Congratulations! Your eBay business is large enough to supply extra income to help with the family budget. Or maybe your eBay business is your business—that is, your primary means of income. In any case, it's likely you're interested in making that business grow.
No kidding, right? But how do you do this?
For some ideas, we contacted a number of successful sellers and vendors. In this article, we'll cover the first steps to take: bundling products, optimizing your listings for mobile and making your descriptions come alive with words. Part 2 will cover showcasing your inventory, leveraging forums, and how and when to use services such as WeGoLook.
Focus on one simple step at a time. Many eBayers overwhelm themselves going in five directions at once
First things first
Katherine Terrill is an avid eBay seller who also moderates Facebook's eBay Stores group. Interestingly, she's also an actress who has appeared on shows from Law and Order to All My Children, and according to her website katernineterrill.com, is known for her blood-curdling scream (let out perhaps when she gets negative feedback on eBay)?
Terrill suggests that before sellers put too much time and money into growing their eBay businesses they ask themselves some basic questions:
Why am I interested in moving my business to the next level? Am I looking to become a Top-rated Seller, or to open a new store?
What about branding? Do I have a logo yet?
Am I using—really using—social media? For her part, Terrill likes to focus on learning one site at a time. She started with Pinterest, which she thinks is "the best site right now for eBay sellers," but she also uses Facebook, Twitter and blogging.
Am I doing social media well? (That is, not spamming.)
Am I SEO and mobile optimized?
If the answers to all of the above are yes, it's probably time to increase sales. To do that, you can either increase inventory or profit margin. Ask, which one is best for me?
If it's inventory, how can you increase that? The same applies to profit margin—it's a topic big enough to warrant its own article.
"So when someone says they want to take it to the next level, they need to be specific and clear," Terrill advises. "I'd focus on one simple step at a time—many eBayers overwhelm themselves going in five directions at once. They should also listen to other wise sellers, but realize everyone's path is their own."
Bundle products in order to create an offer that's hard to duplicate, and increase value greater than cost for more profit
It's likely bundling is a strategy that you've run across, but we'd be remiss if we didn't also mention it here. If you sell a given product, add accessories to that item to create a bundle (e.g., cell phone cases and screen protectors with your cell phones).
Brandon Dupsky, co-founder of ICE: Internet Commerce Entrepreneurs, an industry trade and education group, feels that bundling "is still a technique to differentiate yourself on eBay." He advises that you create an offer that's hard to duplicate and "increase value greater than cost for more profit."
Optimize product listings
Again, this isn't a new idea, but one that's evolving all the time as the eBay platform changes and new software tools become available.
While seller Alaa Hassan doesn't think there's a next level for which you should strive, you should focus on a way to keep your business at a profitable level.
"We try to always optimize our product listings by making them more descriptive, with better titles, by using Sales Maximizer, promotions and continuously analyzing prices to remain competitive," Hassan says, adding wryly: "The only way to take your business to the next level is when you're lucky enough to become a Top-rated Seller and enjoy the increase in sales without doing anything extra."
Make it come alive with words
Donna MacMurray Klein
, who has been selling on the site since 1998, and is known as "The eBay Lady," suggests you can do more with the words that comprise your descriptions.
"Take any mainstream product: dishes, watches, bras," she suggests. "Pick five big mainstream websites at random. You will probably find [the product is] listed in a format with one or two 'make it come alive with words' sentences, and left-aligned short bullet points."
Klein says she has done this exercise a couple of times to illustrate it. "Nordstrom, Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Walmart, Target… that's how they do it," she says. "So I figure, those big companies, with teams of expert marketing, writing, optimization, readability pros—this is how they do it. Why should the small e-commerce company be different? We small companies can provide a level of service and unique products that the big guys can't. We have that huge advantage and we should shout about it!"
The days of embedded photos, massive terms of service, centered fonts, cutesy templates and all are over
Ever since Brad downloaded the eBay app for his Android phone, his desk has been filling up with the old Parker and Paper Mate pens he collects. The app makes it so easy to see what's new, and then so easy to bid, that it's almost irresistible. Of course, Brad isn't the only one who's hooked. eBay says mobile commerce is really driving its results these days.
Klein feels mobile optimization involves very specific things, including font sizes.
"The days of embedded photos, massive terms of service, centered fonts, cutesy templates and all are over," Klein says. "Lots of sellers are holding out, wanting to 'do it their way,' but when 40 percent of shoppers are using mobile, those old school listings will get skipped when they're not readable on a mobile device."
What's most important, she feels, are item specifics. "Where one does not exist, make a custom one. Besides optimizing for mobile (item specifics are very easy to read), those offer you instant protection from bad feedback," she advises.
She gives this example of an item specific that you might make:
> About 12 x 8 x 10
"And if a customer comes in with a negative, saying 'smaller than expected' (we've all had those), customer service takes it right down since measurements were in item specifics," she adds.
eBay also has information on the site about optimizing for mobile. "One thing eBay says is to upload multiple images to the gallery since the mobile version is very image friendly," Hassan says. "Users can swipe across images with their fingers. Another thing is, your description area can be optimized for mobile. That's something I have to work on as well."
We've covered a lot of territory here, but hopefully you now have some ideas to get started with growing your business. While you take some time to use the advice we've given, we'll get cracking on Part 2 of this series.