What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander--on eBay, that is. The strategies, tools, resources and techniques employed by experienced eBay sellers vary significantly depending on the items being sold. Sure, there are some basic techniques that eBay sellers in all categories should follow, such as optimizing listing titles and writing informative item descriptions complete with lots of pictures.
But in a marketplace with tens of millions of different items, clearly you can't treat them all the same. Even when you divide items into broad categories with similar characteristics, experienced sellers know that each listing requires its own special touches.
Seasoned sellers use different techniques to sell items with low and high average selling prices (ASPs), items that sell in bulk, big items, collectibles and, in a special category, automobiles. Here are some insider tips from eBay category experts about how to best sell items in each of those categories.
Low average selling price doesn't mean low opportunity. Health & Beauty, one of the fastest-growing categories on eBay, with $196 million in products sold in the U.S. in 2004, features items from antiperspirants to weight-loss patches that sell for a few dollars each. Other items with low ASPs include books, movies and DVDs.
If you want to run with the best low-ASP sellers, cater to the mind-set of low-ASP purchasers. For example, Anna Fieler, senior category manager for Health & Beauty, says, "You may want to use Buy It Now for many of these items. Given the low price point and impulse-driven nature of some beauty purchases, Buy It Now may increase the velocity of your sales and provide a better buyer experience."
Focus strongly on offering value when selling low-ASP items. Clearly show buyers how much their eBay purchase price saves them compared to retail prices. To deliver still more value, consider low-cost or free shipping options, because shipping may represent a large percentage of the purchase price for low-ASP items.
Don't neglect to take advantage of techniques for controlling your own costs--especially critical with low-ASP items. For instance, many people stock lower-priced items in eBay Stores to take advantage of Stores' relatively low listing fees. "Utilize eBay Stores for low-ASP products that may be slower-moving," says Andrew Lee, senior category manager for DVDs & Movies. Sellers can also use their core listings to drive traffic to their eBay Stores in a coordinated selling strategy that optimizes inventory turn, he adds.
After you've gotten costs under control, consider ways to increase your revenue. For example, you may be able to build your average transaction amount if you find ways to bundle low-ASP products together. With consumable items such as health and beauty aids, develop a replenishment strategy to keep satisfied customers ordering regularly. Lee recommends you cross-merchandise by offering DVDs to people who are purchasing players. You'll find a guide to cross promotion at http://pages.ebay.com/sell/crosspromotionstutorial.
Items with a high average selling price include computers, TVs and other electronics, cameras and jewelry. When you're selling high-priced items, it's essential to know the key objective metrics by which buyers will evaluate your items. With heavy equipment, such as lawn mowers, for instance, one key metric is the number of hours the machine has been used, notes Steve Cohen, category manager for Home Improvement.
In addition to knowing metrics, high-ASP-item buyers may need objective proof that your description of an item is accurate. When it comes to diamonds, for example, proof will consist of a certificate issued by a gem-grading laboratory, says Amy Norman, category manager for Watches & Designer Jewelry.
Don't stop there. Also consider offering buyers purchase protection, such as PayPal Buyer Protection, which gives $1,000 of coverage at no additional cost on qualified purchases paid for through PayPal. "We recommend offering PayPal Buyer Protection," Cohen says.
Pricing is equally important with high-ASP items. Use the "Completed Listings Only" option in the Search tool to learn results of similar sales. Consider using a low starting bid price along with a reserve to protect your selling price, suggests Ben Hanna, senior manager of Business & Industrial.
You may want to list high-ASP items in multiple categories when appropriate. This can expose your item to a broader selection of customers. High-ASP-item sellers should also consider using eBay's buyer management tools, Cohen says. These allow sellers to block certain types of bidders from participating in a specific transaction.
Finally, make it easy for your buyers to pay for their high-ASP purchases. Highlight any payment and financing options you may offer, and be clear about deposit requirements and other terms. "Sellers can also offer equipment financing on items over $2,000 through Direct Capitaland receive a refund of their eBay Final Value Fees if the item is financed," Hanna notes.
For items less than $2,000 and greater than $200, sellers can offer promotional financing options, such as deferred-interest payments, through PayPal Buyer Credit. Offering promotional financing makes items more affordable for buyers by allowing them to make low monthly payments or to defer interest payments.
Big items, such as furniture and industrial equipment, present their own issues and opportunities for advanced sellers. Often, they require financing options, special shipping, insurance, buyer assurance and other unusual handling.
Shipping is especially important when dealing with big items. Buyers of bulky items are most interested in knowing the total cost of the item delivered to their door and will typically ask questions about shipping costs before bidding, says Hanna. Include a Freight Shipping Calculator or estimate in your listings. You can also find a free freight estimator at http://ebay.freightquote.com. You may also provide an estimated cost per mile or give estimated costs to ship to different regions.
Whether you are describing shipping costs, return policies, buyer assurance or other issues of special importance to big-item buyers, take extra care to achieve complete and accurate disclosure. "Be as accurate and honest as possible about product condition," stresses Dan Serpico, category manager for Home & Garden. "Returns and shipping can be quite difficult, more so than other areas, so you want to be sure to get it right the first time whenever possible."
That doesn't mean you should sell only perfect items. If you sell large pieces of equipment, whether for consumer or business use, consider offering used or slightly imperfect items, especially utilitarian items with cosmetic damage. "The sweet spot for selling major appliances is with scratch-and-dent goods," says Serpico, "which are the perfect items for matching a buyer's need for a discount with the seller's need to maximize recovery on a damaged or returned item."
Motor vehicles are sui generis on eBay--in a category by themselves. There are related categories on eBay Motors, including vehicle parts, but sellers of actual automobiles have some significant tools and resources that advanced car merchants will want to know about.
Given the size, cost and complexity of a typical motor vehicle, full disclosure is critical. "There is nothing to be gained by excluding a problem with the car," says Zak Edson, manager of eBay Motors Marketplace Efficiency. "Buyers appreciate honesty and shy away from anything that looks suspicious."
That doesn't mean you should present the item in its worst light. Clean your vehicle carefully before photographing it. Then be generous with pictures, posting as many as possible and including the views from all angles, inside and outside, including the trunk and engine areas. Consider including a picture of yourself, a family member or pet in one or more photos to give the listing a personal touch.
Be sure to take advantage of the eBay tools designed especially for Motors. Sellers who wish to sell multiple cars, for instance, can use a listing tool called CARad to easily manage multiple vehicle sales. Vehicle reportshelp you give discriminating buyers a complete record of the car's history. Additionally, you can send or receive deposits for the vehicle through PayPal. PayPal keeps buyers' financial information safe and gives sellers a fast and easy way to receive their deposit.
Research the appropriate price for your vehicle by looking at completed listings and studying market value guides, such as the Kelley Blue Book. Car buyers appreciate sellers who offer flexible terms of sale, adds Edson. He recommends being willing to help the buyer arrange shipping and offering to accept multiple payment options.
Wholesale Lots is a growing area of eBay, where many sellers not only dispose of large quantities of goods, but also acquire inventory to sell. Many other eBay categories also offer a selection of goods available in lot quantities. Selling items that typically move in pallets and truckloads calls for a slew of advanced selling techniques and tools. Shipping, storing, payment terms and dealing with damaged goods are all important for sellers of bulk items.
Many of the same shipping solutions that help sellers of big items will also apply here. You can save yourself time and money by using the Freight Resource Centerto get a freight quote for shipping your lot. Or call (888) 875-7822 to talk live with a customer-service representative about shipping your item via freight.
Too complicated? Even if you don't want to ship bulky items yourself, you can still sell them on eBay, notes Jeannie Reeth, senior category manager for Home & Garden. "Simply specify your location, and let buyers know you require them to pick up the item at your home, or let buyers know you're willing to deliver it within a certain mile radius."
Sellers who are offering liquidation items in lot sizes typically offer their goods "as is." As a result, buyers may be more willing to accept the fact that some of the products may be damaged. It is essential, however, that you specify this or other conditions of sale in your item description and policies. If you have more liberal policies, consider obtaining shipping insurance to cover yourself if damages do occur.
Because many buyers of lots will be businesses, you'll be faced with the need to adopt additional payment options. Net 30 days, net 60 days, PayPal Buyer Credit or the use of letters of credit are all terms you should consider offering buyers of lot items.
Collectibles is the category with the longest history on eBay, and antiques, stamps, art and other collectibles remain among the most popular products sold on eBay. The key characteristics of collectibles buyers are their love of and knowledge about the items they are shopping for. Even if you lack similar enthusiasm for those products, you still must be able to match the buyer's knowledge.
Jennifer Ibarra, associate category manager for Art & Antiques, advises collectibles sellers to research their market and items thoroughly. Kathryn Kane, associate category manager for Pottery & Glass, elaborates: "Research is incredibly important in this area, as there are diehard collectors who are passionate about their pottery and glass and will often know more than the sellers!"
Authenticity is a critical component of success for experienced sellers of collectibles. This is a combination of knowing what you are talking about and being able to prove it. "Research the history of the artwork and the artist, and provide documentation for authentic or attributed artwork," Ibarra says.
For art, authentication may consist of references to published catalogs. Coin and stamp sellers may obtain certification from reputable grading agencies. If you have a stamp you want to sell and aren't sure what it is, consider using the American Philatelic Society's Quick ID service, offered through a link on eBay's "Stamps" page. It's an inexpensive alternative to official certification.
Sellers in one area of collectibles have recently begun employing a new wrinkle on providing photos of items offered for sale, says Lia Theologides Mukhar, senior category manager for Coins & Stamps. "Now some people are using videos in their listings," she says. "That's the hottest thing in Coins."
By providing videos of themselves displaying coins offered for sale, sellers give shoppers a chance to appreciate the luster of high-quality collectible coins by rotating coins back and forth. Plus, the video gives the listing a more personal stamp. If you don't go for the video, consider using a flatbed scanner to capture coins, suggests Theologides Mukhar, as it provides a clear image without the glare of a camera flash.
Finally, take advantage of collectibles buyers' passion by engaging and keeping their interest. You can turn occasional shoppers into long-term repeat customers by using the e-mail marketing tools available through eBay Stores, suggests Ibarra. "This is a great tool to promote your Store to your customers, allowing you to send newsletters, which keep customers updated on new listings on the site."
Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living.