell a couple of items on eBay. And yeah, it’s a great place to go to get rid of that used furniture or an older computer. But if you really want to have a bona fide business on eBay, you’ll need to commit. You’ll invest and you’ll spend time. You’ll work many hours. You’ll obsess. You’ll work weekends and you’ll work nights.
6) You need a team
Being a successful eBay hobbyist is something you can do yourself. But having a successful eBay business is something you can’t do on your own. eBay, like any successful ecommerce platform, is complex and powerful. They provide tools, marketing assistance, and other services to help its merchants succeed. You can’t possibly keep up with all of this yourself while also running a business. You’re going to need help. Delegate. The successful eBay merchants, like Doyle, Whatley and Nieuwenhuys have all built teams. They reinvest back in their business. They put people in charge of fulfillment, marketing, inventory management, accounting, and customer service. Leaders set a course and then put the right people in the right place to carry out their plan. eBay merchants that make a lot of money do the same.
7) Use influencers and the media
Sarah Davis, the owner of Fashionfile, built her business by word of mouth. According to this piece on eBay’s blog, the seller of pre-owned luxury handbags took off when a popular online influencer in Brazil blogged about her site. Davis has also garnered media attention on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! Entertainment TV Live from the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards, and The Wall Street Journal. To cut through the noise lean on people in your industry who could be a good mouthpiece for the products you sell. Give them free stuff to try. Make a list of bloggers and writers who cover the types of products you sell and reach out to them too.
8) Don’t cut corners
A restaurant reviewer I know told me that he always checks a restaurant’s bathrooms as part of his review. The food may be delicious and the service excellent. But if the bathrooms aren’t cared for, it says a lot about the owner (and let’s not mention the health issues). This same approach applies to good eBay merchants. They don’t skimp on their site. They don’t cut corners when it comes to images. They get the very best photos made and hire designers to create great graphics. Like any business, quality can be found in the little things that the business owner does. Having professional and quality images to accompany your products is not a little thing in the world of eBay. “Photography matters, descriptions matter, details matter,” O.J. Whatley says. “I invest in the highest quality images for my site.”
Do you need to all of these things to succeed on EBay? Yes. You do. Don’t cut corners. Do it right and work it hard.