Today, most Internet users use eBay as a starting point for online shopping. The popular auction site, which went online in 1995, has become so well known that the phrase “found it on eBay” has entered the cultural lexicon as the definitive synonym to using online retail. How can everyday users use eBay’s massive website to start their own online business?
First and foremost, sign up for an account and browse the website. Make a few purchases, in order to get a feel for the website’s mechanics. When you’re ready, follow the site’s instructions to become a buyer. They are fairly straightforward and will hold your hand through the registration process.
From the start, you should be aware of eBay’s “triple fee.” eBay’s main site will first charge you an insertion (ad placement) fee, based on the value of your product, ranging from 10 cents to 2 dollars. If your product is sold, then the site will take 9% of your profits – with a maximum charge of $100. Finally, its subsidiary PayPal – the primary way to pay on eBay – will then take another 2.9% as a transaction fee when you receive the payment.
Make sure you set a reserve price, which dictates the minimum amount that you’d be willing to sell the item for. Without a reserve price set, your item could end up being sold to the highest bidder at a price far below what had been intended. Make sure you set your reserve price approximately 10% higher than your intended profits in order to cover the aforementioned triple charge. eBay now offers tools to estimate your product’s marketplace worth and reasonable prices. You can also do a quick search of the site to see what other sellers are charging. If you don’t wish to sell your product via an online auction, you can sell via the fixed price “Buy it Now” option, or use a combination of both.
Three things matter the most to buyers. First, your Feedback Score – the gauge of your trustworthiness – is key to attracting customers. This can be a Catch 22 – without buyers, it’s impossible to build up a reputation, but without a reputation, it can be immensely difficult to attract buyers. Follow up with buyers and politely ask them to leave feedback to increase your rating. A poor rating can be retracted if both buyer and seller agree to the retraction, so it is essential to follow up or negative comments. Second, since most buyers arrange their searches with the lowest price first, auctions starting at 1 cent are most likely to pop up first. This is pointless, since there are too many of these results, and all of these are set with reserve prices anyways. A better tactic would be to offer a reasonable price to “Buy it Now” buyers, who wish to make immediate purchases. In addition, offering free shipping is an appealing option, since eBay automatically calculates shipping costs based on the user’s geographical location. This was done to deter users from offering cheap items, then charging outrageous shipping fees to make a profit.
Setting up an online store requires some degree of consistency. First, your web store should be attractively designed – with the minimalistic aesthetics of this decade, and not resemble a loud, amateurish Geocities page circa 1997. You should offer similar products, so visitors to your page are more likely to be attracted by other listings. Coloring books and tablet computers don’t complement each other, while coloring books, children’s’ books and stuffed animals do. You can consider buying wholesale, clearance or outlet products in bulk to increase your margins, but remember that if the first product doesn’t sell, you’ll end up taking a huge loss on your inventory. For your product listings, keep the descriptions short, concise and to the point. List only pertinent information – such as new or used, size (with precise dimensions), shipping time and a short description. Use plenty of well-lit, detailed photos. A picture is worth a thousand words – let them do the talking for you. New items are inevitably more popular than used ones, but be honest when listing your item – sellers are commonly banned for dishonesty.
Lastly, use insurance or delivery confirmation on all your products. This insures that you have verifiable evidence that your product arrived, and deters dishonest buyers from trying to push for a refund or threatening to tarnish your reputation with negative feedback. Give your sellers a tracking number, if applicable, and respond to service requests promptly and professionally.