Although we're facing a hectic holiday season, it's not too soon for sellers to be planning for 2007. As a matter of fact, as an experienced seller, you should all have your first-quarter business plan ready to go now. And while you probably feel you have your business under control, you should be prepared for plenty of unseen variables. Here are a few thoughts as to what you may see change in the marketplace and how you can make the most of your eBay listings over the coming year.
Expect Cost Increases
Sellers always seem to be caught unaware when eBay or PayPal changes a policy or when they (dare I even breathe the thought?) raise their fees. Like the changing of the weather, increased fees, in some form or another, should always be expected. Realize that it's not because eBay's a big bad company that wants to pilfer from our pockets, but they're constantly attempting to improve the site to make it the ultimate marketplace for online shoppers, and they need to cover their costs.
UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service also tend to raise their fees each year, plan to add that cost to your shipping fees. Last year the Postal Service increased the flat rate and one-pound priority rate to $4.05, bringing the amount we charge buyers for small-item shipping close to $5. Next year, you may have to exceed the $5 price point.
Market With Charity Listings
eBay Giving Works (through MissionFish) has raised more than $34 million for nonprofits to date. Many sellers have found that by participating in this program and contributing a portion of their sales to a charity, they've increased their bids and final sale prices. This marketing model makes a lot of sense based on my customer service theory: By donating to a charity, you build an image of being a caring business on eBay rather than just another seller. Remember these facts:
- Listings stand out with a Giving Works ribbon icon.
- Your chosen nonprofit's mission statement is on every listing that benefits them.
- Each donation is tax-deductible (MissionFish provides the receipt for you).
- The eBay fee credit policy rewards your generosity.
Increase Seller-Buyer Communication
If you've been listing items for the holidays, you might notice a new option on the sell-your-item form: You have the opportunity to include a Skype link in your listings. Skype is eBay's web communication arm. By using it, your buyers can either call you by using a microphone and their computer speakers or open a chat window to ask you questions. Although many sellers feel that communication with customers is a bother, by answering questions quickly, your sales will go up. Again, here's the theme of increased customer satisfaction in 2007.
Be a Savvy Merchandiser
I hear it all the time: "Oh woe is me! None of my items are selling anymore. eBay has ruined the market," or "The economy's down so no one's buying." Yep, it's the American way--blame everyone else for the downturn. Why not look to yourself?
Just recently, I was looking for a cowboy-style Christmas stocking on the site, and I found close to 100 different listings for the very same item. The pricing wasn't very different (but the shipping charges were), and the sellers were all clearly buying from the same source. Is this a vibrant marketplace? Did the sellers do their homework before buying this item to sell?
Before buying deep into an inventory item, do a little research. Check out the eBay site and see if the item is already listed. In a couple of days, check it again. Has the number of listings increased? Did anyone buy the item? Choose your items selectively. It's a very competitive market.
Many eBay sellers pooh-pooh the collectible arena and have stopped selling these one-of-a-kind items. But collectibles are the heart and soul of eBay--it's the primary online marketplace where shoppers can look to find a plethora of unique and vintage items. No local antiques or collectibles store can possibly carry the wide variety of items that buyers can find on eBay. If you can find unique items, this is the place to sell them.
Expand Business Overseas
Are you selling your products worldwide? You might consider it if you knew that eBay has more than 212 million registered users across the globe. Considering that there's a huge audience for Americana worldwide, you can easily find desirable items to build your sales. Visit outlet malls for current fashion, toys and home décor items. Just think: If you're a U.S. expatriate living in Germany, the only way you'll be able to buy your favorite products at a reasonable price is from an eBay seller. And foreign nationals also crave many of the items we take for granted.
Sell (or at Least Link) From Your Own Website
Do you have enough time and know-how to start your own e-commerce site? The most successful eBay sellers sell merchandise from independent websites. Your business can grow a good 30 to 40 percent by the simple addition of a website.
If a full-blown e-commerce site seems too much for you just now, install an eBay editor kit on your free ISP page. When people click on your store items and follow through with a purchase, you'll get a 75 percent store referral discount on your final value fees for bringing a buyer to eBay. Learn more about the tools eBay offers to promote your listings here.