Power Up Your eBay Profits

Make It Personal

Ty Simpson, president and co-founder of Ty's Toy Box with his wife, Heather, knows all about the positive effects of cross-promotion. He operates a website along with his eBay Store (eBay User ID: tystoyboxauctions) to sell hard-to-find preschool toy brands, such as Strawberry Shortcake wristwatches, tennis shoes and nightgowns.

After a stint selling Beanie Babies on eBay in 1998, he began his latest eBay adventure in 2002 as a result of trying to purchase some The Wiggles-branded items for his young daughter. He ended up buying a box of goods wholesale, direct from an Australian vendor, and began selling the items on eBay to other parents he assumed were also having a hard time locating the products in the U.S.

"From word-of-mouth and repeat buyers, we started establishing a name on eBay [as the place] to get Wiggles merchandise. After [the 2003] holiday season, I built a website while still selling on eBay, and this is how eBay helped jump-start Ty's Toy Box," says Simpson, 32. "eBay was starting to complement our website while we were extending the brand beyond eBay. Then we had two things going: a successful [business on eBay] and a website that was starting to grow."

Simpson is one of many eBay sellers who create and manage their own keyword-targeted advertising campaigns on eBay through the eBay Keywords program. When a user searches for particular terms, the results will show the advertiser's ad unit at the top of the eBay search results. This prime placement drives traffic to the seller's items or eBay Store, often resulting in increased sales. "You appear above all the other listings, and you have an opportunity there to grab a buyer before they start searching the listings," says Simpson.

Simpson targets terms like "Wiggles" and "Strawberry Shortcake" to boost traffic to his site. "Whenever anyone searches [those terms], it brings people to our eBay Store. It is pay-per-click and could run between 10 cents per click and 50 cents per click," he says. But as a PowerSeller and eBay Store owner, Simpson receives a monthly allotment from eBay to help cover the costs of his Keyword campaign.

eBay also encourages Store sellers to set up links to their Stores from other sites. For every visitor who enters an eBay Store from a promotional link on an outside website--whether it's the eBay seller's site or a third party's--store owners can receive a 75 percent credit toward some fees when that referral results in a sale through eBay during that visit. Plus, when buyers type in a Store's URL in their web browser, eBay's system automatically interprets this as a user coming in from an off-eBay promotion, thus making Store owners eligible for a Store Referral credit.

Simpson makes use of many such eBay Store owner perks, which help increase the profitability of Ty's Toy Box. Other eBay perks available to Store owners include promotional fliers and e-mail marketing, both great ways to reach repeat buyers. The e-mail marketing tool allows Store owners to send customized e-mails to buyers, manage e-mail lists, and create and send e-mail campaigns--between 100 and 4,000 individual e-mails, depending on whether the seller operates a Basic, Featured or Anchor Store.

Whether it's for a particular promotion or a regular newsletter, the e-mail marketing tool makes it easy to merchandise specific items via e-mail. "It drives repeat traffic to the website," says Carole Alvarado, director of eBay Stores. "We built that tool in a way that is safe for buyers. We have limits in that sellers can't send to the same e-mail list more than once a week." And buyers have to opt in from a check box on the "Save This Seller as a Favorite" page.

All levels of eBay Store owners can also further brand their Stores and increase profit margins with the free promotional fliers tool. Go to http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/promoting.html to download templates for customizable and printable promotional fliers emblazoned with eBay Stores logos and space for sellers' logos, and insert them into shipments to buyers to encourage repeat shopping.

Using various communications to stay in touch with the horse enthusiasts who visit Green River Discount Tack is an important part of business, says Sarah Embry, who answers many e-mails from new riders looking for the right equipment for their horses. But she also puts phone and fax numbers on all communications and has found it has helped increase sales. Says Embry, "Excellent customer service brings a lot of people back."

The Tool Chest
eBay tools can help you save time and increase profitability. Once you start selling a high volume and variety of goods, it's imperative that the timing of each listing is optimal, the price is right and the title hits the mark. Try these selling tools to help you increase productivity and profitability:

  • Accounting Assistant allows you to reduce manual processing by pulling eBay or PayPal transaction data, including fees, into QuickBooks financial management software. It also allows you to track sales and fees by customer.
  • Blackthorne Basic and Blackthorne Pro (formerly seller's assistant) allow users to create listings, organize inventory, track listings' status, process sales, send e-mails and manage shipping offline, making these tools great for easy access anywhere. Key features let you manage your pictures and save and reuse common information, such as shipping and payment details.
  • Picture Manager , eBay's picture hosting service, allows you to add and edit pictures for each listing. You can also see which listings each picture is associated with to determine whether it's safe to delete an image.
  • Sales Reports Plus help you identify which items to source and sell by analyzing your historical sales performance.
  • Sales Traffic Reports for eBay Store subscribers offer real-time reporting on page views for each of the listings and Store pages, including the display of the seller's most popular pages. Sellers can also view keywords used by buyers to get to their listings. Featured and Anchor Store subscribers receive additional information in their Traffic Reports, including path analysis showing how visitors move within their Store and Bid/Buy It Now tracking to help optimize their Store for bidders and buyers.
  • Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro give you an at-a-glance snapshot of your selling activities and help you manage your sales. Features include bulk relist, which allows you to relist multiple items from the "Unsold" view of Selling Manager with just one click; e-mail templates, which let you e-mail buyers directly using templates for winning buyer notifications, payment reminders, shipping notifications and feedback reminders; and more.
  • Turbo Lister is a free listing tool for medium- to high-volume sellers that allows you to create professional-looking listings and upload thousands of items in bulk in one shot.
Sheree R. Curry is a suburban Minneapolis-based freelance business journalist who often writes on business best practices. Her work has appeared in Advertising Age, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal.
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