This article has been excerpted from Expand Your Business Using eBay, available from Entrepreneur Press.
An eBay Store is a great addition to your selling arsenal. A store will provide you with a space within eBay's huge ecosphere where your prices are fixed, customization is easy and your competition isn't invited. Don't think of your eBay Store solely as your business's niche from which you serve eBay's existing traffic. Think of your store as a doorway into the eBay universe.
eBay's established traffic is huge, but it still pales in comparison to the larger shopping population of the internet. Your auctions and fixed-price listings are confined to catering to the shoppers already on eBay, but your store has the potential to reach out beyond eBay's borders and pull in new buyers. When you design your store, don't limit yourself to eBay by considering only the needs and expectations of eBay shoppers. Instead, plan to appeal to a much larger audience--the whole internet shopping population.
An eBay Store will provide you with many benefits. Not only will it increase your professional appearance and credibility on eBay, it will also make the more advanced marketing strategies possible.
Store items have fixed prices. This provides you with two main benefits. First, you can guarantee the profitability of every sale--something that can be tricky with auctions. And shoppers have more customary price expectations once they enter a seller's eBay Store--especially if they are entering your store from somewhere other than eBay. As prices are fixed, the buyers are no longer offended by retail, or near-retail, prices. They see higher prices as an assurance of quality and good service.
High prices no longer mean that they're getting ripped off or are losing themselves to the competitive environment surrounding auctions. They become shoppers again, not bargain hunters. This presents a great opportunity for you to list and sell your items for full price, just as you would through your retail store.
eBay offers three levels of the Stores program: basic, featured and anchor. The basic eBay Store is $15.95 per month and comes with most of the bells and whistles that the two more expensive subscription levels offer. The difference in pricing is mainly due to promotion and placement of your store within eBay. Featured stores, $49.95 per month, receive a promotional text link in a list of the other featured stores that runs down the Stores gateway page. Links are also placed in the "Shop eBay Stores" box of appropriate search results pages. Anchor stores are quite a bit more expensive at $499.95 per month, but they are granted 24-hour dedicated customer support, frequent promotion in the "Shop eBay Stores" box, and an advertisement with logo at the top of the eBay Store gateway page.
For most users a basic store subscription will suffice, though I suggest opting for at least the featured store subscription as an early promotional boost while getting started.
Before you begin building and customizing your eBay Store you should have clearly defined goals for the store. I caution you to not think too small during this step. Some sellers pack their eBay Store full of the items that they can't seem to sell at auction. They figure that because the listing fees are lower for store items, that this is a good way to keep them available without spending too much on unpopular items. While this may be true, it is also thinking too small.
Your eBay Store has huge potential. It is a full service e-commerce solution plunked right down in the middle of millions of shoppers. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, Live.com, Ask.com and others drive traffic into eBay Stores every day. Popular shopping sites, such as Froogle, Shopping.com and Dealio do the same. You should set ambitious goals for your eBay Store. The opportunities are endless.
The first goal of your eBay Store should be to reflect your business well. You should have customized design that incorporates and boosts your company's branding. Your logo should be prominent. Your company colors should be obvious. Your contact information should be displayed anywhere you can fit it. You should set up your eBay Store exactly as you would set up any non-eBay e-commerce store.
eBay shoppers are so accustomed to seeing stores built using the boring default template and color scheme that when they see some actual design and customization it leaves an extremely favorable impression. Traffic coming to your store from off eBay will be expecting to see some graphic design and may find eBay's default laundry list of items a bit jarring. Professional design is as important here as it is for your main website.