• shops and stores
  • individuals
  • ebayers
  • market traders


Now that we have all finally settled into the New Year, perhaps it’s time to try your luck with auction sites if you haven’t already. eBay is the biggest of these and dominates the market but there are others such as ebid and totalbids so you could give them a try. It’s probably best to master one auction website before you branch out to others.

Get to know the website

Before you start to sell on any of the auction websites you should definitely try buying from them. You need to know how they work as a platform first and it’s best to approach this from the buyer’s point of view. First search for an item, then make a bid or try to ‘buy it now’ and then you have to pay and wait for the delivery. Consider this: what was the service like? Think both about the tangibles that you are working with (the product, the packaging, the software that allows you to see the item and pay for it) and the intangibles (how you felt at every stage of the process. Satisfied? Ripped off?).

Research
What do you want to sell? This is not always the same as what will sell well. If you want to make a quick killing that’s one thing, but perhaps you would prefer to have a niche. It may be that you want to be the one that buyers turn to for certain items, be that vintage spanners, spotty kitchen ware or elephant poo products (no really… )

Whatever you decide you need to check out your competitors, so search for a relevant product and see how they price it, how much their packing and postage is, what the item description is like, what their feedback is like etc.
When you know the product you need to source your supplier. Make sure your supplier is reputable and isn’t ripping you off with products that will never sell because they are so inferior. There’s a great little website I know called Oh you’ve heard of it! They sell quality branded goods at rock bottom prices. Check them out!

Storage
Keep it tidy and well ordered!Where are you going to keep all your items? Ideally you need a stock room that is secure if needs be and that can be locked away from the family. Make sure you stock everything neatly and have a good stock control system particularly if you are selling in more than one outlet! Ensure your storage area is free from rodents, pests, animals and cigarette smoke. Nobody wants to buy goods that smell odd!

Know what to charge
Make sure you know how much you are paying in fees to the website. Often there are listing fees, final valuation fees and a monthly charge if you have a shop front. You will also be charged by PayPal so the chances are you’re already losing approximately 15% of your profit. Be careful you are not being charged extra for photographs and a sub heading on your title – unless you want to be.

Once you have taken all of these fees into consideration you need to sell cheaply enough to be attractive to buyers and make a profit.

Postage and Packing
Make sure you don’t overcharge. Online buyers are very savvy about what things cost so you need to be careful. However, factor in the cost of packaging and if you’re delivering to a post office consider your petrol too.
Wrap goods up well so that you don’t have complaints about burst packaging etc.

You can include the cost of P & P with your item if you like and then claim that there is ‘free’ P & P which can help your feedback ratings, however be aware that you are charged for the sale price by eBay so they will take a slice.
Include a flyer or business card especially if you have your own website that you would like to link the customer back to.

Loving your Listings
You get 80 characters to write the headline for your item. Make sure you cover the colour, make, model, quantity, size etc. and if you have space add in a couple of power adjectives. You know you’ve probably seen them: ‘shabby chic’, ‘vintage’, ‘stunning’, ‘new’ etc. But don’t claim your item is something it isn’t!

Your item description in the main body of the listing should be as complete as possible. Describe it fully. The buyer can’t see it so they want to know as much as possible about it as possible. List all defects but also tell the buyer about the uses the item can be put to, the benefits to them of buying it and where it will look good. That sort of thing. Be evocative! Why should the buyer want this item?

Now I may sound like the grammar police here but it’s hugely important to check your spelling, punctuation or grammar before you post the listing. Buyers are turned off by your rubbish spelling. It screams lack of effort and ‘I don’t care’! Perhaps even more importantly, if you misspell the keywords, search engines will not find your item and people won’t find your items to bid on. You’ll lose money which is not a great business strategy really!

Yes it does take a lot of effort. The more effort you put in the more successful you will be. Make your listings look attractive and professional. Use bold, large font, bullet points, colour and subtitles. Keep it easy on the eye for the reader. Include some gentle humour. Above all, be honest!

Take photos against a backdropPhotography
You really need to take decent photographs to go with your listings. Make sure you have a clear area to shoot in, so get rid of any clutter. Shooting outdoors is a good idea but not in direct sunlight which can alter the contrast and change colours irrevocably.

Use a decent back drop, a cloth or some mounting card (available from art shops), tissue paper. As long as it’s plain and not patterned and allows your item to stand out, it will be fine. Take close ups so that detail is obvious. Also take shots of any defects the item has. Use a ruler next to any small items so people can see the size.

Feedback
Mmm feedback. An ever thorny issue really. You are definitely judged by your feedback score on auction websites so you need to take the best care of it you can. Build up your positive feedback score to begin with by buying your packaging supplies from the website, then consider selling some things very cheaply and deliver them fast so that people are really pleased and give positive response. Make sure you return the favour. Actually writing your feedback for them in advance of them leaving any for you can work in your favour too.

If you get negative feedback be extremely careful how you respond. My advice is to be friendly, courteous and professional. It will reflect well on you.

Know when to suck it up like a hoover

If a customer thinks you are wrong, be wrong! Offer the best customer service you possibly can. Instantly apologise and keep apologising. Offer a refund or a replacement with free P & P if necessary. You could also include little extras if this is possible. The customer may be trying it on, it happens, but you are trying to protect that all important feedback score. You’ll feel like the bigger person afterwards, honestly!

Job lots for ebayFinally – take the most pride you possibly can in your fledgling business
Be credible. Be seen as professional. Your listings should look immaculate, you should take time and trouble over your packaging and care about your feedback. Be passionate and knowledgeable about your products. Your shop should be clean and well presented. Go the extra mile and people will respond well to you and keep coming back.

Have fun and enjoy! Get busy!

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