With a dizzying array of software and services for eBay sellers, successful sellers are barraged with offers for services to "improve" business. eBay and plenty of third-party providers are continuously developing tools to make a seller's life easier--and for the most part, many do. The problem is taking the time to separate the good from the bad.
Making a snap decision when choosing a sales tool or software from an e-mail can be foolhardy, and listening to a telemarketer or trade-show salesperson's pitch and signing up for service without thorough investigation can be disastrous. The bottom line: Take it slow, and start small.
For the budding eBay business mogul, eBay and PayPal have developed a large selection of good, solid business tools. Using them is a safe bet, and because they're from eBay, they immediately adapt to any changes in the eBay system.
My first piece of advice: Be sure you don't subscribe to more services than you can keep track of or spend so much money on products that you price yourself out of a profit.
I have tried eBay's tools and many others for my business and recommend you take advantage of some of these helpful offerings. They're designed for eBay "businesses"--meaning, if you're listing more than 50 items a month, you may need the help these tools provide. Read on to get a taste of some of your choices.
You may notice that many of the tools below come free when you have a basic eBay Store. If you're running a business on eBay, you should have a Store. At the low price of $15.95 per month, it's definitely well worth the cost, considering the many bonuses eBay throws into the subscription.
If you don't have a high-speed, always-on internet connection, you should be using Turbo Lister to upload your listings to eBay. Even if you do have a high-speed connection, Turbo Lister can save you time by giving you a place to prepare listings at your leisure and upload them all at once. Best of all, Turbo Lister is free.
Turbo Lister is downloadable software for use on a PC (sorry, it's not available for Macs at this time). It combines all the features of the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor-based "Sell Your Item" form in one convenient program. Here are a few special features you won't find anywhere else:
- Archive your listings: Turbo Lister saves your listings in one convenient program, so you can reuse them or retrieve a particular template.
- Bulk editing: By selecting listings (highlighting with a mouse click) in the program, you can make changes to item specifics or selling formats.
- Inventory: Organize your listings in folders, and save them for future use. Duplicate and copy them to make multiple listings based on your inventory for uploading.
When it comes to automating and organizing a business on eBay, eBay's $4.99 per month subscription to Selling Manager certainly fits the bill. (Selling Manager is free if you have a basic eBay Store.) Selling Manager replaces the "My Selling" tab of your "My eBay" page, making it extra handy for those who run their businesses on eBay with a Mac. You can run the program directly on the eBay site, because it's not platform dependent.
With eBay's Selling Manager, you can view the status of all your listings at a glance using the "Summary" page or the individual status columns. For example, when an item is listed, it is in the "Active Items" area; once it is sold (but not paid for), it moves to the "Sold: Awaiting Payment" page. After the buyer pays with PayPal, the listing moves to the "Sold: Awaiting Shipment" page. One glance at this page at the end of the day, and you'll know how many boxes you need to ship the next day.
Selling Manager also allows you to customize a set of e-mails to send to your customers through eBay's e-mail system. Each transaction is held in its own area, so you can send invoices and e-mails, and make notes about the transaction. All this data can be downloaded for your own records.
There are some bulk functions as well. You can leave feedback for many buyers at once. You can also file Unpaid Item (UPI) reports from a clickable menu--very convenient! You will never forget to file for the Final Value Fee (FVF) Credit, as it shows up on your "Summary" page when eBay's timetable says it's time to file.
Sales Reports Plus
Although all eBay sellers get Sales Reports as part of their "My eBay" page, you can get extended information on your business's metrics for an additional $4.99 per month (or free with your eBay Store) by subscribing to Sales Reports Plus.
Sales Reports Plus defines your business metrics by category, format (Fixed-Price, Store Item, or auction-style listing), ending day, length of listing and ending time. That's a lot of information!
Sales Reports Plus gives you a snapshot of your weekly and monthly sales figures, and provides an analysis of your net eBay and PayPal fees. This lets you see your fees as a percentage of your sales, giving you an idea of what you may be spending to grow your business.
There's also a detailed area that goes over your FVF Credits and Store Referral Credits. Both are excellent barometers of whether your marketing is really working for your listings.
You can download archived reports to your computer for up to two years after they have been generated.
Tools of the Trade
A little-known fact to build your sales: eBay offers its sellers a line of HTML code (called a "sniplet") to insert on a blank internet page or on your own website. Once you place this code on the page, you'll get a full-page listing of your eBay items currently for sale on the site. You can access the sniplet tool at www.ebay.com/api/merchantkit.html. Just agree to the eBay Editor Kit-License Agreement to customize your page. Once you make your customization choices, you'll get your magic sniplet.
You can use the sniplet to insert this page all over the internet--there's no limit to how many times you can use it. Why not put one up on your personal free home page offered by your ISP? Remember that if someone buys from your eBay Store after clicking through a Marketplace link, you will get a 75 percent discount on your Store item's FVF.
Store Traffic Reports
All eBay Store owners get access to basic Traffic Reports, which give you the number of page views, the number of visitors to your Store, and data on unique visitors. One of the more telling features from the report is that you learn how people are finding your eBay Store. Do they come directly from your other eBay listings? From other sites (your Marketplace at work)? From search engines?
If people arrive at your Store through search engines, the Traffic Reports will show you which unique keywords the visitors used to get there. This is handy when you want to put together your Keyword campaign.
If you have an Anchor or Featured eBay Store, you'll get even more data, including path analysis, search terms used within your store, and data on returning visitors. For more information on the data available to Featured and Anchor eBay Stores, visit http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/traffic-reports.html
Successful businesses on eBay know that a Keyword campaign is an effective way to market your listings on the website. This kind of advertising works best when you specialize in a particular type of product that has a distinct audience.
To attract the searching audience, you need to select keywords that represent the types of items you sell. You then submit the keywords and indicate how much you would be willing to pay when someone clicks on your advertising banner to go to your eBay Store or Store listing (that's why it's called pay-per-click advertising). You'll also see who else is using those keywords to advertise, and you have the option of outbidding your competition for priority placement. The higher you bid, the more often your banner will appear. Your banner will then show up when a search is run on eBay that includes your keywords.
One of the best marketing tools eBay offers for Store owners (and one of the easiest to use) is the ability to select items to cross-promote in your listings. Cross promotions appear at the bottom of your listing, showing other items you're selling. As a buyer, I can assure you that cross promotions help increase sales. When I'm buying one thing from a seller and an aptly- placed cross promotion catches my eye, I usually add it to my purchase.
You have control over which items to promote within your listings. In the "Items I'm Selling" area of your "My eBay" page, select the item you want to set up cross promotions for by clicking on the icon in the last column of the listing. (You can also use the links on each item page, but the "My eBay" links are more convenient.) Once you click there, you can manually select which items you wish to promote, or they can be automatically selected based on your criteria.
Not only can you streamline your business from eBay, you can also find tools to help grow your business from independent companies that make their living helping sellers on eBay.
Most of these independents understand business as well as eBay. Their business experience can add to your bottom line. I try out many of these services as they roll out and write about them for Entrepreneur.com, in my books or on my website. Be sure to check in from time to time for up-to-date information.