Most people start thinking about holiday shopping right around the time their Halloween candy starts to go stale. But for eBay's online retailers, that date is way too late. For a successful selling season, preparation should start at least four months in advance.
Whether they're selling gardening tools or giant TV screens, online entrepreneurs need to hit the ground running with the right inventory--and plenty of it--to grab their share of the plum pudding. Luckily, eBay provides a lot of resources, marketing support and tools to help sellers attract the attention and ongoing loyalty of holiday shoppers.
The holidays comprise a huge percentage of annual sales for the 247,000 U.S.-based eBay Store owners. According to Plunkett Research, internet sales rose dramatically in 2005, up an estimated 25 percent to $89 billion. Internet shopping was the second favorite method of holiday gift buying in 2005, coming in over department stores and electronics stores, and just under discount retailers, according to ZDNet Research.
"Do you know anyone in retail who doesn't attain a good deal of their revenue during the holiday season?" asks Jay Ratz, owner of J&D's Internet Railroad (eBay User ID: internetrailroad) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The 53 year old seller of model and die-cast collectible trains and railroad systems has operated a Featured eBay Store for two years and anticipates 2006 sales of $325,000.
With so many shoppers expected to head to eBay to browse for gift ideas and take advantage of the site's shopping convenience, you've got to start now to make sure you're ready for them. Whether you casually run individual listings or have a larger presence with an eBay Store, there are plenty of ways to ensure this holiday season is successful.
Though there's no magic formula for discovering the perfect holiday product, your best bet is to understand the basics of selling on eBay and then add your own unique product knowledge, interests and abilities. "If it's something you're really passionate or knowledgeable about, that's a great place to start," says Darlene Clementz, senior marketing manager for eBay Stores.
Debbie Mitchell, owner of I Luv Fragrance Online Scent Store (eBay User ID: iluvfragrance) in Grand Prairie, Texas, honed her business for three years as a brick-and-mortar shop owner before opening an eBay Store. Initially, scented candles made up a big part of her $5,000 per-month business; today, perfume and bath and body products are taking off. "The home fragrance market is saturated," Mitchell, 46, explains. She expects perfume oil and hair fragrances to be big sellers this holiday season, as they were last year.
Mitchell also keeps a close eye on the designer fragrances introduced in the major stores and notes which ones do best. Then she offers her own renditions of them, calling them a "style" of the famous name. These items do very well for her during the holidays.
"When I had a retail store, I was killing myself because I had to have the whole store stocked," Mitchell says. "Now I make products as I get orders, and everything is pure and fresh." This strategy is especially helpful during the busy holiday season--not only can she prevent overstocks, but she can also ship top-quality products that leave a lasting positive impression on gift-giving customers.
Of course, when an eBay shopper stumbles on one of your products for sale, chances are they'd like an easy way to see more of what you have--and an eBay Store is a great way to do just that. According to eBay's research, 75 percent of eBay Store sellers say that opening a Store increased their business. According to Clementz, "Sellers who are not opening a Store are putting themselves at a disadvantage."
That's because Store owners receive access to the Store Inventory listing format, which has lower Insertion Fees, promotional tools to drive repeat purchases, and custom-ization features to create your own unique storefront design. Jimmy Jin, owner of Enchantment 4 All (eBay User ID: enchantment4all) in Richmond, British Columbia, says that moving from a Basic to a Featured eBay Store during the last holiday season increased business by as much as 20 percent. He also invested in subtitles for some of his bestselling products, which include fine scarves, wraps, beaded purses and accessories. "It's a great way to make your product stand out from the competition," says Jin, 35, who hopes to increase his sales from $120,000 in 2005 to about $150,000 in 2006.
For entrepreneur Jack Rosen, the holidays are all about careful strategies of setting the right price points and providing customer service. The 46-year-old owner of CJR Fine Arts (eBay User ID: cjrent) in Wellington, Florida, makes sure he has plenty of the discounted fine art pieces he sells for holiday buyers. Between his eBay Store and his own website, Rosen sells about $1.2 million worth of the $100 to $200 pieces each year. During the holidays, though, he makes it a point to sell only what he has in stock instead of relying on drop-shipping from third-party vendors. Says Rosen, "I know that I can sell and deliver."
ProStores web store owners have the added capability of reaching holiday shoppers with a stand-alone web-site that integrates seamlessly with their existing eBay Store and listings. As a Pro-Stores owner, you can even transfer an existing domain name to the ProStores platform so that last year's customers will be able to find your Store easily.
To help drive holiday shoppers to your site, consider using ProStores' Traffic Generation service. A marketing consultant will analyze your website and create custom text ads that will be placed on targeted online search engines on a pay-per-click basis. A basic traffic generation setup (with a $100 setup fee and a $100 monthly subscription fee) guarantees at least 10,000 impressions or that 50 new customers will enter your ProStores web store, or the next month of service is free.