Seven things you need to know about eBay

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

30th December 2008 at 12:21 am

In the past year or two, eBay has changed enormously and many people seem less optimistic about it 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.

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Dan Wilson

Dan 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.

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  1. SmallBizPod says:

    Love the seven word comment!

    There’s a whole other website idea around business advice (or any advice) in just 7 words. I might just go off and build it 🙂

  2. ray algar says:

    Dan. This is both interesting and informative.

    (is feedback limited to seven words!)

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