With the new year now in full swing, it's still a good time to reflect on all you've accomplished in the past year, and look forward to what's next. To help you identify your top priorities for 2011, here, we suggest five New Year's resolutions for online sellers.
1. Get into shape for mobile
If you thought mobile shopping was a passing fad, or an activity that would have limited appeal, think again. Mobile commerce arrived with a bang in 2010, as it seemed every man, woman and teen with access to a smartphone began using the devices to purchase products or services on the Web.
In the past year, total mobile commerce sales in the U.S. doubled to $2.4 billion, and are projected to nearly double again in 2011, reaching $4.4 billion, according to Coda Research. But that's only the beginning. By 2015, mobile commerce is forecast to grow into a $24 billion business—in the U.S., alone.
eBay is investing, in a big way, in applications that allow buyers and sellers to use the site with a mobile device. Its shift toward a mobile-optimized marketplace will impose a whole new set of expectations on sellers. We've already seen some of these come into play, from the mandate to eliminate duplicate listings, to the shift toward catalog products and more streamlined listing pages.
If you haven't already, review and update your listings to ensure you have no identical listings that will overlap on eBay. Auctiva's Find & Replace tool can help you quickly revise up to 100 listings at a time, even those that are live on eBay.
While you're at it, make sure the appearance of your listings will translate well to a mobile environment. The text and background styles you use should be attractive and easy on the eyes. The more fonts, sizes and colors you cram into a page, the slower your listings will open, and the harder it will be for potential buyers to read—assuming they stick around long enough to see it. Read more about optimizing your listings for mobile.
Consumers increasingly seek out their favorite brands and businesses through social media channels
2. Examine your social behavior
Are you still unsure how to incorporate social media into your business marketing strategy? If so, you're not alone. A recent Intuit Inc. poll of small business owners in the U.S. found that, while 71 percent think social media is worthwhile for cultivating customer relationships, only one-third are actually using it to connect with their buying communities. Of the 1,000 business owners polled, 67 percent said they are not using Twitter, Facebook, or FourSquare, and a whopping 91 percent don't have a blog.
Here's the thing: Consumers increasingly seek out their favorite brands and businesses through social media channels to get access to special promotions and coupons, to receive regular updates on new products, to share reviews and recommendations with their friends and other shoppers… you get the picture.
There are lots of ways to create connections with would-be buyers, but Twitter and Facebook happen to be easy to use, and it's likely that your potential customers are already there, so use them.
Create a Facebook page for your business, and add a "Like" button to your Web site. Upload a mailing list and e-mail your customers an invitation to "Like" your page. Broadcast messages to your fans using the "Send an Update" feature. Shopping carts add-ons let you sell items right on Facebook. There are even apps that will automatically send a tweet to your followers when you update your Facebook status.
Read more about using Twitter for your business and designing a social media strategy.
3. Start counting transactions
Count calories? That's up to you. But in 2011, it's time to start keeping track of your sales figures and transaction volume. Starting this tax year, the IRS is requiring electronic payment processors like PayPal and credit card companies to report the sales numbers of certain online sellers. If you typically do more than $20,000 in sales and 200 transactions a year, this means you.
At this level, the government reasons, you're operating a business, and you should be reporting your income as any legitimate business would. If you're not sure whether you'll be affected, start keeping track now. Then when tax time rolls around, you'll be equipped to file your returns with confidence, whether you file quarterly or annually.
And while you're counting sales receipts, don't forget that you can write off some business expenses, too, like listing fees, the cost of shipping materials and other office supplies, and even tax-preparation fees. Read more tax-time tips, but be sure to consult a tax professional for advice concerning your business.
Wholesale sites allow merchants to buy factory-direct merchandise in small quantities
4. Investigate new products and sources
Looking for a way to take your online sales to a new level? Maybe you'd like to expand the selection of products you offer, or narrow your focus to a few top performers, or even just the items you really love selling. Either way, you'll want to have access to inventory at the lowest possible cost to ensure you maintain a high profit margin.
One way to reduce your cost of inventory is to go directly to the manufacturing source. Wholesale sites like AliExpress allow merchants to buy factory-direct merchandise in quantities as small as one unit—often with free shipping—in order to find their comfort level before committing to a larger purchase. While this is a great way to experiment with sourcing from an overseas partner, it also provides an opportunity to test market products without making a huge upfront investment.
5. Brush up on the basics
Whether you're new to selling online, you've been on eBay since the beginning, or something in between, it can't hurt to review the rules of the playground from time to time. With eBay frequently introducing new policies and features, and revising existing ones, even longtime users of the site have been known to lose track.
As the largest third-party eBay solution provider, Auctiva continually updates its tools to stay in synch with eBay—even improving on features eBay introduces, such as Multi-Variation and Parts Compatibility support.
To make sure you're always informed about the latest eBay developments, and how Auctiva helps users get the most out of selling on eBay, be sure to attend an Auctiva 101 Webinar (log into Auctiva to register). These one-hour sessions are informative for new and experienced users, alike, and allow plenty of time for questions and answers on any topic related to Auctiva, eBay or e-commerce in general.
Now, go out and make 2011 the best year yet!