Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

eBay Stores: The Virtual Alternative to Brick and Mortar

Ready to set up more permanent digs for your eBay business? eBay Stores will give you an online home, and help you increase your sales.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Editor's note: This article is excerpted from Make Big Profits on eBay.

For a small, part-time eBay seller, an eBay store could be helpful, but it's not necessary. But for someone who wants to build a substantial, profitable business selling on eBay, a store is an excellent tool.

An eBay store is a place on eBay where you can display all your listings in one customizable place, encourage multiple purchases from buyers, cross-promote your merchandise, and maintain a larger permanent inventory than you sell through auctions. eBay supports store operators with a variety of promotions, including the store icon in the Seller Information box of every listing that links to your store. The eBay stores directory is designed to promote all stores, and you'll also have your own web address (URL) that you can use as you wish. The Stores E-mail Marketing Tool lets you send e-mails directly to your buyers; you can use this tool to announce new items or specials, or to deliver other information that will propel the buyers on your list into your store to shop.

The process of opening an eBay store is almost as simple as setting up your initial User ID. The only requirements are that you be a registered eBay seller and have a feedback of 20 or higher, or be ID verified, or have a PayPal account in good standing.

Store Levels and Prices

The cost of an eBay store ranges from nominal to substantial, depending on the level you choose. Check the web site for current rates. The three levels are:

1. Basic. Ideal for sellers who are just starting out and want an affordable, easy-to-use platform for online sales, a basic store is automatically listed in the eBay stores directory and will appear in every category directory where you have items listed.

2. Featured. Designed for small-to-medium-sized sellers who want to grow their online business, a featured store rotates through a special featured section on the eBay stores home page; receives priority placement in "related stores" on search and listings pages; and is featured within the category directory pages where you have items listed.

3. Anchor. The advanced solution for high-volume sellers who want maximum eBay exposure, anchor stores offer the same benefits as featured stores, plus your store can be showcased with your logo within the eBay stores directory pages and will receive premium placement in "related stores" on search and listings pages.

In general, the more you invest in your eBay store--both in level and effort--the more your store sales will be.

Setting Up Your eBay Store

From the eBay home page, click on eBay Stores, then on "Open a Store" and follow the steps to get your store set up. You should come up with a name for your store before you begin this process.

Your eBay store name, which will also be its URL, can be a maximum of 35 characters that will be displayed in lowercase letters. Choose a straightforward name that tells buyers what you sell.

Your store name must start and end with a letter or number; cannot start with four or more consecutive letter A's; cannot start with an E followed by a number; and cannot infringe on any other company's trademark. Your store name can be the same as your User ID, assuming it meets the store name requirements. eBay's Help Center offers additional advice for naming your store.

Keep It Staffed

Your eBay store will be open for business 24/7/365--whether you're awake or asleep, at your computer, or playing golf. Though it doesn't need to be physically staffed around the clock, you need to pay attention to it every day. Monitor your store closely, answer questions from shoppers promptly, ship merchandise on schedule and as promised, and deal with any other customer service issues that might arise as soon as possible.

If you go on vacation or are going to be away for any reason, try to arrange for someone else to monitor the site and take care of your business. If that isn't practical, take advantage of eBay's vacation hold service. You can choose a setting that will hide your store inventory or one that tells shoppers that you are gone and when you will return.