eBay for e-commerce

Why use eBay?

EBay serves two main purposes. The first is to effectively expose your item to millions of people on the web. eBay is the first place many people go to look for items, both new and used, so placing your item here means that you have a much higher chance of people finding out about it.

The second, and equally important reason, is that eBay gives your site and company tremendous exposure at a very low cost. For as little as 30 cents, you can create an auction which highlights your product—and can direct people to your web site. That’s incredibly cheap advertising that’s totally focused towards people who are searching for what you have to offer.

Success stories: A teddy bear maker in Virginia used to sell her hand-made crafts for $30 a piece. With the exposure she gets on eBay, her bears now sell from $100 to $300 each. Even if you don’t have a web site, you can use eBay

A non-profit pet rescue group in Los Angeles has raised thousands of dollars a month selling items.

An antiques and crafts store in a very small town now sells their items worldwide. A simple links from their site to eBay allows them to showcase items in stock. They can do this all without any knowledge of web building software—or any software other than their web browser. (To learn a trick for linking from your site to a gallery of your items on eBay, click here.)

Many small stores  now sell more on eBay than they do through their storefront. You’ll see sellers who’ve sold thousands of items and are literally making a living just by selling on eBay.

These are just a few of the millions of small businesses that use eBay. Larger businesses can use it to make sure that their items are available to millions of people a day, to sell off excess inventory or refurbished items, or just draw more people to their sites.

Myths about eBay

  • eBay just for selling beanie babies.

    Wrong!
    EBay start to sell the founder’s wife’s collection of pez dispensers, but now it’s literally become the world’s biggest marketplace.

    Prove it to yourself, go to eBay and search for just about anything. You can find things from the most common to the most obscure. From jewelry to rare auto parts.
  • Last year eBay was responsible for over five billion dollars in sales.
  • eBay has over 19 million registered users
  • eBay hosts millions of items, and users add over 600,000 new items a day.
  • Over 2 million people a day visit eBay.
  • People spend more time on eBay than any other site
     
  • eBay is only for auctions

    Wrong.
    EBay offers features that allow you to sell your items immediate, either with their “buy it now” feature in auctions, or in eBay Stores, or in their subsidiary Half.com
     
  • If I post on eBay I won’t look serious

    Wrong.
    Many top companies now use eBay to sell new, used and reconditioned products. Disney, IBM, Dell computers, TV Guide and more all use eBay.
     

How eBay works

Think of eBay like a giant swap meet—eBay provides the site and bidding system. They don’t provide the items—you do. Transactions take place between individuals, and eBay has nothing to do with these transactions other than to host them.

eBay totally geared towards making money, whether it’s selling items from your attic or your stockroom.

You post an item and decide how long you want your auction to run. You can also choose to include a “buy it now” button buyers can use to purchase your item instantly at whatever price you set.

You write your own copy, take your own photos, completely control what you say about your product.

What can you sell on eBay?

You can sell almost anything on eBay. From small inexpensive items, to cars, boats, airplanes (the most expensive item sold on eBay was a corporate jet for almost five million dollars). Even professional services can now be listed.

Where can you sell it? Virtually anywhere in the world. Sellers routinely ship internationally. Right now there are nationalize versions for these countries: Argentina , Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom though buyers and sellers can use any national site.

There are a few exceptions—no live animals, firearms, drugs, plans, and illegal items. See what’s prohibited here.

Presenting your items

Like any other search system, you have to be careful about the key words you use in your auction title—as this is the way most people will find your items.

The text and graphics in your listing will have a huge effect on the price you can get for your items. The better your photos and description, the better your price.

eBay offers image hosting, but so do a number of other services, and you can also post images on your own web server. You can use a limited amount of HTML for your auction page design, and third-party services offer good looking templates you can easily drop your content into.

You should spend the 25 cents it costs for a “gallery” item, as this gives you a thumbnail image that people can use to browse items visually.

Reputations and feedback

Because there are millions of people on eBay, people who have never met each other, eBay established a clever way for people to build an online reputation. This feedback system lets buyers and sellers comment on each transaction.

If you buy something and the buyer is responsive and the item arrives just as advertised, you’d give the seller positive feedback and write a short comment.

If you sold something and the buy paid quickly, then you’d give them positive feedback.

But you can also leave neutral feedback for transactions that were just so-so, and more importantly, negative feedback for transactions that didn’t go well for whatever reason. Say the auction winning buyer never paid—you’d leave them negative feedback. Or the item you bought arrived and had problems not mentioned in the auction—again, you’d leave negative feedback.

Before you buy any item, it’s wise to get in the habit of looking at the sellers feedback. You do this by clicking on the numbers in parentheses after their name.

On the off chance that a transaction goes bad and you can’t resolve it with the other party, eBay has a Fraud Protection Program that covers each transaction up to $200 (minus a $25 deductible).

eBay tricks

Get a quick audio guide to selling

This audio guide gives you a 15 minute overview to selling on eBay.

Linking to a gallery of your items from your web site

Normally you can only search for a seller by their seller name. But if you place unique key words in either your auction title, or the body of your auction, you can then perform a search, choose the gallery view, and end up with a link like this:

http://search-desc.ebay.com/search/search.dll?MfcISAP ICommand=GetResult&query=%22Bears+by+Dee%22& srchdesc=y&ebaytag1=ebayreg&ht=1&combine=y&SortP roperty=MetaEndSort&st=1

While that link is cumbersome for e-mail, it works fine on a web page, and you can also create a web page with a short URL that’s nothing but a redirect to that long URL.

Linking to your web site from your eBay auctions

While eBay’s policy discourages direct links to your web site (to avoid you selling directly), you can create legal links to your site easily. How? Place additional photos on your site, and use a link from your auction to these photos. Make sure that the photos are on a page with links to the rest of your site—then you can draw people from the photos to see the rest of your site.

You can also create links from your logo—eBay just doesn’t want a text URL link on the page directly to your site.

Creating your own personal web page for free

Once you register for eBay tell people about you. If you’re selling items, this allows your potential customers to learn more about you and your business. This page can also link directly to your web site.

To create it, make sure you login, then click on the “My eBay” link at the top of the screen. From there, choose the “about me” link in the third row of navigation.

Automating the auction process

There are several sites that specialize in end-to-end solutions for sellers. They help you place your auction and make it look good with sophisticated HTML templates. They host your pictures. They track sales and help sellers manage their auctions—even if they have hundreds online at a time.

http://www.andale.com/ offers auction tracking, image hosting, automated checkout, galleries, stores, reports and a customer e-mail list management. Some of their services are free, and their pro packages start at $8.95 per month.

http://www.auctiva.com is one of the top sites for this, and they offer really good looking auction listings and sophisticated tools. You can get a free trial, and the normal service subscription is $14.95 a month.

http://www.auctionwatch.com gives you all the features of Auctiva, plus “bulk listing” so you can post many items at once. It starts at $12.95 per month.

There’s also desktop software to manage auctions, such as http://www.beyondsolutions.com/

http://channelfusion.goto.com/solutions/smallBusiness.a sp

Photo tips

  • Use a good digital camera—shot pictures at higher resolution than you need. You can use a scanner for smaller items.
  • Make sure to use enough JPG compression so that the file sizes are small and the pictures download quickly.
  • Use the “resample” feature in your graphic program to resize your graphics and keep them sharp and clean.
  • Provide multiple views of the item you’re selling, different angles and distances. Close ups help, but make sure to provide a good overview picture.
  • Get close—don’t show a lot of the room around the item, we don’t want to see your living room or kitchen.
  • Make sure your backgrounds are clean and simple.

Finding items to buy

Most people simply use the category feature and browse through thousands of items. But eBay’s search engine is extremely powerful and allows you to be very specific with searches.

Sniping—buying at the very last second

Try a great service called www.auctionsniper.com - that way you set the price you want and make sure your bid is automatically placed at the very last second.


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Copyright © 2005 Daniel Will-Harris, www.will-harris.com

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