In the first article of this series, we shared with you the story of Clare Haines, who built her eBay business organically. You may remember that she initially spent most of a year buying and selling anything that seemed interesting or desirable. Then she settled on lingerie sales, and began scaling her business, first by selling two items, then four, then eight. When we got in touch, she had expanded her lingerie business to four manufacturers and was planning to add another four by the end of the year. Slow and steady may win the race, and it certainly has been a good plan for Haines.
This time, we'd like to share with you the experience of Yitty, known on eBay as kneesntoes. She took three years to achieve her eBay success, but when we spoke, she was very clear that it doesn't have to take that long.
"If people start selling on eBay and know the tricks and tips, it shouldn't take more than three or four months [until they're] selling nicely. I don't want them to think it takes longer than it does," she says.
So, where are we going to find those "tricks and tips?" Happily, Yitty was willing to share some of hers with us, and we're happy to share them with you.
Identify the 'draw'
Yitty's idea started with her brick-and-mortar store. She has operated the store for more than nine years, selling socks, hosiery and accessories, and these are the items she brought to sell on eBay. She soon discovered that this inventory would not drive people to her eBay sales.
"When I first started, I didn't shop extra for online inventory," she explains. "I listed the same items I sold in the store, just to boost sales." Yitty soon found the flaw in that plan. "I didn't carry brand-name items in my store," she says. "I sell socks, and that's not so hot online."
The first thing she discovered was that brand names sell much better on eBay than no-name brands. So she invested in about $200 worth of brand-name items and sold enough to get her feedback number up to the 10 feedbacks necessary to open an eBay Store. That's when her research took her in new directions.
Keywords play a big role online. Use all the characters that eBay gives you
Yitty learned that baby items sell really well online. Although baby socks and tights might not be her best option, she went in search of items that were selling strongly online. That's when she discovered the Razbaby Teether. She soon found that the combination pacifier and teether "sells like crazy online," Yitty reports. This, she decided, was the item she could use to draw people to her store.
"A lot of people sell Razbaby," she tells us, "but billions of shoppers need it."
Plus, there's the added advantage of knowing that the customer base for baby items continues to grow. There will always be babies, and those babies will always have parents and family members, who want them to have everything they need. So the pacifier/teether became the brand name item that drew shoppers to Yitty's eBay Store, where she had the chance to show them what else she carries—namely, essentials for infants and children.
Polish up your listings
Yitty says presenting a professional face to her customers made a big difference in how her customers felt about shopping with her. She turned to the eBay consulting firm AsWas to create professional and attractive templates, and her customers really responded to her listings.
Yitty also gives credit to eBay and its 800-number support line. She called often with questions, and it was an eBay employee who directed her to improve the look of her listings with professional templates. (Editor's note: eBay Store subscribers, PowerSellers, and Top-rated Sellers may now call eBay's Seller Development team for a free business consultation).
Yitty recommends sellers pay attention to all the details, such as the words used to create listing titles. "Keywords play a big role online," she says. "Use all the characters that eBay gives you."
She also learned to pay close attention to her product images. "Images from the first year are embarrassing," she confesses.
Yitty admits that in her first year, she actually posted an image of black socks on a black board. Now she knows better.
I learned there were questions I could avoid if I had better images and more information in my listings
"I bought a special light. I bought a white board. [But] I have a typical camera. You don't need a lot of extra stuff," she explains. "But now I know how to resize images, and that you can't put black socks on a black board. I wasn't professional at first."
Let your customers teach you
Although Yitty fully admits that her first year on eBay was strictly for educational purposes, she was wise enough to realize that her own customers were her very best teachers. She quickly made it a habit to study the questions she received from shoppers. "I learned there were questions I could avoid if I had better images and more information in my listings. I used those questions to change my listings." By the second year, Yitty was writing down the questions her customers asked so she could study them for patterns and possible areas of improvement.
She also learned what customers like, and for her that meant free shipping. She raised her prices by a modest amount and now she ships for free. Additionally, because she sells essentials, she learned she can bundle her items, selling more at each sale and saving on shipping. Here are some perfect examples:
"I have a lot of tights," Yitty explains. "I listed them at $2.99, but they cost me $1.41 to ship. I started selling them in packs of two or three. That way I can share the shipping."
This also allows Yitty to move more inventory. And, as any parent of a tight-wearing child will tell you, two or three pairs make a better purchase anyway. The same goes for other items in Yitty's store. For example, she sells toddler girl underwear in packs of 10. Ten is the absolute minimum when talking about someone who is still likely to need a couple of clean pairs a day! With this model, both seller and buyer benefit.
When Yitty started her eBay business, it was simply because she likes to stay up-to-the minute, and she felt that her business was lacking without an online presence. As it turns out, her online venture was well timed.
"The economy got bad, but now I have another source of income through eBay," she says. "Some days I can make more on eBay than in my brick-and-mortar store. The store is only open five days a week for eight hours a day. Online could be a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week job."