Successfully selling physical goods online requires the creation of an image of your brand that will make buyers trust you and your company. Trust is the number one issue for buyers online, while newer (and younger) Internet users are more accepting of eCommerce shopping, making sure your presenting the very best image to each and every person who lands on your products is key to any kind of online success plan.
eBay – Option 1
If your plan is to expand an existing business, or start a new online business starting with eBay is usually the first option. eBay is not the only method of Internet merchandising available but it is the easiest to start with as a new seller. Certainly other options exist and we will detail those options in later articles, for now, lets look at eBay as a strong starting point for online sales.
Initially several steps are required to sell on eBay. First you must register as a seller and then you must register a PayPal account and confirm the account. This process is not difficult, but may take a couple of days to complete. Part of the process involves providing a credit or debit card verification and bank account deposits from PayPal to your bank of minimal amounts, this verifies your identity in an effort to minimize fraud and protect buyers.
eBay provides many tools in the basic “sell your item” form used by most new sellers. This is a step by step process meant to take new sellers through the process of making all of the proper decisions when creating a listing.
While the “sell your item” form is certainly easy, it is not the most efficient or cost effective way to manage eBay listings. Several other listing management options are available both within eBay and by third party providers. Some of these third party listing and inventory solutions are even offered to the public as free solutions to use. These solutions make their money in other ways and they do not always focus on your needs as a business owner when providing you with “free” software. If your intention is to create a real online business, finding free solutions is not always the best option for your business plan. I recommend finding a solution which fits your future business plans.
Growing Beyond eBay – Multi-Channel
If you plan on growing beyond eBay, a multi-channel solution may be key as you will not want to change your listing procedures and workflow prior to taking the next step. If your business involved specific requirements of a solution, such as consignment capabilities or intensive inventory control, I suggest you find the right solution to start. This will allow you as a business owner to manage your business, not micro manage your solutions.
Once you have “tested the waters” by listing a few items on eBay with the basic sell your item form, as a business person you should have a better idea of the requirements you will have when looking for a long term solution to scale up your business on eBay. Considerations such as pre-formatted text options which allow each listing to present the same standard information, inventory management and re-listing options, live revisions of listings with mistakes or pricing changes, template options, fee calculations options, employee compartmentalization and more. All of these considerations become the basis for an online business solution selection process.
Lets look at the different steps involved with making an eBay Listing:
Selecting the best title for each and every listing can make or break any or online business. Researching what titles have been used in the past and how successful certain keywords are when compared with other keywords can be a very important part of refining your sales process. The title of a listing must be crafted to attract visitors, not read like a proper sentence. Keywords are king here and use every one you can fit into the space provided. Then analyze the keywords chosen to determine if another word or phrase will perform better. The title is your initial bait to get eyes on your item. Use the best bait possible to attract the most fish.
There are literally thousands of categories available within eBay and other online sales venues. Choosing the best category for your products is also very important. Many tools are available to help you make this selection within eBay and through third party solutions. Try to make sure your items are listed in the best performing categories.
Initially, concentrating on the listings and getting the wording correct will be a focus for almost all new sellers. In time these steps become almost second nature. When listing repeatable inventory, much of the work is done for you by the manufacturer. Simply re-using the basic text and specifications of products can be a good method of listing items on eBay as long as you have authorization to do so. We recommend adding more of a sizzle to this basic information. Describe the benefits of the product, how it will save time, look better, ease a pain point in a persons life etc. Simple stats and specs are not sexy enough to grab the attention of buyers either on eBay or elsewhere online.
Using a single photo can also be a tactic used by many sellers of repeatable inventory. Adding additional photos or other media such as video or even audio clips can make the difference in successful sales or no sales. Think about the buyer and what that person is interested in seeing. What would make the difference for you, if you were considering the purchase of a similar product? Commodities like soap, or auto wax may not need a video or additional photos but a complicated toy, a fine camera or an expensive piece of jewelry could be great items to show in a video. Certainly these items deserve more than a single photograph. Taking the time to produce these extra stimuli for the buyer will pay for itself if the items you sell are repeatable.
Pricing is an art in itself. Being the lowest priced merchant is not always the best or most profitable business plan. Certainly a business must gauge the competition by determining the price of similar goods offered online. Luckily this is fairly simple to do. One must do this research long before sourcing a product to sell, if you can not purchase a product at a price which will make it a profitable item to sell against your competition, it is time to look for another supplier, or another product. Yet, creative sellers can get around the low priced leaders by offering more value. Consider offering “bundles” with additional similar products in a “package” price. This gives the buyer a value added experience and also does not allow the buyer to compare apples with apples on price.
Shipping is a hot topic in online sales these days. Costs are going up and pressure to offer the service for free has never been higher. Making sure of your shipping process and keeping the delivery time at a minimum is certainly a priority. While reducing actual costs may not be an option, building in the handling time and materials costs as part of each items final price will help to reduce some of the anxiety cause by sellers who add these costs to item pricing as a second line item for the buyer. Buyers simply do not want to see an additional charge for handling added to an item cost in checkout. Evaluate your shipping costs and methods and make the best decisions for the products you sell. Certainly allow room to use different carriers on a moments notice because costs can be significantly different from carrier to carrier on an item by item basis. Offering international shipping options is crucial to scaling up an online business during times when the dollar is weak and other currencies are strong. Make sure you contact your shipping providers to be sure your aware of all of the ways you can deliver your goods to international destinations.
Make your payment options as broad as possible. Limiting the payment options of buyers only serves to limit your sales. Clearly state that all items must be paid in full before shipment, but allow buyers to process whatever payment they are comfortable with. Use PayPal, Google Checkout (off eBay) your own CC processing provider, allow checks and money orders and be flexible. Fraud is a consideration but no more so online than for a retail establishment. Use the tools provided by the banks and payment processing companies to confirm your payments but be very careful about limiting which payment options you will offer.
eBay certainly has a difficult fee structure to understand and fees will become a major costing projections obstacle when using venues such as eBay. Yet eBay is not the only venue which charges fees for their services and the other options all cost something. Creating your own online website and shopping cart (highly recommended) also has a cost involved. When running an online business as a business, certain costs are part of the game. Making sound business decisions about those costs can be one of the defining keystones in success or failure. All businesses have costs, retail business either online or brick and mortar is not an easy or cheap proposition. Making sure you are aware of the costs involved and the benefits of one fee paid service over another is part of the game of business. Think about online venue fees as a costs of advertising and I think it will ease your outlook towards making the payments to eBay or Amazon or any other venu which brings you customers 24 hours a day.
CS is the term and it makes a difference. CS can have a lasting effect on any business. When it comes to eBay this fact is even more prominent. eBay buyers have a reputation for being quite needy when it comes to CS issues. One of the best ways to alleviate the burden of too many questions is to have a well designed listing template and a FAQ page available to answer many of the normal questions. On eBay you must stay on top of communications. You are graded on these factors with the DSR (Detailed Seller Ratings) when completing transactions, having a poor CS record will effect sales directly. This is a large consideration when thinking about offering items for sale on eBay. While venues like Amazon offer these services as part of your selling fee costs, eBay expects the seller to handle all communications within a certain framework of options. Stay on top of your CS plan making sure you have one is the best way to start.
Starting out with an online business vs moving to an online business model from an existing business can be more difficult than first imagined. Using basic business tenets of accounting and costing procedures is critical to long term success in any business no mater where the end customer is found. The cost of doing business is part of doing business. Having a business plan and a course of action is critical whether starting on eBay or in your local mall.