7 things you need to know about eBay

eBay guru Dan Wilson highlights his top seven tips for anyone wanting to do business on Britain’s most visited e-commerce site. A must read for eBay novices and veterans alike.

19th November 2008 at 9:41 am

Here’s the first in a regular SmallBizPod series focusing on the top seven things you need to know about all sorts of topics that could benefit you and your business.  First to take on the ‘7 thing’ challenge is writer and e-commerce guru Dan Wilson.


In the past year or two, eBay has changed enormously and many people seem less optimistic about eBay than in the past. Whilst it’s true that there are a lot of disaffected sellers, eBay is still Britain’s most visited ecommerce destination and I predict that will hold true in Christmas 2008 and through 2009. Despite the doom and gloom it represents an amazing opportunity for small businesses to tap in to. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned PowerSeller, here are 7 things every eBayer should know:

BIN to win

Of all the major changes, the ongoing rise of Buy it Now/fixed price listings (BIN) is the most striking. BINs are growing faster than the auctions that made eBay famous and there’s good reason to believe that eBay will continue to push BINs harder in the quest for profits. The auction isn’t dead by any means but it is at risk of becoming the ugly sister to BINderella.

eBay is complex

In terms of pricing, policies and practices, eBay must be one of the most complex places to sell. Incremental changes and category specific rules are making the eBay selling experience ever more Byzantine. For instance, if you’re flogging DVDs you must offer PayPal and free P&P and you’ll pay different fees to someone selling books or collectables.

A seller has to be self-reliant and keep abreast of changes or otherwise risk being sanctioned by an eBay that is notoriously inflexible and uncommunicative with rule-breakers. The complexity of the rules are why sites such as Tamebay are so popular.

eBay is courting big retailers

eBay established itself as a person-to-person marketplace and a home for small business. No longer. Speculation is rife that eBay is not only courting big retailers but offering them preferential terms and fees. Is the level-playing field dead?

Feedback has never been more important

eBay’s famous Feedback system has been central to the company’s success and long been important to sellers. Now, a seller’s Feedback score and Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) form part of the ‘Best Match’ system that determines where your listings appear in search. Even a few poor ratings can detrimentally effect how visible your listings are to buyers. Maintaining your ratings is critical and getting started under the new regime is also more difficult. It’s best to start slowly and not stake your shirt on a fast buck.

It’s not just the price.

Whilst pricing is important on eBay, it isn’t everything. It is quite normal for different sellers to get better prices for identical items. The nature of search on eBay, which considers Feedback and a seller’s previous selling success to be important to how things appear in search results, means that cheaper sellers with less good records can be almost invisible to buyers who don’t seek them out. More than that, a quality listing with a winning item title, brilliant description, superior pictures and maybe even a vzaar video can clinch the deal by inspiring confidence when a cheaper option does not.

An eBay seller’s margin are in efficiency

The one commodity struggling eBay sellers don’t seem to value is their own time. Listing, monitoring, answering enquiries, posting and packing and everything else an eBay seller needs to do is immensely time-consuming so any tools, software and discipline that boost the bottom line are to be embraced. Time saved can be invested in developing the business or spent on that other rare commodity: leisure.

Look beyond eBay

eBay is just one channel you can sell on. If you can make money there, you can do it anywhere: the skills are the same. Consider Amazon, other marketplaces and setting up your own ecommerce website. I’ve never met an eBay seller who regretted branching out. But I have met loads who regret not doing it sooner.


Dan Wilson top tips on eBayDan Wilson is a writer and consultant specialising in online communities, ecommerce and internet marketing. Part of the team that founded eBay in the UK, he worked for the company between 1999 and 2006, latterly heading the Community team. He is the bestselling author of Make Serious Money on eBay UK and an eBay University presenter. He advises companies large and small about how they can make the most of the web. He blogs at www.wilsondan.co.uk.


Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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  1. Ed says:

    Good old Dan

    The ex-eBay employee is always a good read (no, seriously, he is), and always ready to plug his current employer (the video in eBay listings company).

    What I do get fed up reading is how Amazon is the logical alternative or additional channel to eBay. That would be true if it had eBay’s “open to all globally” policy, but the truth is that unless you are located in a very, very, very short list of countries, you’re not allowed to sell on Amazon.

    Even eBid have embraced the Amazon lock-out methodology – for about six weeks now they’ve blocked (at server access level) anyone not within the 18 countries where they have websites – and that’s about a dozen more countries than Amazon allows sellers to register from.

    There are other channels out there – hundreds if not thousands of them – and whilst TameBay focusses on eBay and sometimes mentions Amazon or eBid, if you want to see all the options, you need to be visiting sites like AuctionBytes and Buildaskill for the wider, truly global, news about alternative channels … and the uncensored, not yes-men, uncompromising analysis of all those channels, but especially the big names.

    After all … bad news sells, good news doesn’t.


  2. […] the week he turned up on Alex Bellinger’s blog “SmallBizPod” with a post called 7 things you need to know about eBay.  SmallBizPod also has a Facebook entrepreneur-group that celebrated exceeding 1,000 members this […]

  3. Great read, exposing eBay’s dastardly new(ish) policies. Since killing off its digital information products I have used eBay only a handful of times. I used to spend a vast amount of my time on eBay. So much so that I was probably addicted to it. Not for buying – I was just amazed by everything about it. An absolute phenomenon. There are just too many crooks on there now and it just doesn’t have that communal feel it used to. I’m so glad I branched out. After doing my research and development in a lot of my spare time, I am now reaping the rewards of having my own network of information based membership websites and will not be selling anything other than personal items if necessary.

  4. Dan Wilson says:

    @ed from builaskill.

    Only one correction: I am not a vzaar employee or working for them.

    eBay and Amazon represent the two big marketplace opportunities from a UK perspective. eBid, Tazbar and others (I wish I could name them) still aren’t offering significant cut through for serious numbers of sellers.

    A website does, frankly, represent a huge opportunity for any online vendor and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who wants to sell online. It is, also, really very inexpensive.

    As for Auctionbytes, (whilst I respect the Steiners) it’s too bogged down with anti-eBay invective to be a pleasure to read any more.

  5. […] and the superb smallbizpod podcasts. So it was a pleasure to scribble some thoughts for the smallbizpod blog about things people should know about […]

  6. […] only person making lists this week: Mark Buckingham has 14 sizzling sales tips for eBayers, while Dan Wilson tells us 7 things we need to know about eBay on the always excellent SmallBizPod. Dan also wrote what is, for my money, the best eBay post of […]

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