When your online business depends on the most accurate possible physical representation of your product, images are everything.
That's a concept Jaime Rodriguez (pictured, left) lives and breathes every day as the owner of South West Auto Body Parts, which operates on eBay Motors as "bodypartsbargain." His business specializes in new, used and refurbished automotive body parts.
A Platinum PowerSeller and Auctiva user with more than 6,000 items listed, Rodriguez says 90 percent or more of what he sells is used, and he gives every customer the option to have items refurbished prior to shipping. So having good photosand plenty of themis essential.
"Without pictures, there's no way we'd sell anything," he contends. "That's why I'm with Auctiva. I wouldn't be doing this if I had to pay eBay for every single photo."
Started as a buyer
Prior to opening his eBay Store in November 2007, Rodriguez had only dabbled on the Internet auction platform, primarily as a buyer. Being in the military and stationed in Germany, eBay was the best way to get items from the U.S. that were hard to find overseas. "I probably had 10 feedbacks in eight years," he laughs.
Upon returning to the states in 2002, Rodriguez opened an automotive repair business in Texas, where he began to build his expertise in replacement body parts through a working relationship with a nearby body shop. After five years as a consumer of salvaged parts, he decided to try his hand at selling the stuffnot just locally, but worldwide using eBay as his sales channel.
"I think the best advice you can give somebody when they don't know what to sell is 'sell what you know,'" Rodriguez asserts. "Whatever it is, when you buy something a lot, you get some knowledge about it, and you know what buyers want, because you've been on the other side."
Rodriguez located a few reputable suppliers of new after-market auto parts in Taiwan and started buying inventory. He also sources used parts, such as bumpers and fenders, from local collision centers.
Today, South West Auto Body Parts operates out of a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Houston, staffed around the clock by 20 personnel including warehouse manager Samuel Maldonado (pictured, right); logistics manager Oscar Garay (pictured, center); and a customer service staff whichdespite having no conventional storefrontis increasingly assisting drop-in customers that seek out the warehouse after viewing the eBay listings.
A new paradigm
Customer service has always been front and center at South West Auto Body Parts, and Rodriguez is determined to provide complete satisfaction or a full refund, no questions asked. But with eBay's new feedback rules and Detailed Seller Ratings system, survival as a PowerSeller dictates that what used to be a personalized communication process become automated, he says.
"I never used pre-generated e-mails before," he says. But now his buyers receive several remindersfrom the initial "you won" notification until the time feedback is leftthat bodypartsbargain strives to give nothing less than five-star service.
"If you were looking for a hotel you would think a four-star hotel was pretty nice, but on eBay four stars isn't good enough," Rodriguez protests. "eBay is not doing anything to educate buyers [about DSRs], so I let them know that anything below a five is a failure for us."
Growing with Auctiva
Rodriguez discovered Auctiva's free auction management services while researching the market on eBay prior to opening his online store. He saw an Auctiva Store and liked the way it looked, so he decided to try out the free unlimited image hosting feature.
"We went from zero to 50,000 parts in our warehouse in six monthsand we're still building inventory to list on our site," Rodriguez beams. "I basically grew my business using Auctiva."
With so much invested in a free service, Rodriguez says he was a little nervous that Auctiva could not provide the level of technical support his business depends on 24/7. But after spending several hours over three days with Auctiva's staff at the recent eBay Live! show in Chicago, he says he's more impressed than ever, and is eager to try other Auctiva services, such as custom store design and shipping insurance, as his business expands.
And expansion is definitely in the cards. It's just a matter of getting all the inventory listed. "We have a lot of work to do," Rodriguez says. "But I'm glad, because I'm a Platinum seller with only 10 percent of my product onlineI think I have some room to grow."