Developing a Successful Business

Most Valuable Players

While your day-to-day online auction sales are likely to be the mainstay of your eBay business, you'll find that, as your business grows, you'll want to use some of the other available tools to help increase your revenue stream. One such tool is eBay Stores. Starting at $9.95 monthly and with a listing cost of just 2 cents per item for 30 days, eBay Stores is an excellent value, especially when you consider it costs $50 per month or more to host your own Web site.

In addition, eBay Stores allows you to "park" merchandise for as long as it takes to sell it when you use a Good 'Til Cancelled listing. That can be a big timesaver if your inventory is extensive, since it eliminates the need to keep relisting. The only other charge is a Final Value Fee, which is the same fee paid on every item sold through eBay. Finally, eBay Stores is an especially good place to list accessories and other related goods that go with the items sold in your regular auction-style listings, since they prompt your buyers to add on to their initial purchase.

"Cross-promotion with an eBay Store is the way to go if you're committed to selling online," says Marsha Collier, author of Starting an eBay Business for Dummies and an enthusiastic eBay buyer and seller herself (eBay User ID: marsha_c). "Besides, where else can you rent a store for $9.95 a month? You also can list items that you wouldn't ordinarily spend regular listing fees for, and if you make a sale, your cost is next to nothing."

You could also use your store to list less expensive items, such as the $25 keyboard-mixer-stand bag that Howle of Sound Services offers in his eBay store. But he says that many of the items in his store are also listed on the eBay site at the same time because this technique tends to create a steadier revenue stream for his business. Incidentally, a great way to attract buyers to your eBay store is by having active listings going all the time. That's because the red eBay Stores tag that appears in the Seller Information box can be a magnet for buyers who like your merchandise and want to know what else you offer. Try offering combined shipping at a reduced rate for multiple purchases as a way to spark add-on sales.

Despite its low cost, eBay Stores isn't for everyone. Griff says that if you only list five to 10 items per month, it isn't worth having a Store. But if you have lots of inventory, it's a great way to cross-market it and beef up your bottom line.

"When used properly, an eBay Store is fantastic because it gives you great leverage to ramp up your sales," says Griff. "Even so, you shouldn't rush out and open a Store. Sell a few things first to see how you do before you make a commitment."

If you do decide to have an eBay Store, be sure to rotate the merchandise and offer new products regularly. Customers like to see what's new and will keep visiting if you give them something different on a regular basis.

The requirements to open an eBay Store are minimal. In addition to being a registered eBay seller and having a credit card on file, you must have a feedback rating of 20 or more or be ID-verified. You also have to accept credit card payments through PayPal (an eBay service that enables businesses to receive and send online payments through a credit card or bank account) or a bank merchant account.

To set up your Store, click on the "eBay Stores" link in the box on the left side of the eBay home page. Among the things you'll be prompted to do will be to select a name for your Store (which can be your eBay User ID if you wish), provide contact information indicating where payments for merchandise should be sent, write a description of your Store, list your specialties, and designate the categories in which you'll be posting merchandise.

Finally, be sure to create an "About Me" page. According to Griff, this is one of the most underused features on eBay, yet it has great potential to increase your business, since you can tell buyers about yourself and your interests (and therefore put a human face to your name). Even more important, you can use the page to provide a link to your own Web site, if you have one, giving you another easy route to increased sales.

Feel the Power

If you're already an experienced eBay seller, you're certainly aware of how important good customer feedback is for capturing new sales. Positive feedback from satisfied customers is a sign to buyers that you're trustworthy, that you live up to the promises you make about the products and services in your listings, and that you provide good customer service. But there's still another way positive feedback can help you grow your business: It can earn you the designation of eBay PowerSeller-a designation that has been shown to increase sales.

PowerSeller status is awarded based on several criteria. First, you must be an active seller with a minimum feedback of 100 with a 98 percent overall rating. Next, you must average three months with gross sales of at least $1,000. That level of activity automatically earns you a Bronze PowerSeller designation. Average $3,000 in three months, and you'll be a Silver PowerSeller; $10,000 makes you a Gold PowerSeller; $25,000 earns you the Platinum PowerSeller designation; and $150,000 gives you Titanium PowerSeller status. Exceed that level, and you'll probably earn something akin to Space Shuttle status in recognition of sales that are out of this world.

While it's entirely possible that you could achieve the highest PowerSeller level simply by selling a few big-ticket items (like the Hope Diamond or a Rolls-Royce or two), it's more likely you'll reach these sales milestones by selling lots of items. And that's when the fun really begins. According to eBay experts, earning a really high level of feedback from satisfied customers-say, 1,200 or more positives-will make your sales skyrocket. So it's important to encourage every customer to leave you feedback, even if all you've sold is a $1 product.

Savvy eBay sellers place little reminder slips in each package they ship encouraging buyers to leave positive feedback-and promising to leave good feedback for the buyer in return. Some sellers prefer to wait until the buyer leaves feedback before responding in kind. Just be sure to follow through if you promise good feedback. It's one more way you can please the customer-and maybe make a customer for life.

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