Holiday Cheer

What's on the Wish List?

Selecting gifts to give can be tough, but so can picking products to sell at the holidays. "Isn't that the issue?" asks Dennis L. Prince, author of 101 Ways to Boost Your Fortune on eBay. His advice: To learn about the future, study the past. Pay attention to what was hot in your categories last year. Check out what the competition is selling. "Look at the holiday listings and see what's going places and whether there's something you want to get into next year," he says.

Often, you'll find the same items that did well the rest of the year also do well at Christmas. "My top-selling dresses were the ones that are a little dressier, that someone would wear to an event," says clothing seller Shelley Mitchell (eBay User ID: shelley-faye). "But those are my bestsellers all year anyway."

Check out eBay Pulse, which is updated daily, to get a list of the most popular searches on eBay. Drill down by category to get the most popular searches within that category. In general, the best holiday items are unique and possess special appeal, says Prince. "I'm starting to see a resurgence of collectibles," he says. "People are seeking hard-to-find items. That's where I'd tell people to focus [during the] holidays."

Holiday Helpers
It's hard to say which eBay tools are the most popular among sellers during the holidays, but PayPal is a contender. Sellers enjoy getting the quick and reliable payments, of course. But buyers like the extra service sellers can provide when they know payment will be delivered through PayPal, notes business expert and author Dennis L. Prince. "Always stress PayPal," he says, "and tell them if they pay immediately, you'll ship the same day."

Turbo Lister is another eBay tool that comes into its own at the holidays. "If you're going to be listing [many similar items during] the holidays, it's so easy to kick those things off," says Prince. "As soon as the listings start to wrap up, rather than going into each listing and doing a relist, you do a batch. At the holiday period, time is of the essence. I'd rather spend the day shipping things I've sold to make sure they get to the buyers than spend that day reposting and relisting."

eBay's Toolbar is a favorite holiday helper for clothing seller Shelley Mitchell (eBay User ID: shelley-faye). She especially likes the way the free tool alerts her when a buyer has asked a question. "My computer is nearby, and I can respond right away," she says.

Skype gets a nod from Paula Deane Traynham (eBay User ID: pauladeane) for its ability to help around the holidays. One of her tricks is to call the Skype number for eBay Stores customer service when she needs to ask a question. "You can [usually] get straight through and get your problem solved," she says. Other sellers have added a Skype button to their listings, which lets them answer customer questions in real time. For details, check out ebay.com/buyandsell/skype-viewitem/index.html.

Get it There on Time
Shipping takes center stage when the year is about to end and customers want their items by a certain date. Not surprisingly, many sellers offer free shipping during the holiday season, says Kristina Klausen, senior director of eBay's global shipping team. Free shipping helps eBay sellers stay competitive with other e-commerce vendors. But that's not all. When listing your item, if you check the "free shipping" box, Klausen says eBay will then promote you as a seller who offers free shipping, which will help you gain additional traffic. Buyers can also search specifically for items that include free shipping.

"Another thing sellers do to help make their shipping prices attractive is offer combined shipping discounts," Klausen says. eBay's new Combined Shipping Discounts tool allows sellers to offer buyers shipping discounts on items over $25, multiple items or even specific multiple items. "Sellers have the ability to set up flexible rules depending on the size and weight of the item."

Expedited shipping also helps at holiday time--and eBay promotes sellers who offer this on a "Get It Fast" landing page. Susan Geis, marketing program manager for shipping, notes that sellers who commit to one-day handling and an overnight service qualify for Get It Fast treatment. But eBay has tightened rules for sellers with Get It Fast or other listings: "Make sure your product is in hand and ready to ship at the time the listing closes," she says.

New eBay tools for shippers include PayPal tracking info that lets buyers easily find out where their purchases are en route. Since last year, PayPal has also added a multi-order shipping tool that allows sellers to print shipping labels for up to 50 items at a time.

With added capabilities and tools, sellers can improve their performance and give buyers appealing shipping options this holiday. And they should, Klausen says: "We stress that the level of shipping service the seller provides is a key part of the buyer's satisfaction with the transaction."

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