My Top 5 Tips for eBay Sellers
Increasing your competitive advantage in the online auction
The eBay selling landscape is
never static, but never has it changed so much as in recent weeks. The new
policy of sellers not being able to leave negative feedback for buyers is a sea
change in the way eBay handles its ratings system. And the new fee structure
presents not only a challenge but also an opportunity in some tranches of final
sales price levels and eBay Store items.
In this new world of eBay selling, what are some of the most important things
for you to do as a seller to stay on top of the game�bearing in mind, of course,
that the rules may change again very soon?
Some are the same meat-and-potatoes customer service-oriented things that
were always true; others are tweaked for the recent changes.
1. Take a few ounces of prevention for bad feedback
With the new policy, it will be harder to avoid negative feedback now.
Feedback is also more important than ever, as eBay is including Detailed Seller
Ratings (DSRs) in the "Best Match" algorithm that is the new default for search.
You can't completely protect yourself from "negs," but there are a lot of things
you can do to lower your odds of getting them in the first place.
Make it very difficult for your buyers to be disappointed. Be up front about
shipping costs, any flaws in your items, and anything else that needs
disclosure. Go a little overboard if possible, while still stressing your
products' good points.
One thing I do is write, "Please contact me if there is any problem" on the
printed receipt I put in the box. Extra touches, like a thank you card, can go a
long way in creating buyer goodwill. You may not have time to hand-write one
out, but even a stock printed thank you is a nice plus.
If you do receive a bad feedback, you can still try to work it out with SquareTrade, according to
eBay. (eBay's own mutual feedback removal system "will remain in place until the
second half of 2008," according to the announcement Q&A). Also, the feedback
may now automatically be removed if the buyer who left it gets suspended by
eBay, or if he/she doesn't respond to the Unpaid Item process.
2. Shipping: Broaden your horizons
Shipping costs are a key factor for many buyers. They can see 'em now right
in the search results. Granted, some care more than others about them. But, it's
always nice to offer as many different shipping options as you can, in different
If you are selling a book or printed matter that does not contain
advertisements, be sure to offer the "media mail" or "book rate" option�it is
much cheaper than priority mail.
With the dollar in its current weak state, many foreign buyers are snapping
up bargains from our virtual stalls. Why not open yours up and offer worldwide
shipping? I know, you may not be crazy about that customs form and subsequent
epic post office wait, but some online services like Endicia can make that a lot
I've sold to every continent except Antarctica, and it's always fun to see
who buys an item�and sometimes even why.
And believe it or not, you can fit a lot of different types of things in the
U.S.P.S. Priority Mail flat rate envelope, which you can send pretty much
anywhere in the world for $11 (and only $9 to Canada and Mexico).
3. Optimize for search
Among the foofaraw about feedback 'n' fees, the dark horse that may
ultimately be a bigger influence on sellers' bottom lines is eBay's decision to
make the "Best Match" option the default in search results.
OK, so what are the factors that make your listings a "Best Match"? Like
Google's "secret sauce" search algorithm, which it keeps under wraps, eBay isn't
exactly saying. It does say that two factors going forward will be that sellers
with DSRs 4.6 and above and at least 95 percent customer satisfaction in the
last 30 days will have increased exposure in the search results; also, sellers
with low customer satisfaction or shipping & handling DSRs will have
As to the other factors, one blogger tracked down eBay's Best Match patent application and
found that most of it "describes the relationship between search terms, the text
in the auction title and how relevance and desirability are determined." In
other words, how well does your title match the buyer's search terms? Meaning:
Choose your title words wisely and include as many relevant words as you
If you have more descriptive words you want to add but they aren't essential
to the search, I suggest buying the subtitle feature and throwing them in there.
I think a nicely worded (and preferably typo-free) subtitle really sets your
The Best Match patent goes on to describe other factors that can influence
search result rankings including: pictures available, seller ratings, price
range, geographic proximity of searcher to seller, shipping prices, time left in
an auction, number of bids, and Buy it Now.
I like to include as much information about the listing as I have time to fit
in. For example, if I am listing a piece of art, I may put a bit about the
artist's life in the description. You can cut and paste this from other sources.
As long as you attribute it and it's relevant to the listing, eBay doesn't
consider it "keyword spamming."
4. Sell in multiple channels
That old saw, "don't put your eggs in one basket" still holds true. What
better time to explore your options in selling in multiple venues? This makes
sense even if eBay's policies don't change. There are many benefits to having
your own Web presence, such as creating your own mailing list of loyal
customers. It's also a good idea to explore specialty selling sites that match
up with your listings; for example, if you sell collectible books, you can also
sell on AbeBooks, alibris, or amazon.com.
eBay sellers have been closely watching one link that shows different auction
sites and their percentage changes in listings. Visit the page yourself here.
5. Sell the best stuff you can
This one may seem obvious. But with eBay's final value fees going up, does it
make sense to look at your business model and either sell fewer, more expensive
items, or group some inexpensive items into lots to make more money per
transaction? Obviously, not every product lends itself to selling in lots. But
as many bloggers and analysts are saying, it's the sellers with the tightest
profit margins that will be negatively affected the most by these changes�and
may stop selling on eBay altogether. If you had infinite time, and a crew of
trained monkeys, you could make millions with $9.99 items. But you have
If you don't have an eBay Store yet, it makes even more sense to get one now.
Not only because it's a good, inexpensive place to store your items until that
right buyer comes along, but insertion fees are even lower now: $0.03 down from
$0.05 in the $1.00-$24.99 price range, and $0.05 down from $0.10 in the
$25.00-$199.99 price range.
Moreover, with listing fees down overall, you can think about listing more
with less risk, depending on your sell-through rate and profit margin.
And lastly: Don't forget to have fun. Remember fun? It's what brought a lot
of us to eBay. The policies and fees have gotten ever more complicated, and the
days of laughing over a human kidney for sale may be gone, but look for those
simple joys. Who knows, maybe someday I'll even make a sale to Antarctica.