With over 100 million registered users, if there is anyone left who has not bought or sold something on eBay (www.ebay.com) they at least know someone who has. A good number of us have even mastered the art of finding a good deal or getting a few dollars for the “junk” our spouses are threatening to throw away.
While searching for a bargain on a new DVD player, some of us have noticed a mysterious group that moves among E-Bay’s vast community of average people. They are the Power Sellers, a group that seems to actually make a living on eBay.
To take some of the mystery out of making a living on eBay, the Small Business Development Center offers “Start A Successful Business On eBay” on Saturday, July 29, at 9 a.m. at the College of New Jersey. Cost: $45. Visit http://www.tcnj.edu/~sbdc for registration information.
The class is led by Martin Mosho, who brings over 40 years of sales and marketing experience. Mosho has also owned a retail business and a franchise personnel company. He is an instructor at Mercer County Community College and Brookdale Community College, where he teaches marketing. He teaches a similar workshop on Monday, August 14, at 7:30 p.m. for the Princeton PC Users Group at the Lawrence Library, Route 1 and Darrah Lane (908-218-0778 or 609-883-5262).
Mosho broke into the eBay business much like the rest of us, with a few simple purchases and sales. When he looked to do more he found that the available information was confusing at best. With considerable research he was able to assemble “eBay Simplified,” his first seminar on the basics of online buying and selling.
Now he is taking us to the next level. We are talking about supplemental income, or possibly even primary income. Millions of customers are waiting for you and your product. How are you going to deliver?
The first step is to find a product you can sell. There are a ton of sources you can buy from, a number of them can even be found right on eBay itself. It is not uncommon for someone to buy wholesale lots from one eBay member and divide them up for resale to other eBay users.
Another source is drop shipping companies. They will handle your entire inventory. Once you sell an item, you send an order to the drop ship company and it gets the item to your customer. This is a common way to operate an eBay store. The advantage is that it is easy. You don’t have to store inventory, wrap purchases, or make post office runs. But, on the flip side, you do give up control of your inventory. Your reputation is on the line if you sell an item that sells out or is discontinued after your auction starts.
Whichever source you choose, Mosho warns to start small. “If you lose a little money on a $10 item you will be a little disappointed,” he says, “but with a $1,000 item, you will be more than disappointed.”
Pricing. The next step is figuring out what to sell your product for. Overpricing an item will only result in racking up auction fees without making a sale, while an under-priced item may sell for less than you paid for it. A good way to figure out what you can reasonably expect your item to sell for is to see what it has sold for in the past. With millions of auctions running at any given time it’s a safe bet that someone is selling the same thing that you are.
There are many valuation tools available, including eBay’s own “Marketplace Research,” which is available from the auction site’s home page. These tools can quickly tell you what similar products have sold for in the last 90 days, as well as providing trend information. Or you can always do a simple search of recently completed auctions.
Timing. Some products will see a seasonal change in value. Don’t expect much interest in your Halloween masks during the Christmas season. Saving them for an October sale should increase your profit.
You will also have some shorter term timing considerations. eBay buyers tend to get caught up in a bidding frenzy. The desire to find a bargain quickly turns into a need to win at all costs. During the final minutes of an auction people rush to bid and drive up the final price, sometimes higher than retail.
This frenzy is a good thing for the seller, but will be hard to create when everyone is relaxing at the beach. Even a popular television show will dramatically decrease the traffic on eBay, and less traffic equals less frenzy.
Maximize your profits by ending your auctions when traffic is at its highest. There are plenty of tools available to help figure out peak selling times, including several from Andale, a market intelligence firm for online merchants (www.andale.com).
Shipping. Now that you have a new customer, it is time to figure out how to get your merchandise to him. Shipping companies will often offer free shipping materials if you use a particular service and your item falls into one of their standard sizes. It’s worth the effort to make sure that what you are selling can fit into one of these standard shipping boxes.
More than money, standardized shipping can save you time. Make sure to remember the time factor when pricing your shipping costs. If you have to spend a day stalking liquor stores for the right boxes, make sure you are charging for it.
Repeat business. Congratulations, you are on your way. Now that you have your first satisfied customer, you get to start worrying about repeat business. Mosho says that a good way to realize maximum profit from this repeat business is to take it away — to your own website. It’s important for serious sellers to have their own websites, he says. There people who have bought from you on eBay can see all of the other related products that you sell.
The website address can be included in or on all of the packages you send out. This is the best way to grow traffic. While there are a number of online auction sites worth exploring, eBay is by far the largest and offers a lot of help getting started. The site offers a number of free or low cost auction tools as well as online tutorials. If you really get into it you can even attend live “eBay University” sessions.
If you have already gotten your feet wet selling off your husband’s baseball cap collection or some of your wife’s forgotten jewelry, then you may be ready to bump it up a notch. With a little research you too can be an E-Bay power seller. Whether part time or full, there may be a place for you in the ever expanding world of online auctions.