Elke Johnson, Your Planet Mall
For Elke Johnson, online sales have been a blessing. They've helped her earn a little extra cash, and they've helped her make ends meet when she was between jobs.
"It helped me pay some bills," notes the owner of Your Planet Mall on eBay. "I could not have done this without my customers and eBay letting me sell my products online. At first I had no vision of having a store. I had no idea how fun and profitable this sort of business could be."
But nine years after putting her first item for sale on eBay, Johnson has a full-fledged online business that keeps her busy packing orders after her eight-hour workday. And each order brings closer her dream of one day owning a brick-and-mortar shop.
"My vision of having my own website has come true, and a brick-and-mortar store is moving closer to reality," she says.
A people person
The collectibles seller has always wanted to own her own business, but the cost of opening and operating a brick-and-mortar shop seemed too great. However, a friend showed Johnson how to use eBay for auctions. After listing a few items and getting several bites, Johnson began to realize that the site could help her realize her dream of business ownership.
Johnson says having a business gives her a sense of accomplishment, and much of it comes from being able to offer quality products at good prices, and provide prompt shipping and good customer service. After all, she knows a happy customer will more likely be a return buyer. Her credo is simple: Be honest and polite, and stand by the products you sell.
I remember how excited I got watching my positive feedback going up and up, meaning another satisfied customer
"I remember how excited I got watching my positive feedback going up and up, meaning another satisfied customer," she says. "This is still a very big motivator to me."
Johnson continues to strive for the best customer service she can offer to keep her feedback score high. As testament to her unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction, the About Us section of each listing states, "I want to thank each and every one for their continuing support and help in building this home-based business of mine."
Her appreciation for her shoppers is even evident in the name she gives her store, Your Planet Mall. Johnson explains the meaning: "I sell many different products, like in a mall, and I sell to the world, and I am here for customers, so the Planet Mall is yours."
According to Johnson, eBay has provided such a good experience that she also opened a ProStore, and recently expanded her business to reach a whole new set of shoppers with Your Planet Mall on Auctiva Commerce.
Finding the right mix
When Johnson began selling online, she sold Pokémon cards and other small items. "Then I moved to other collectible items such as Mattel and Disney products," she says. "Now I try to focus on items for everyone. Eighty percent of my items are collectibles. Other items are for education, sports and other fun items."
Testing new products regularly and keeping the lines of communication open with suppliers has proven vital to her success, allowing Johnson to learn about new items her shoppers may enjoy and seeing which ones they truly favor. Sales really picked up when she introduced Demdaco Willow Tree figurines into her product line last year, and 2010's holiday sales surpassed those of 2009 totals, she notes.
Johnson plans to add a new product line to her listings this spring after things have settled from the hectic holiday selling season, which, despite her years of online expertise, always come with challenges.
Since I learned so much on eBay and Auctiva, my sales have increased
"I am still working on having enough stock on hand during Christmas time," she admits. "I tend to get so busy packing that I run out of time for everything else."
Adding a drop-shipper to her business plan has been helpful. This has allowed her to focus on listing creation and sourcing. There are other benefits to drop-shippers, too, she notes—mainly the ability to have someone else worry about storing all of her inventory. Currently, Johnson's office is a spare room in her home. Her garage serves as a warehouse for some products, but it's simply not enough space to house all the products she offers on eBay, she says.
Johnson admits it can be difficult to find a drop-shipper that meets all of your needs, but she's found a number of good resources for locating potential suppliers. For instance, she frequents Worldwide Brands, a directory of more than 8,000 drop-shippers and wholesalers, to find suppliers that suit her needs. However, she advises merchants to read prospective suppliers' terms and conditions very carefully to ensure they won't incur any surprise fees.
"Some have no drop-ship fee, and some a $5 [fee]," she adds.
What's in her tool kit
Another big help for Johnson has been Auctiva.com's Find & Replace feature, which allows her to easily edit listings before they repost on eBay. It was especially useful during the busy holiday selling season. She also uses Auctiva's eBay listing templates to provide shoppers with easy-to-read information in a professional-looking format.
These features, she says, have helped her grow her business.
"Since I learned so much on eBay and Auctiva my sales have increased," she adds.
But, again, customer service has been her saving grace.
"Customer service is very important," Johnson emphasizes. "Free and quick shipping always brings back a satisfied customer."
Visit Your Planet Mall on eBay and on Auctiva Commerce.