Step 4: Provide Great Customer Service
Buyers will ask you questions about your merchandise, and if you don't respond promptly, they won't bid. Top-notch service also means shipping your goods to the winning buyer within two to three days after the auction closes, or as soon as you receive payment.
When an eBay auction is completed, the goods shipped and payment made, you and your buyer can comment on each other in eBay's Feedback Forum. Buyers rely on the Feedback Forum to determine how reliable a seller is. But watch out: If buyers aren't happy with your customer service or your merchandise, they will post negative or neutral feedback. Many buyers will not deal with a seller who has less than a specified number of positive feedback postings in the forum, or a seller who has too many negative feedback postings.
Unfortunately, some customers will threaten to leave negative feedback if you don't do what they want, even if they are being unreasonable. Most of the time, you're best advised to meet their demands because "the customer is always right," and because you want to avoid negative feedback on eBay at all costs.
In cases where a buyer posts negative feedback that is inaccurate or unfair, eBay affords you a limited opportunity to respond to the negative posting and tell buyers your side of the story. In extreme cases, eBay's SquareTrade service helps mediate disputes between eBay buyers and sellers.
Step 5: Build a Brand on eBay
On eBay, sellers are offered a number of tools to help establish their brand identities, including:
- About Me: A free page that enables you to describe your business and any relevant information that would make buyers feel more comfortable buying from you.
- eBay Stores : A virtual storefront that puts all of your current auctions together in one place, so buyers can see everything you're selling at a glance. You'll pay a monthly fee based on the level of store services you want, plus additional fees for items listed and sold.
- Customizing Tools: A number of features (accessible from your "My eBay" page) that enable you to make your pages stand out from others offering similar merchandise.
Like any marketplace, eBay is constantly changing. "A lot of people get set in a comfort zone, especially if they have an initial rush of success," says Griff. "If you get to the point that you really feel comfortable you know what you're doing on eBay, I guarantee you there's a brick flying at the side of your head at 80 miles an hour that you're not seeing because you're not looking in that direction."
You can expect pricing and demand on eBay to change over time. As more and more people start operating on eBay, competition will increase and prices may decline slightly. Still, keep in mind that eBay has reached only a small fraction of its potential worldwide market. And it will continue to grow even faster as internet access becomes more readily available world-wide. "EBay is the leader in internet auctions," says Morphy. "It has such a strong hold on the market and such a huge following, you can't beat it."
Cliff Ennico is a syndicated columnist and author of several books on small business, including Small Business Survival Guide and The eBay Business Answer Book. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.