If your business is all about selling stuff, you’ve probably dabbled on eBay. Perhaps you’re sitting proudly atop the eBay mantelpiece in your category – or, tired and careworn as you struggle to gain a foothold in a sea of sellers awash with cheap imports. Maybe somewhere in between, I’d wager. If so, you aren’t alone – but if others are making real profits, so can you: with over 176 million buyers and 1 billion listings, eBay presents ripe opportunities worth pursuing, even if they can seem equal to the travails along the way. As with any sport, it’s a marginal game – so let’s look at some ways you can squeeze more from your sales. A quick caveat: these nuggets of advice assume you’ve got your sourcing and/or manufacturing, fulfilment and customer service down to a tee; this area requires its own dedicated article.
Understanding Best Match
No, it’s not the latest dating site, it’s eBay’s way of ranking and filing items. We will never know the intricacies to this algorithmic secret-soup but we can know the basics and work from there. If you’re not yet conversant with Best Match, visit eBay’s help pages, for a quick primer. Then consider these pointers – in no order of importance as each relates to each other; a cyclic effect that underpins most successful sellers’ strategies:
- Recent Sales: eBay, naturally, give a boost to items that are selling – especially those that are in-demand. When evaluating your listings or launching new wares, consider your price point. There may be no movements – you may need to stick to a manufacturers list price, avoid multi-channel conflict or stay on the right side of any attendant trading standard issues. If that’s the case, add value – offer a free accessory or suchlike using the Promotion Tool that I will cover below. For existing slow-movers, use the Listing Analytics tool as well as your own sales data to prioritise listings that merit being killed-off and resurrected with a fresh attitude and a new lick of paint. A word of caution though: ending poorly-performing listings that have acquired hundreds of sales over time could be detrimental. You’ll lose that hard-earned sold figure that can rightly influence buyers. Instead, get busy optimising the listing and consider offering a 14-day markdown discount before accepting defeat.
- Top Rated Status: Most sellers can qualify and once you do, you’ll want to enable your listings to show the Top Rated Premium badge – there is perhaps no better way of imbuing confidence in buyers. Your listings will also enjoy a lift in search and you’ll receive a final value fee discount (albeit, a modest 10% or so). Strive at all reasonable costs to maintain Top Rated, as most sellers I’ve worked with report an upturn in sales. That said, if it’s unfeasible then don’t pursue this status at all costs. It’s unlikely your direct competitors are also (although don’t assume this; do check). Ultimately, only promise what you can deliver.
Monitor your seller performance every minute using Seller Manager Pro. Okay, well that’s a tad obsessive; but I do recommend keeping a close eye every few days to observe defects, open cases, returns and any other irksome issues. eBay reward sellers who keep good metrics, so it’s essential to understand how eBay defects work – letting standards slip and late deliveries creep up will make it tougher to be the seller you’d like to be.
Impressions make a difference. Not the kind that leaves tipsy punters heckling, but the number of times your listings appear in searches and how many clicks. In short, if your listing is getting impressions and follow-through sales, you’ll be in good shape. Look at how your listing is viewed in search – from photo to title.
Pricing: We all know price matters, but it’s not just about being the cheapest: it’s relative to your marketplace. Sure, if you’re selling the same item at double the cost, you’ll struggle. Do your research first and prioritise listing items where you can be competitive.
Killer Titles: Next to your photos, this is the first thing buyers read. Much like a punchy headline, there’s an art to good title writing. Avoid hyperbolic words like “New, Amazing Quality!” and avoid short, specific titles that only including model parts or the phraseology of your trade. Factor in real-world terms people search for and glean ideas from how other sellers’ items are presented.
Subtitles help listings stand out from the crowd and convey extra information that might not be relevant to the title. I recommend using Terapeak for more in-depth research, especially as they offer a free 7-day subscription (which should allow you to undertake at least cursory research about your category at no extra cost).
Fast & Free: Offering this option not only affords you a little extra Best Match juice, so eBay tell us, but to be Top Rated you’ll need a free carriage option anyway (as well as an express option), plus a one-working-day handling time. Many sellers opt to combine the two, especially those with pre-packaged goods and a speedy warehouse. For those businesses who struggle to sustain this, wisely chose to opt out.
Now we’ve skimmed the surface of Best Match, you’re hopefully starting to see how everything ties in together. Let’s look at a few other key areas:
Listing Analytics Tool: I advise all sellers to at least use the free version, which is found in Applications tab in Selling Manager Tool. It has been recently updated and streamlined (perhaps a little too much for my liking) but relatively easy to use. Look for slow movers and apply some of the tips above to help increase sales, or simply get an overview as to what’s selling well. This birds-eye view is especially useful if you have a high transactional turnover.
Multi-variation Listings: If you have variations of any item, you’re hopefully listing in a multi-variation format. Sadly, there are still sellers who insist on listing every variation individually thinking that will garner more coverage. The advantages of offering all variations of one SKU in one place are manifold, not least of which is that any variation sold boosts the entire listing and sales score (even if there are some slow-moving variations, they’ll get carried with it) and it gives customers a better choice. You can be creative with variations, too – offering something your competitors don’t. Offering a pack-size option is one idea, allowing you to control the discount price as buyers purchase multiple units.
Dress up: The best pro sellers have high-resolution, zoomable photos with white backgrounds (as well as applicable in-situ shots), utilise all the item specifics at their disposal, and present listing descriptions that hold up to any product page found on a leading retailers’ site. There’s no need to be fancy. Slick descriptions that ooze professionalism and look great on a mobile device (although eBay does some of this work for you now) will serve your products and brand far better than home-made concoctions. I can vouch personally for eSellerSolutions and Frooition and both have affordable options, as do most eBay design companies, for those on a budget.
You don’t have to have a pro listing template. Even just adding a logo and furnishing your description with neat, tidy text and bullet points can help. Whatever you do, don’t use multiple fonts, exclamation marks, or beg buyers for feedback. There’s a lot to be said for ‘listing personality’ but not that the expense of a jumbled mess of colours fonts and well-intentioned hyperbole!) Plus, eBay’s new Active Content policy which is nicely explained here, comes into play soon, so now it’s a good time to reevaluate your listings.
Promotion Tools: I’m a big fan of eBay’s Promotion Manager and I can’t think of a time I’d never not use it. Create an order-size offer to discount a percentage or a fixed amount off the total price – or offer a discount on related items or accessories (even though I’ve personally experienced irritating glitches with this process of late and am still waiting for the good folks at eBay to address this). Invest a little time learning the rules you can apply and experiment with what works best across your inventory. Plus, offers are generally flagged up in search, giving you a better chance of converting impressions into sales.
The Promote My Listing is a relatively new affair, which can be useful for new lines or if you need to bolster your transactions. But it can be costly. On the upside, it’s easy to use and you only pay if a buyer clicks and buys your listing via the promoted Ad. Simply add your listings, set the extra fee you’re willing to pay and away you go. Use judiciously, however, and observe your real actual cost of sales to ensure it’s the costs aren’t eating dangerously you’re your profits.
Going, going, gone. Whilst most businesses rightly sell only Buy It Now, it doesn’t hurt to throw the occasional tempting auction or two and let your customers or newsletter subscribers know about it: increased footfall into your shop is no bad thing and you may even choose to donate to charity for that extra feel-good factor. After all, when all is said and done, we sure miss those exciting days of eBay.
About the Author:
Mark Buckingham is a London-based eBay & Amazon specialist and owner of eCommerce consultancy NetSeek.
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