Former banking executive Larry Phillips is an eBay PowerSeller with more than 130,000 positive feedbacks. We've been reading his keen comments on Facebook's The eCommerce Group for a while, and that's why we knew he'd have great tips to share.
There are many [buyers] looking for items they can turn around and flip
Specializing in stamps, Phillips has sold on eBay for more than 15 years. Overall, he's been in the stamp business more than 25 years.
He's survived and thrived through many hills and valleys as an online seller. His unconditional guarantee: Return any item within 21 days of purchase for a full refund, no questions asked, is among the best we've seen.
Here, Phillips explains how eBay buyers have changed over the years, how to choose the right channel for your items and he gives his tips for success.
Buyers have changed
Schepp: When did you start selling online?
Phillips: I first started selling online in 1999, selling on eBay. My brother-in-law, who at the time was an editor for PC Week, suggested it to me. At first, I did not think stamps would sell on the Internet, as collectors generally want to examine the stamps they purchase. Obviously, I was wrong.
Schepp: Stamp collecting has been your hobby for a long time. Do you think it's an advantage for sellers to sell things they have a personal interest in?
Phillips: I believe it's very important to have a personal interest in what you're selling. It allows you to better determine hot buttons, keywords, required information, the best type of photos to take and so on.
Schepp: What are eBay buyers like these days?
Phillips: In general, eBay buyers are looking for a great deal. But there are many more these days that are looking for a "ridiculous" deal. There are many looking for items they can turn around and flip on Amazon, or other venues.
There are also many more stories of buyers extorting sellers these days. There are many buyers who are using eBay's rules to manipulate sellers, threatening low DSRs or returns, causing sellers to give away items to avoid the consequences of low ratings. While some of that goes on in the Stamps category, it is much less than most categories, based on the demographics of the buyers.
Amazon receives the most traffic. However, the costs to sell on Amazon can be prohibitive. eBay…is much easier to get started
My buyers are generally older, upper middle-class, patient and understanding, desiring personal attention, and ready to work with a seller. And that hasn't changed much. Most buyers are still like that. There's just a larger percentage of bad buyers.
Branching out can be tricky
Schepp: You now sell on other venues besides eBay. Do you recommend sellers take that route?
Phillips: This is actually a very complex question. It depends on what you are selling, the resources you have available, the amount of time you can devote to your business and your ultimate goals.
In today's world, Amazon receives the most traffic. However, the costs to sell on Amazon can be prohibitive. eBay also receives a lot of traffic, and is much easier to get started, but their rules are so onerous that you can shoot yourself in the foot if you don't know what you're doing.
The costs to sell on Bonanza are extremely low and the rules are much easier to deal with, but the number of sales will probably be lower. I highly recommend that you find a coach who can work with you one on one and help you make a decision as to where to start.
Schepp: How do you decide which stamps should be sold through a given channel?
Phillips: I mostly sell the same items on all venues. However, if it's a unique item or an item that's difficult to determine value, I will generally try to sell it on eBay via the auction format. And due to the costs, I do not sell items for less than $5 on eBay or Amazon.
Buying sets you apart
I have found Pinterest to work well for me. Showing the beauty of some of my stamps has led to sales
Schepp: What are the keys to your success?
Phillips: There are many, but I'll give you two that apply to everyone: I try to stay current. The things that worked in the past don't necessarily work today. The best way to do this is to join one of the many discussion groups or meet-up groups, and actively participate.
You can find them on Facebook, LinkedIn and many other places. I also have a love for and an in-depth knowledge of stamps, particularly their value.
Schepp: What have been the most effective strategies for using social media for your business?
Phillips: This is the area that I am weakest in and plan to focus on during 2015. I have not properly leveraged social media. However, I have found Pinterest to work well for me. Showing the beauty of some of my stamps has led to sales.
Schepp: What's the most valuable advice you've learned about selling online?
Phillips: Your successes come from your buying, not your selling.
Schepp: Thank you, Larry.