Now that you've established yourself as more than just a casual seller on eBay, you might be thinking about taking your business to the next level by opening an eBay Store. But is becoming a store owner right for you?
Anyone with a feedback score of 20 or a PayPal account in good standing, or who has paid the $5 fee to become ID-verified can open an eBay store. But that doesn't mean everyone should.
Stores make the most sense for sellers who consistently generate $100 or more in monthly sales. They're also great for sellers who specialize in one or more categories of goods.
Building and maintaining an eBay Storemuch like any businesstakes hard work and dedication. The main difference is the cost. While startup expenses for a brick-and-mortar business can easily stretch into six figures, on eBay the only investment required is a relatively low monthly fee and a couple hours of setup time.
Before you take the step of opening a store, make sure you have either plenty of items on hand or access to a reliable supply of products from a reputable wholesaler or drop shippera vendor that will ship products to your buyers for you, saving you the expense of warehousing inventory. The last thing you want to do is make customers wait forever for delivery while you (or your source) restock.
Seek your level
There are three tiers of stores on eBay, designed to afford sellers different levels of service based on the size of your operation. Monthly fees give you access to tools to help you build, manage, promote and track your business.
A Basic subscription is geared toward beginners. For a monthly fee of $15.95, you can fill up to five custom catalog pages with your items, and have eBay e-mail a monthly newsletter promoting your specials or sales to up to 5,000 potential customers.
The Featured subscription, at $49.95 a month, is for more established sellers. In addition to up to 10 custom catalog pages and 7,500 newsletters per month, your store ad will rotate through the special features section on the eBay Stores home page. Plus you get round-the-clock dedicated customer support.
Anchor stores are best saved for full-time, hard-core eBayers. For $299.95 a month, you get all the goodies of Featured with up to 15 customizable pages, 10,000 e-email newsletters a month, a rotating ad on the Stores home page, and the opportunity to showcase your store logo in the eBay Stores directory.
Benefits of online stores
There are a lot of reasons to open an online store, not least of which are promotional benefits. For one, you get your own dedicated Web site on eBay to showcase your products and build your brand, as well as the monthly newsletter that eBay generates and sends automatically. In addition, you can specify items from your store to advertise on your auction, bid confirmation and checkout pages.
Having a store can save you listing time, particularly if you have a lot of items to sell. Store inventory format listings run in 30-day increments, and they can run indefinitely or until you cancel them. If you select "good until cancelled," at the end of 30 days eBay will automatically relist an unsold item, saving you the trouble.
You also get access to sales reports, sales management tools, bookkeeping tools, Web traffic analysisand for Premium- and Anchor-level storeowners, market research. Not to mention, having your own storefront on eBay lends credibility to your business, and helps you build a customer following by giving satisfied buyers a place come back to.
One of the downsides to having an eBay Store is you pay higher commission on everything you sell. While listing fees are as little as 3 cents a month for fixed-price items, final value fees start at 11 percent of the closing price. Store subscribers do pay lower final value fees for auctions, however—7.5 percent, compared to 9 percent for non-store subscribers. Still, if your profit margin is already thin, the monthly subscription fee may put store ownership out of reach.
Which eBay Store Is for You?
Another disadvantage is store listings have less visibility in regular eBay searches. Unless a user specifically tells the search feature to look for "Items in Stores," search results will give priority to auction listings. So it's incumbent on you to drive traffic to your store. As an incentive, eBay offers to rebate 75 percent of the final value fees when your off-eBay marketing efforts result in sales of store inventory format listings.
There are many ways to increase your exposure without cutting into your profits. That Web site eBay gave you? Use it to its ultimate potential. Have inexpensive business cards printed up with your store's name and URL, and send one out with every item you ship. Include this information in all of your e-mail correspondence with customers and potential customers. Use the About Me page on eBay to promote your store and prominently display your store Web address so viewers can link directly to it.
It's also a good idea to always have a few auction or fixed-price listings going to help drive business to your store. Include in all your listing descriptions an invitation to "Visit my eBay store," along with a live link. Treat your store as a stockroom, and move items to and from auction as necessary.
And read up on search engine optimization. Use searchable keywords in your store's name, description and catalog pages, and activate listing feeds to ensure your Web site and listings will come up on comparison shopping sites and in Google searches.
This article was updated to reflect eBay pricing changes that take effect July 6, 2011.