Lately, I've been spending some time sourcing inventory on eBay. I haven't done much of this in the past, but I think I've been missing out.
One of the things I've been doing is buying up the competition. If I discover a new product that not many people know about, I set up a saved search on it. To do this, I search for a product on eBay, then I click the "Save search" link in the upper left-hand corner, next to the number of results my search returned.
When someone lists this product, I receive an e-mail. If the price is right, I snap it up, or snipe it using a service like eSnipe or Auction Sniper. Snipers are services that automatically place your bid in the last seconds of an auction to increase the likelihood you'll win the item.
A few examples
Here's an example of how sourcing on eBay can work for you. A while back, I bought some vintage products at The Salvation Army. The three pieces were identical and cost me a total of $3. This $3 purchase has already made me almost $70, and I still have one item left to sell.
I've been listing one piece at a time so as not to make competition for myself. A few weeks ago I noticed that two other people were selling the same product for much less. Their listings weren't very good, however, and their items weren't appearing in some search results. I saw an opportunity, and I decided to buy up their inventory at a low price. I now have two more of these items waiting to be sold, and I won't have to create a new listing since the pieces are identical. I can just relist it.
If possible, focus on flipping lightweight products. The lighter the item, the less it will cost to ship
After buying out identical products from other sellers, I set up a saved search for this product so I can be sure to have a shot if the opportunity comes up again.
Here's another example. I just created a saved search for an item of clothing that features a cartoon character from the 1980s. Last year I bought this product at a yard sale for 50 cents and sold it for $50. These shorts don't look like anything special, but obviously they're collectible.
Get ready to flip
Want to know how to find products to flip? See my tips below.
Save several searches for the same product using different keywords. For example, if you're looking for a shirt from Joseph's Bar in Tampa, FL, you might want to create a saved search for "Joseph's Bar" with an apostrophe and "Josephs Bar" without an apostrophe. Depending on the word, the apostrophe can make a difference in search results. You might be able to pick up this mug cheaply if everyone is searching for "Joseph's Bar," and the listing that reads "Josephs Bar" never shows up in search results.
Check your e-mail often, or have e-mail notifications sent to your phone. You'll be able to jump on a deal before others find it.
Focus on what I like to refer to as "sleepers." Everyone knows iPhones are valuable, so it's going to be harder to find deals on these. Not everyone knows that certain coffee mugs sell for a mint.
If someone lists an item you're interested in, but they have it listed at a high price, "watch" the listing. If they relist it at a lower price, you will receive an e-mail. If the item sits and sits and the price is still too high, ask the buyer if he or she would be willing to add a Best Offer button. People e-mail me frequently about products I have listed, and I often agree to add a best offer option if they are serious about buying the item.
If possible, focus on flipping lightweight products. You will have to factor in shipping when deciding whether to buy a product to add to your inventory. The lighter the item, the less it will cost to ship.
Consider using a second eBay ID to purchase items so that buyers don't see how much you paid for the items you're reselling.
Flipping products on eBay can be fun and profitable. In fact, it can become an important part of your business. Try out some of these techniques, and you may be able to start sourcing inventory without ever leaving your house!
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Miriam Otto is an eBay educator, based in Northern California. Miriam sells more than 500 items per month on eBay, and finds most of what she sells at yard sales and thrift shops. When not teaching eBay classes or running her business, she enjoys writing about her latest "scores" on The eBay Life blog. In addition to living "The eBay Life," Miriam works as an independent study teacher helping adults earn high school diplomas.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.