As one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, eBay is a growing retailer’s dream. But it’s complex. These 38 tips can help you with everything—including the listings, shipping, packaging, and service— you need to succeed.
When your inventory is wrong, everything’s wrong. Maybe you lose sales because you don’t have a product on-hand. Or your money is tied up in products that don’t sell. You may even be buried in returns because you’re shipping the wrong products. Taking control of your inventory control is the answer. Just follow these 7 tips to up the accuracy of the numbers in your inventory control system. Whatever system you use, they’ll shed light on the surest ways to get your inventory right.
Products and listings
To be successful on eBay, you need to start with two things: Products that you can source for a good price and that have a large potential market, and listings that appeal to that market. This first batch of tips—19 in all—can help you get these critical elements right.
1. Research your market.
Search for products like yours in a similar category and note the prices, shipping charges, available deals, and keywords. Then, imitate the best of what those sellers are doing while taking steps to make your products stand out from theirs.
2. Nurture a niche.
People who shop on eBay want unusual, one-of-akind, and bargain products they can’t find in stores. By catering to these shoppers, you’ll be able to compete against big retailers by offering products they don’t have.
3. Sell new and branded products.
To maximize your sales, carry products that buyers feel confident about. New products—with the tags still on— are good bets because buyers perceive them as being in better condition. Branded products sell better, and for higher prices, because they’re considered higherend.
4. Follow the money.
Choose your products based on what’s selling. Here are some ideas:
- Shift more money into product lines that are selling well.
- Add products that will make you more money— even if they’re outside your niche.
- See if you can exploit the latest trends by adding new products. eBay’s advanced search shows what’s selling. To find out:
- Enter product details into the search bar
- Sort by the highest price first
- Select completed listings only
- Review the best-selling products for ideas
5. Ditch the dead weight.
If a product line loses money despite your efforts to boost its sales, you might have to drop it or find another, more lucrative channel to sell it in.
6. Find sources of recurring income.
A solid long-term strategy is to sell products that generate recurring income. You might sell electric toothbrushes, for example, because you know customers need to buy replacement heads, which you also sell, regularly. It may even make sense to sacrifice some profit on the initial sale if you know you can generate recurring income. To make this strategy work, be proactive about asking for repeat business and include a flyer with the original order that offers discounts on future purchases.
7. Keep your products fresh.
Make sure you store your products and packaging in a clean, odor-free place. If you smoke, don’t do it around your merchandise. And don’t store products in a room where you cook, use strong cleaning products, or allow pets. There’s nothing like odors and animal hair in a shipment to create a bad impression—and negative feedback—from your customers.
8. Choose the right category.
For maximum exposure, sales, and selling prices, make sure your products are listed in the right eBay categories. They need to be where buyers are looking. To find the right category, search for your product and see where similar items are listed.
9. Keep your design simple.
A poorly designed eBay listing—think lots of flashing banners and comic sans text—hurts conversions. Keep your design clean and attractive so shoppers can find the information they need quickly and easily.
10. Include at least 3 good pictures.
On the web, people can’t touch a product before buying it, so high-quality pictures are the only way to reassure them that what you’re selling is what they want. Your pictures should be taken from several angles and highlight important details. Believe it or not, bathrooms—and especially bathtubs—are great settings for your pictures. The bright light and white background refract the light perfectly, providing a great backdrop for most products.
11. Host your own pictures.
To save money, use a free hosting service like Flickr. And don’t worry about posting super-high resolution images since eBay limits file sizes. Also, the bigger the file, the slower it will load. You don’t want to lose a shopper because your pictures load too slowly.
12. Get the title right.
In your title, use the words that shoppers type into search. You may like the sound of ‘awesome’ and ‘lovely,’ but shoppers are more likely to type in words related to a product’s size, brand, or color.
- Don’t: “Lovely purple jacket ideal for daytime and evening events”
- Do: “Zara size 12 long-sleeved purple jacket daywear eveningwear”
When you use shoppers’ own words, your products will show up in search results more often. Buyers will also be more likely to click on your listings because they’ll see exactly what they’re looking for in the titles.
13. Attend to the details in your descriptions.
Your product descriptions should include all the details a shopper needs to make a decision about whether or not to buy. To stand out from other sellers:
- Give every product a complete description including size, color, shape, age, brand, technical specifications, and condition
- Don’t overdo it—your descriptions should be relevant and to the point at the same time
- Check your grammar and spelling to build trust with potential customers
14. Remember: The truth will come out.
What you write about your products has to be accurate. If it isn’t, you might sell more products in the short term, but your customers will be unsatisfied and will provide bad feedback, which will reduce future sales.
15. Create listings that convert.
This is an important goal in general, but getting high conversion rates (the percentage of people who view your listing and then buy the product) has another benefit: higher search rankings. Listings with higher conversion rates are perceived as higher value by eBay and placed above competitors’ listings for common search terms. Better converting listings include:
- Competitive pricing
- Clear descriptions
- Lots of supporting product information
16. Think about the length of your listings.
Test, test, and test again to find out if your products sell for higher prices if you have long or short listings. Think about:
- Short listings get less exposure, but have more urgency. It’s the reverse for long listings. Which earns you more bidders?
- Is it better for your inventory management to get items out the door quickly so you can buy and store more? Or is it worth having products around longer to get a better price? Look at previous sales data to determine the optimal stock turnaround time for your business.
17. Consider a low opening bid.
A lot of shoppers on eBay are looking for bargains. By listing your products with low opening bids, you’ll pique their interest and get a higher click-through rate. This may push up the number of bids, which encourages further interest in your product. The added bonus is that your listing fee will be lower.
If you’re worried about selling a product too cheaply, you can always implement a reserve so it can’t be sold beneath a minimum price.
18. Pick the best listing time.
When choosing your listing times, think about a couple factors:
- What works best for your target audience? Most winning bids are made in the last hour the listing is live, so end your auction when more people are online (not the middle of the night) to increase your potential market. Try testing to find out the peak day and time for your target audience. It might be different for younger and older people or men and women. Even think about TV shows that your audience is likely to watch to make sure they don’t compete with your auction’s end.
- What works best for you? Your listings’ end times should be convenient for you and fit with your preferred shipping cycle.
19. Record your sales.
For each product you sell, keep detailed records. You’ll want them when it’s time to analyze your sales and profitability. They’ll also simplify things at tax time. Examples of facts to track:
- What you sold
- Your cost
- Shipping cost
- Selling price
- Sale date and time
- Listing title and description
- Shipping date
- Feedback score
Payment, Shipping, and Packaging
Okay, you have good products and optimized listings— that’s great. But to sell on eBay, you also need to offer competitive payment options and fast, affordable shipping. Plus, your packaging needs to be more than an afterthought. Tips 20 – 27 can help you nail this part of the process.
20. Offer a guarantee.
You’ll have to honor it, but guarantees inspire confidence in potential customers and encourage them to buy. As long as your descriptions are accurate, it’s unlikely you’ll have many returns, but buyers are reassured when they know it’s an option.
21. Make shipping information super-clear.
Don’t make shoppers search for your shipping policies. They’re wary of hidden charges and poor service—and will quickly move on if they can’t find them. To make them happy and distinguish yourself from other sellers, clearly state your:
- Shipping charges
- Shipping destinations
- Packaging practices
- Combined purchase discounts, if any
- Same-day shipping charges, if any
22. Offer free shipping.
eBay gives better search rankings to listings that include free shipping. Better rankings can improve your conversion rate, which can increase your search rankings even more. Just add the shipping charges to the price of your product to make up the difference. Or, if you want to keep the product price and shipping charges separate, make sure your shipping charges cover postage, packaging, and handling only so you don’t scare away customers.
23. Ship internationally.
By taking this simple step, you immediately expand the number of people in your target market and get more interested buyers. Just make sure to provide details on your international shipping policy and fulfil any promises you make about shipping abroad.
24. Get proof of delivery.
It might affect your bottom line, but ultimately, getting proof of delivery will protect you against buyer scams and loss or damage from the postal service. Be sure to check the terms and conditions for what coverage you get with proof of delivery options.
25. Factor in your packaging.
When you’re setting up your eBay shop, think through what type of packaging you need to ship your products around the world. Consider:
- Packaging cost, which needs to be factored in when you’re making product and pricing decisions
- Packaging quality to make sure your products arrive in perfect condition and avoid replacing broken products and facing negative feedback
26. Use recycled packaging.
To cut packaging costs, ask your local supermarket and other shops for their packaging waste. Many of their supplies will come in bubble wrap or packaging popcorn. Also, save packaging from any products you buy. This all can be reused, saving you money and saving the planet at the same time.
27. Market your business in your packaging.
With each package you ship, include a flyer or business card. This helps market your business by:
- Up-selling and cross-selling your products
- Sending customers to your online store, if you have one, for future purchases so you can avoid eBay fees
- Encouraging customers to remember you, come back, and pass your details on to friends
Customers and suppliers
Great products, top-notch listings, competitive payment options, superb shipping, and perfect packaging are all well and good, but with eBay’s critical feedback feature, you also need to build strong relationships with your customers and suppliers. Use these 11 final tips to buff up your customer service skills and supplier partnerships.
28. Provide impeccable customer service.
eBay shoppers rely on feedback to decide whether or not to trust particular sellers. That’s why you should avoid bad feedback at all costs—even if it means sending a new product or spending more on shipping. Good feedback scores also affect your conversion rate on your listings. To keep your feedback positive:
- Ship items quickly • Answer questions completely
- Have fair policies and procedures
- Don’t quibble too much over returns or lost items
29. Remember that manners cost nothing.
When you’re selling online, it’s just as important to provide customer service with a smile. How?
- Be positive when you write your listings. There are scammers out there, and occasionally you’ll get burned, but it’s best to assume that people are generally good and will pay.
- Answer questions that shoppers ask in a friendly way, no matter how pointless they may seem (or even if it’s clear they haven’t read the description). Questioners often become bidders and buyers.
30. Answer questions quickly.
While shoppers who ask questions may or may not buy a product, it’s worth responding to their questions quickly to encourage them to bid. If other shoppers see them liking something enough to bid on it, they’ll be more likely to click on the listing and bid on it, too. And more bidders can mean higher selling prices.
31. Learn the language.
eBay has its own jargon. Getting to know it may help you understand your competitors’ listings, and you may be able to use acronyms like these to save space in your product descriptions:
- BNWT (Brand New With Tags)
- BNIB (Brand New In Box)
- BIN (Buy It Now)
But remember, most shoppers won’t use these terms in their searches (and may not know what they mean), so don’t stuff your titles with eBay jargon or you’ll risk alienating potential buyers.
32. Give and ask for feedback.
Include a note in your packages that mentions how important feedback is to both buyers and sellers. Suggest that you and the buyer help each other out by providing positive feedback on this purchase. This helps you build rapport with your customers—as long as you follow through with glowing feedback if they pay on time.
33. Put buyer feedback to work for you.
If you’re worried about scammers, remember that buyers have feedback scores, too. You have two options for dealing with them:
- Set your preferences so that buyers with negative feedback or purchase histories can’t buy your products. Before you do, think carefully about whether you want to reduce your potential market this much.
- Block up to 5,000 individual user IDs from buying a product, so you can manually exclude repeat offenders.
34. Build a brand.
A strong brand helps you distinguish yourself from your competition and build trust with your customers. It also helps shoppers remember your business and makes it more likely they’ll come back and refer you to others.
35. Launch a website.
eBay is a great channel for many prospective customers, but not everyone who’s interested in buying your products utilizes it. For maximum exposure and brand awareness, you need a website, too. These two channels support each other. When people find you through online search—whether they find your website or eBay listings first—they’re more likely to buy from you on the other channel, too.
36. Use an integrated inventory system.
If possible, integrate your online store and eBay listings in the same inventory system so you don’t sell products twice, only need to update product information once, and only need to enter new stock into one system. You’ll be more efficient and have happier customers if you do.
37. Keep listings alive.
Buyers pay close attention to Sold counts when deciding whether to buy products, gaining confidence from other people’s choices. That makes it important to keep listings active—so you can retain the Sold counts—even when the products are out of stock. The only way to do this is with a retail management system that keeps the listings alive, but makes them invisible to customers, until you get new stock. Otherwise, your listings will end, and your Sold counts will be zeroed out, even if you relist.
38. Build strong supplier relationships.
Your reliability as a seller on eBay depends on having good partnerships with your suppliers. And reliability can be more important than price when it comes to getting positive feedback. Think about it: If the two of you have a good relationship, your suppliers may ship products to you more reliably and be more inclined to help you in a pinch. And they might even offer you discounts if you buy large quantities and pay on time.
Moving into a new channel like eBay is a bold move— one that can have a big payoff if it’s done right. That’s why the team at Brightpearl wrote up these 38 tips. Whether you’re just starting out or already on eBay, they can help you cash in on this huge opportunity. And we love to see retailers like you prosper and grow.