Posted: 11th May 2015
eBay? Isn’t that the site people use to clear out their attics?
Well, yes, it is, but there are also many serious businesses which are making good money using eBay as their main, or a significant, outlet for their goods. It is also a fantastic way of ‘testing the water’ – selling a few of your products to judge how well they sell, and how to price them, before investing hundreds or thousands of pounds in your own e-commerce website.
This article contains some useful tips for selling on eBay, including helpful tips from your fellow WiRE members.
Before you start selling on eBay, it’s a good idea to experience the other side of the coin – as a buyer.
It’s also a good idea to start out selling a few items of your own unwanted property, before using the site to sell for your business. This way you will get some great experience, and you will also get ‘feedback’ from your buyers. Feedback is a key part of selling on eBay – when somebody buys from you, they leave you a rating based on your customer service, the speed of the transaction and delivery, and so on. Negative feedback can make it much more difficult to sell in future, whereas positive feedback can make people more likely to buy from you. By getting some positive feedback from selling some stuff from your attic, you are building up a track record which will help you later on.
Generally speaking, the items that make the most money on eBay are those which have a fairly high value, but are easy to post.
Check out the categories where you would list your products, and keep a close eye on them over a period of time to get a feel for what sells, what doesn’t, and what the average sale price is for similar items.
Look at how the successful ads are worded, and how the day of the week affects the final sale price, for example. Of course, you could learn all of this by jumping in feet first and learning as you go along, but by preparing well in advance, you could save yourself a lot of money!
“My research showed me that successful sellers in my product area list 100 items and often only sell about 20% of the items listed.”
Suzanne Walker, SDW Gemstone Jewellery
It’s vital to list your items in the right place. To find the right category, perform some searches for similar items, and see where they are listed.
It’s important to use words in your title that buyers will actually be searching for – not, for example, “Look!!!” “Fantastic” and so on. If your item is branded, mention the brand name. Think carefully about the various words people might search for and be sure to include them. Try looking at the ads which have attracted the highest bids in the past, and see what titles they used.
Include as much information as you possibly can about the product. Try to anticipate what questions people might ask about it, and answer them in advance by covering that information in your description.
Make sure you specify who will pay for postage – you or the buyer – and say
whether you are willing to send items abroad. Also, mention the geographical location of the item.
“When specifying the cost of postage, make sure you check this out properly before placing your listing. I once bought an item from eBay which cost the seller more to post than he got from the sale price – so he actually made a loss on the transaction.”
Helen Culshaw, Ascendancy Internet Marketing
Good photography can really help to sell your product. After all, would you buy something that you haven’t had a good look at?
Try to photograph your item on a plain background – busy backgrounds only cause distraction. Make sure your picture is well lit, and that you can clearly see the condition of the item.
If your item is damaged in any way, include a photograph which clearly shows the damage, so that your buyer knows exactly what they are getting.
“As well as an image, always give a good description of the item. Include dimensions and colours. Someone once bought a cream lamp from me, thinking, from the picture, that it was lilac!”
Pen Harrison, Colly Brook Fine Furnishings
You have a number of other options to choose when setting up your eBay listing – you have a choice of duration (1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days), you can choose your starting price (this has an impact on eBay’s charges, so choose wisely), you can set a reserve price (for more expensive items only, and this also attracts additional charges), and you can make your listing stand out from the crowd in various different ways. Experiment as you go along with the various different options and work out what works best in your own particular market.
You can also choose whether to go for the traditional auction-style selling, or to fix your price with eBay’s “Buy it now” option.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of good customer service. As mentioned above, you need to get a good track record of feedback from your buyers. Communicate clearly with your buyer when arranging postage and payment, pack up your items well so that they don’t get damaged in the post, and send them off promptly. You should also leave feedback about your buyer – if they are a good buyer, you will want to thank them. If you have had problems, you will want to warn other sellers.
“I always post items first class on the day payment clears and always obtain a certificate of posting – just in case! Higher value items I send Recorded or Special Delivery-the Royal Mail website has detailed price lists for calculating costs.”
Suzanne Walker, SDW Gemstone Jewellery
You may be able to sell your items on eBay, but will you make a profit from them? You need to take into account eBay’s fees (there is a fee for listing your item and a fee based on the final sale value of the item), the cost of the goods themselves, postage and packaging costs, PayPal transaction fees, general office expenses and refund expenses, and, of course, your time.
By keeping good records of your past eBay sales, and the costs associated with them, you should be able to make sure that you are getting a good return on your investment.
eBay suggest listing items for low starting prices to encourage bidding but in my experience people wait until the last minute to bid and I have ended up selling items for less than cost when I have done this!! I now always list auction items with a starting price set at the minimum I am prepared to accept. You can re-list an unsold item for free as long as it sells the second time.”
Suzanne Walker, SDW Gemstone Jewellery
People sometimes tend to think that eBay is just for selling products. However, the site can be useful for selling services too. WiRE member Karen Thorne does just that for her B&B business, and has kindly provided the following tips:
“I sell nights at my B&B on eBay at certain times of the year when the B&B is a bit quieter. It’s a great way of filling rooms that would otherwise stand empty.
It’s also a great way of getting money up front if you’re having a cashflow problem. So for example, if they bid for a weekend in August in March, I’ll get the money there and then rather than waiting till March.
I’ve experimented with selling different types of package, e.g. a night at any time or 2 nights B&B mid week, to see what works best for me.
I produce an advert which reflects the style and content of my website and has a link through to my site. This looks very professional and gives people more confidence in what they’re buying.
You need to be very specific, when you’re selling a service, that all the terms and conditions are clearly set out in the advert. For example, if you’re willing to sell extra nights at the same price as the winning bid, is there a maximum number of nights? Will you accept eBay winners on Bank Holiday weekends, or in High Season?
All my other marketing targets people who have already decided to come to Shropshire for the weekend, whereas on eBay I’m able to attract people who have just decided they want a short break but haven’t decided where.
People come onto eBay looking for a bargain, so when selling a service like mine you’re most likely to make a loss on your regular price. However, what it does do is significantly increase traffic to your website. I really see it as a marketing tool. One eBay guest paid £10 a night less than I normally charge, but they had 2 meals, have already returned (at full price) and have sent 4 of their friends to stay here!
I only advertise my B&B infrequently on eBay. I noticed that when I started to advertise more frequently, the value of the average bid went down and some nights didn’t sell at all. I think you need to be a bit careful when you’re selling a service like mine not to advertise too much.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on what other people selling a similar product are doing. How often do they advertise, how much are they selling for, are they being more successful than you? You can learn a lot from other people and improve the way you’re selling.
When you’re selling a service, packages seem much more popular. So rather than just selling a night’s B&B, you could offer 2 nights B&B with dinner and a bottle of champagne.
Make use of second chance offers. This is where you can offer whatever you’re selling to unsuccessful bidders.”
Karen Thorne, Hopton House
If eBay is working well for your business, you may want to consider having your own “eBay Shop”. The advantages of this are many – firstly, you effectively get your own ecommerce website at a very low price.
This makes you look more professional and credible as a seller. You may find that it is actually cheaper to have your own shop than to list items individually in the standard listings, and there are a number of tools provided which make it easier to manage your listings.