We've had a blast in the past few months chatting with Kathy Terrill of NYCfitnessfamilyfinds on eBay. Terrill has more than 20 years of retail experience, including six years on QVC as an on-air presenter.
Plus she's been selling online for more than 10 years. Today she sells not only on eBay, but also on other sites such as Etsy and Amazon.
With all of this experience, we thought she would be a perfect candidate to help us guide less-experienced sellers through the ins and outs of building an e-commerce business. Terrill was happy to do so.
First, master the basics
"At the beginning," she says, "just avail yourself of the resources on eBay itself. There are many videos, PDFs and lots of things you can use right on the site."
Think about shipping, pricing, customer service and returns before you get overwhelmed with fulfilling orders
She recommends getting the basics in place from the outset. "The way you present yourself is important," she explains. Think about shipping, pricing, customer service and returns before you get overwhelmed with fulfilling orders.
Like many other sellers who have shared their wisdom with us, Terrill recommends you think about what you can bring to the marketplace.
In her case, Terrill can provide Manhattan-style shopping for the billions of us who don't live in Manhattan, and can't take advantage of the bargains available on that tiny and hectic island. Terrill has made that a hallmark of what she sells.
"I get a lot of designer samples," she notes. So she can source clothing directly from the source and pass those savings on to her customers, who don't have that same access.
Focus on your 'look'
Once you have some experience under your belt, the merchant recommends you bump your presentation up a notch. "Look at your design, and get yourself a store logo," she notes. "Your presentation is important, and you need a great header."
Hers looks like this:
Terrill says that with a professional presentation, you can charge a little more for your items and get your prices. Are you put off by the thought of this type of design? She was, too.
"I don't know HTML, and I don't want to know it," she tells us. "I hired someone to do that."
Terrill was looking for some vintage New York images that would evoke old-time, vintage Manhattan. "I came across a vintage postcard," she notes. "I was thinking of inserts I wanted to put into my packages, and I'd been looking at NY postcards."
With a professional presentation, you can charge a little more for your items and get your prices
Finding these vintage images proved this was exactly the look she wanted for her business. Terrill's contractor was able to find some images that were no longer under copyright, and these graphics became her signature image.
"I use it everywhere, including YouTube, Twitter, my blog and Google Plus," she adds. "I hired him to use the same look for my business cards, and I get nothing but great comments about it. It took my business to a new level."
Find your 'look'
But when you're just starting out, how do you know what represents you? Terrill advises taking the graphic step after you've been selling six months to a year. "Look at who you are," she says, "because you are someone. What are you drawn to? It's there if you look at the things you buy."
Remember that each seller will have an individual persona even if you're selling things in a crowded field. Terrill reports that a friend of hers sells to clients who are more into "funk" than she is. Her images are then likely to be designed to appeal more to the Millennials than Terrill's would.
But what if you don't see the connections among what you sell? "Ask your friends," she says. "Or ask the others in your online groups. As we go forward, the visual will be more and more important."
Terrill says you used to be able to bypass great visuals on eBay. Great photos sufficed. "Not anymore," she warns.
"Whatever niche you're in should be represented in your visuals," she continues. "If I look at a site that's very amateurish, I'm going to look and see if you're brand new. If so, I'm OK with that, but I'm not going to pay as much. If you want to get better prices, make sure your visuals are clean and professional looking."
Put your graphics to work elsewhere
With great visuals, you can make your presence on social networks more professional, too.
Look at who you are because you are someone. What are you drawn to? It's there if you look at the things you buy
"You have to promote on social media even if you're just starting out," Terrill advises. "Start with Pinterest, because it's easy to get started there. Leave Facebook and Twitter alone at first."
As you step into social networking, think about whom your likely customers are and what else they might be interested in, she says. "Social media should be social," she adds. "If you sell men's clothes, do some research. Don't just post about shirts."
Also, think about what men might be doing while wearing the clothes you sell. If you're selling casual wear, for example, think about barbecues or other summer recreation. Terrill was marketing heavily toward the back-to-school shopper when we spoke.
"Mom and Dad might be paying," she explains, "but the college kids are buying their own stuff. I have Pinterest boards for back-to-school college stuff."
Terrill says her boards are more geared toward the younger consumer she knows will be making the purchase.
"Don't just post products, either," she continues. "I've posted articles, too, about dorm decorations or accessories." She even grabbed a picture of a beautiful Jaguar she saw to put the enviable car among the images she posts for her high-end items.
We hope this first article whetted your appetite for more great tidbits Terrill has gathered through her years of hard work. In our next installment, we'll look at how to move your business into the intermediate phase. We'll take a look at networking among other sellers and also managing inventory, including the items that sell, and sadly, those items that don't.