'Cool Tools' and Other Essentials

A virtual 'Batman's utility belt' for eBay sellers

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- Oct 03, 2008

Remember Batman's yellow utility belt? If you're like us, you consider it one of the best things about being Batman. That wicked belt gave him ready access to all sorts of cool things from ropes, to boomerangs, to a camera and a "two-way radio."

As an eBay seller, couldn't you use the same thing? These days we're all looking for ways to work smarter and—short of a utility belt like Batman's—software programs and Web sites may be your best bet. Here are some of the best we've located. Holy Sales Batman!

DSRwatch.com (http://dsrwatch.com): In the last year or so, DSRs have become as important to eBay sellers as any other acronym you can think of. That's understandable with so much riding on DSRs, including where a seller's items appear in search results and even what sort of final value fee discount the seller may be eligible for.

An easy way to stay on top of your DSR ratings, as well as your competitors, is this nifty and easy to use site. Just enter the seller's ID in the search box and a full DSR report appears. An especially cool service allows you to sign up to receive an e-mail alert when the DSR for a given seller changes. Better set one up for yourself!

Twitter (http://twitter.com): Have you tried Twitter yet? Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 sites that helps you stay in touch with your friends, family, co-workers, etc. Twitter users can send brief and quick dispatches about what they're up to (e.g., "shipping yesterday's orders") to immediately update members of their networks. It's kind of like texting through your keyboard to a bunch of people all at once. Sounds great, but is there a way to use Twitter as a business tool too? eBay PowerSeller John Gilmore of My Auction Source explains why he thinks Twitter glitters:

I figure if I can start getting some of my customers to interact with me, then I will stay in front of them and be there when they are ready to buy again

"One of the coolest tools I just signed up to use (and the best part is it is free) is Twitter. I started adding a small blurb at the bottom of all my e-mails to my customers inviting them to follow me on Twitter to receive special discounts and notices when new items arrive. I just started this so I do not have a track record with it yet, but it is very simple and easy to do and takes very little time. I figure if I can start getting some of my customers to interact with me some, then I will stay in front of them and be there when they are ready to buy again."

eBay's Bayestimate (http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/demoto/to?): We recently came across this neat but little known tool eBay sellers can use to hone their listing titles, and thus improve their Best Match rankings. It's free and even fun to use. It's bound to give you great ideas for keywords you should use that are proven winners with buyers. You just enter your proposed item title in the search box and it returns with buyer search queries matching your item—ranked by popularity!

eBay Fee Calculator (www.aswas.com/tools.shtml): This is a free, downloadable Excel spreadsheet you can use to automatically calculate your eBay insertion and upgrade fees and calculate what you'd have to sell an item for to break even. Just add in your projected (or actual) shipping costs, cost of goods, final value fees, etc. and you can easily see what your total profit or loss would be. This tool is from the consulting firm As Was, which keeps it updated with the latest fee changes. You'll need Microsoft Excel to use it.

eBay's Popular Terms (http://popular.ebay.com): eBay is making more and more market research data available at no charge to sellers. This site provides hyperlinks broken down by category to some of the most popular products on eBay, from antiques to video games. The listings also include some information about each category. For example, the abstract art product page taught us that this art form "offers power through simplicity." And apparently a famous Picasso painting depicts a woman in only three strokes. Talk about working smarter!

SellerDome (www.sellerdome.com): Ever wonder who are eBay's top sellers worldwide, and what they sell? Wonder no more. This site provides all the information you may want to know about eBay's top 100 sellers including their eBay IDs, feedback numbers, categories they sell in, when they became eBay members and the number of listings they have active. The company's blog has even more data including the percentage of eBay sellers who are no longer active and sellers' average feedback and DSR ratings, by eBay category. These more specific lists cover hundreds of thousands of sellers!

Terapeak (www.terapeak.com): Climb the Terapeak and you'll find a ton of valuable data at the summit. Most of this company's services come with a fee but that's understandable considering the detailed market intelligence sellers can get on eBay listings. For example, for a given category (and time period) you can find out exactly when items were posted, what listing enhancements were used, sell-through rates and listing type. Looking for average selling price? That's there too. Andy Geldman of Auction Software Review recommends sellers try Terapeak and get a free selling report as a way of assessing the value of the company's data.

Many people don't realize that they can customize search engine keywords for their eBay stores

Google Base Store Connector (http://base.google.com/base/storeconnector): Wouldn't you like to drive more customers to your eBay Store? Want Google to help? The Google Base Store Connector tool allows you to easily add your store's inventory to Google's index. That way when all those millions of Googlers search for products like the ones you sell, your listings appear in the search results. And Google does all the heavy lifting (listing) for you! Thanks again to Andy Geldman for this great tip.

Open Office (www.openoffice.org): When you buy a new computer and shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars, is it too much to ask that a decent word processing program and spreadsheet program come with it? As you undoubtedly know, it is. That is, unless you pay extra for the software to come pre-installed. Enter OpenOffice, an "open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more." It's completely free and because the code behind it is "open source" it will run on all types of computers. eBay PowerSeller Gary Richardson of harleyglasses uses it for building feedfiles, spreadsheets and creating documents.

Customize your eBay Store Search Terms. This is more of a tip than a tool, but we thought it was so important we had to pass it on. eBay seller Anne Brandon of brookesbikinis says that "many people don't realize that they can customize search engine keywords for their eBay stores." To do this, she advises store owners click on the Manage My Store link, and then click on Search Engine Keywords. When store categories appear, you'll see that eBay recommends search terms coinciding with your categories. But Anne feels you should customize your own keywords. "You can click on the Google AdWords tab (a clickable link right in the same area) and see the most popular search words for your categories." Anne notes that "when you customize your own keywords, it helps buyers find your store." Thanks Anne!

Note: Google has a standalone tool to help you noodle around keyword choices. It's available at https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.

Cool Tools Blog (http://developer.ebay.com/community/blog/?category=Cool+Tools): Be sure to bookmark this blog from eBay's developer's program so you can stay on top of all the latest and greatest tools for managing your eBay business.

With your very own eBay utility belt fully stocked, you may not be ready to scale the exteriors of skyscrapers, but you're bound to climb the ranks of eBay's successful sellers. That's even better than a subscription to Batman comics!

About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales, was recently named the 2015 Small Business Book of the Year in the social media category.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website, bradanddeb.com.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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