Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New eBay Sales Opportunities with Your Existing Resources

In this week I would like to share some regular strategies which keep my product sources growing all the time in a reliable and trustable manner.

You may remember that few weeks ago we talked about approaching some local shop owners and suggesting a solution to sell their items as an additional revenue stream. Also, we mentioned that you could offer the same solution to some online sellers who didn't know how to get into the eBay marketplace.

However, some of you may be a bit skeptical to work with people you don't know at all, right? How can you ensure that they are 100% trustable?

Have you ever thought about that there are actually a lot of people you can trust? They are your friends, people you may have known for years. You can always start a business partnership with your friends without the need to build up a trust from zero.

But this is something you may have not thought of, isn't it? You probably meet with your good friends once a week, having dinners or drinks, chatting for fun or nothing. How can you possibly think of business opportunities good for both sides?

This is kind of my habit now. You may see if it applies to you, too. I am not talking about that you have to talk about business and money as the only discussion topic with your friends. But you can always think of benefits that you may bring to your friends if you can do some sales for them with the existing resources they have.

Some time ago I talked to Stephy who liked to do some handmade jewelries for herself and for freinds as gifts of different occasions. Then an idea came up to my mind: why not selling these special things in eBay? As these are all her own handmade items, she doesn't need to keep a big stock. What I need to do is to make pictures of all styles she can do, then I can start selling any time. She doesn't need to create new stock until I get sales for her. The mode of business is actually build to order. She does not have much cost to spend. But it could be a new stream of revenue to her. Both of us are happy.

Another day when I chat with another friend, Paula, who moved to Japan some time ago, we noticed that there were a lot of funny or innovative items which the trends always started from Japan, e.g. Hello Kitty gifts with can be found in local Japanese stores only. Hello Kitty fans from around the world always love to collect them even it may cost a lot. Then Paula may simply get some pictures of those items and I can then start selling in eBay. She only gets down to the store and buy the items back and send to the customer for me when I get her an order. This is also a simple and low-cost opportunity to both of us.

Opportunities are around your life all the time. Can you think of something else?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cross Promotion Between eBay and Your Own Shopping Site

Last time we came across a concept that you should never limit your sales in eBay only. Building up your own shopping site is one of the strategies to expand your revenue. It can also diversify your income streams, making your business much more sustainable.

But many of you may have encountered the same difficulty: how to bring in decent traffic to an individual shopping site? Even if you can bring in traffic, how to persuade customers to buy from your site while they have never heard of it? Obviously, site traffic and site credibility are the two most challenging topics for a new shopping site.

For a new shopping site, do not expect that you can get a top position in search engines. Even you are good in SEO, it may take you 6 to 12 months before the results are satisfactory. You may consider to use PPC advertising to get some immediate traffic, but it costs money. Then what can you do without spending extra cost? No doubt that you should think about how to make use of the existing resources you have, i.e. your eBay store.

In our last article, we have talked about how to drive traffic from your eBay About Me Page. Another approach is to make use of your email communication to customers.

During the whole sales process, you should be sending different notices to your customers at different stages. For example, notice for payment received, shipment arranged, feedback left, etc.. eBay is very strict to limit promotion of off-eBay sales in the site, but they will not be able to control what you do with your messages to customers. Take a look at a sample shipment notice from an eBay seller recently:

Dear Customer,

**Special Note**

We have too many designs which we cannot put them all in eBay. To find out more, come visit our site (Wow Gift Mart) at:


All purchases in our site are protected by Paypal Buyer Protection and you are assured the highest quality level of service will be delivered as we do in eBay.

**Shipment Detail**

Your item(s) have been packed for delivery in our stock retrieval today. And the package will be departing port of Hong Kong in about 2 business days. Normally it takes 7-14 days for the physical transportation.

If you have any further questions about your purchase, don't hesitate to let us know.

Once your item arrives in satisfactory condition, please leave feedback for us. We will do the same for you.

Thank you again!

Of course, not all customers will click on the link when they get your notice, or some of them may even not read the message at all. However, it is a free of charge promotion anyway. Why not taking the advantage out of it?

Another challenge for a new shopping site is: how to persuade your visitors to buy with confidence when they don't know who you are?

Take a look at this shopping site: Wow Gift Mart

Can you see that it has made good use of their credibility from their eBay history? When people buy in eBay, the feedback profile is definitely one of the key determining factors whether they will buy from a seller or not. Therefore, letting visitors know how you did in eBay would absolutely help raising their confidence level to buy in your site.

You can do it, too, can't you?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How to Get Extra Sales on Top of Your eBay Business?

Many of you may have been thinking: how to get more sales on top of the current eBay business?

Probably you're tired of the unfair and complicated rules in eBay. Probably you find too many price wars under the severe competition in eBay. Probably you find your profit has been eaten up too much by the eBay fees. Or probably you just want to diversify your sales strategies without relying on one single channel too much.

No matter what you think, getting more sales channels can never be wrong even you may have done very well in eBay.

Other Online Marketplaces

There are many other online marketplaces doing what eBay is doing. Only they can never beat eBay. However, it doesn't mean that you can't make some extra income from them? One example is iOffer. Of course, they are not that popular as eBay for both sellers and buyers. But you can still do some sales there. And one advantage for eBay sellers is that they have a feature called "Mr. Grabber". With this feature, they can duplicate your items from eBay, so you don't have to go thru the painful process, posting your items one by one. Also, it can grab your feedback number from eBay, so you don't have to start from zero, building up your credibility again.

One last thing: it's free to post in iOffer. They only charge you transaction fee when you get sales. So what's the harm to sell in one more place if it's totally risk free? For myself, the sales performance is around 1 to 10, i.e. the sales I'm making in eBay is about 10 times of that I do in iOffer. Not bad to get an extra 10% income with no risk, right?

Own Shopping Site

Every one knows it's always good to make sales in your own site: no posting fee, no final value fee, no worries about the frustrating rules and limitations in eBay, etc.

But the problem is: how to bring in traffic? This is always one of the most difficult challenges for online sales. This is why eBay can get eat up so much of your profit while they're one of the most busiest sites in the world.

Yet setting up your own shopping site is still something you should consider. By just making 1 or 2 sales per month, you may have the enough funds to maintain your site. Therefore, it's still an almost-free-risk strategy that you don't have to worry trying.

Then how to bring in traffic to your site? Internet Marketing or SEO is not the topics to discuss here. But you may think about how to make use of the eBay traffic and encourange your eBay visitors to buy in your site. Take a look at this eBay seller:


Do you see how he drives traffic to his own site (About Me page is the only place you can advertise your own site in eBay)? By clicking on the link on this About Me page, visitors are brought to the shopping site:


Although not all customers will be encouraged to buy finally, it's still a chance to make extra sales, isn't it?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Should I Focus in a Niche in my eBay Business?

Many times I've heard people debating:

Should we focus in a particular niche of items when selling in eBay? Or should we expand the scale with as many diversified items as possible?

Before going into the discussion about eBay, let's take a look at the real world first.

When you go shopping in a mall, trying to look for some decoration candles. You shop around and find a shop specializing in hundreds of candle items. No wonder you'll dash in see what interest you. However, you may not notice that a gift shop just next to the candle shop also sells quite a number of pretty candles good for decoration. Seems like there's an obvious advantage for a specialized shop, focusing in particular niche, isn't it?

Not really. We have an assumption that the specialized shop hits the demand well and therefore, it can absorb a lot of sales. But how big is the demand for candles? Is it good enough to support the operations of the shop? Are there many people looking for candles throughout the whole year? Or is the demand seasonal? Is it more vulnerable if selling one type of item only?

How about the more diversified gift shop? It may not catch the demand for decoration candles well. But they may have attracted a lot more of customers who don't have a very strict shopping target. They may not know what exactly they want until they walk around the shop. They may search for a card holder at the beginning, but end up with a purchase of few more photo frames they don't expect. Besides, different items may have different demand at different times. A more diversified shop is definitely more sustainable throughout the year with a more stable sales.

OK, now back to the eBay world. Is it the same as the real world? First, you have to think about: how do people get into a listing or an eBay store? Do they "walk" around eBay before they can find the items they need, just like you walk around a shopping mall? Most of the time not. They do by searching. If they are interested in some decoration candles, they may start by typing the keyword "decoration candles". Then hundreds of related listings shown. Do they know if these listings come from a niche shop, selling candles only? No, of course not. Even when they've clicked in the listing, they'll not know until they further click to the seller's eBay store.

But what a big deal if the customer goes in a non-niche shop? If he thinks the item is good and reasonable, if he believes the seller is trustable based on the feedback profile, he's very likely to buy.

So you can see, the advantage of attracting particular demand for a niche market in the real world may not apply in eBay. However, the advantage of a diversified shop in the real world can exist in eBay on the contrary.

Image that a candle buyer clicks in a listing of candle which interests him. Then he finds some cross promotional boxes showing some other interesting items. He may keep clicking and see what he can buy from the same seller at the same time, probably with certain combined shipping discount. Just the same as the real world.

Have you determined how you should set up your sales strategy?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stay Closed with the Market Demand for Growing Your eBay Business

If you have followed my advice and started selling some of your own customized items in eBay, you should have got some positive results already. But in order to keep your business growing, you need to stay closed with the market trend and demand. You cannot just stick to the same old items without any change with the market and expect you can sustain for long.

There are no fixed rules how to know what's hot in the market. As long as you stay closed with the market yourself, you will know what's hot to sell.

One of my ways to know the trend is to take a look at the Yahoo home page. See what's in the "Today's Top Searches". E.g. at the time of this writing, this is the top 10:

1. The Girls Next Door
2. Sondra Locke
3. Jennifer Lopez
4. Dinner Recipes
5. 2010 Mazda 3
7. Neil Patrick Harris
8. Free Ecards
9. Income Tax Credits
10. Health Insurance

Just click and take a look. Or modify your searches as "The Girls Next Door Mousepad", "NASCAR Clocks", etc.. You may find some items related to these searches, e.g.:


See if there are something similar you can create for your own sales.

Another way to know what's hot in the market is to read the news. Pay attention to the top news, events, people, etc. One simple example is Barack Obama over the past few months. You don't have to do a professional research before you know how crazy the items were sold as long as it was related to him. Again, do some searches like "Obama Gifts", "Barack Obama Items", etc.. See what people are selling and see how you could follow the tread quickly:


The third way I do the most is to see what hot movies are coming up which people are talking about a lot. For example, one of the movies people are talking about a lot is the "Angels and Demons" by Tom Hanks coming up in a few months. Most people will be attracted by the concept of Ambigram as it may be the first time they hear about it. On the early teaser poster from the movie, there was no Tom Hanks. You can only see Ambigram displaying in the background, indicating that Ambigrams will be playing a critical role in this blockbuster movie.

So you know what to do, don't you? Try to search "Ambigram Items", "Ambigram Gifts" in Yahoo or Google and see if you can start selling something for the coming demand:


So these are some simple strategies that I'm using all the time. Spend some time every week for little researches. That should definitely help your business grow a lot.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hidden Secrets for More Sales in eBay

In fact, you don't need to read this section before you can start your eBay business. With all details in previous few articles, you have got all you need to know to start selling. But to help you further, I'd like to get you some more hints which could help you get more sales


It's a 3rd party eBay solution that I think really useful. And the best thing is: it's free of charge.

There are several things Auctiva can help you sell better. Just let you know some:
- Free template making your eBay listing more professional even you don't know any HTML. Also similar service in eBay, but not free.
- Multiple pictures can be posted in each listing. And hosting all your pictures in their service without any charge. But in eBay, multiple pictures require extra fee.
- You can schedule your listings to be posted at your preferred time. Again, eBay charges you extra fee to do so.

There’re also a lot more benefits you can get from Auctiva. You may check it out in their site.

Try Understanding More of your Suppliers

While you're preparing your items to sell in eBay, I'll suggest you to order a few items from your suppliers (e.g. Giftamax introduced in our few articles previously). Even you don't need to keep any stocks when you're working with this supplier. But to have a look at the final products yourself will definitely help you understand more of products.

Compare between the sample images and the real products and see if they are really good as you expect. See how the package is done and so you can know how to answer related queries from your future customers. Evaluate the transit time and see if it's within the acceptable level.

It'll help much on your future business.

Little Tricks to Speed Up Your Sales

eBay is a marketplace based on trust. As you can imagine, if you start selling with zero or just a few feedbacks, customers would tend to move away to other sellers. So how to turn it around more quickly at the beginning? Try to be a buyer first.

You can also earn feedbacks as a buyer. If you can start with 10+ or 20+ feedbacks when you start selling, people would have much more confidence to buy from you for sure. Therefore, try to find something you need. Buy it in eBay instead of anywhere else.

If you start by doing some purchases first, there are several benefits:
- Earn feedback
- Get the items you want at a good price with lots of choices in eBay
- Understand the buying process. Then you know what process your future customers will go through. That can help your communication with them much.

eBay Basic Store

If you're serious to build a profitable business in eBay, there're no reasons you don't subscribe to their Basic Store. A lot of benefits you can enjoy by paying a small fee. Just name some of them:

- You can post Store Inventory Listings, much lower listing fee and longer duration.
- Free Selling Manager (original price $4.99 per month). With selling manager, it makes your life much easier, e.g. sending bulk notice to customers, leaving feedback in bulk, monitor sales performance with simple graphs and statistics, categorized tasks for your easy follow up, etc.

A lot more benefits not mentioned here. You can take a look at eBay.com and find out more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Investment Budget and Pricing Strategy for Your eBay Business

Last time we talked about how to determine what to sell from the Giftamax product list. Now you have to think about your pricing strategy and investment budget. Remember you should not raise a price war when you don't have to. The reason you pay your effort in eBay is for making profit. And since your products are coming with certain uniqueness, you should position yourself well.

Let me make an example by one of my eBay accounts, selling mouse pads.

- Store inventory items posted each month: 1000
- Auction items posted every day: 20, i.e. 600 listings per month
- eBay store monthly subscription fee: $15.95
- Giftamax monthly membership fee: $19.95

After doing research, I decide to sell my mouse pads at $5.99 + $5.99 Shipping. Not the most expensive nor the cheapest, but with reasonable profit margin. Though I don't need to pay for any shipping fee to Giftamax, I still split up the total price into a selling price + shipping price. In this way, I can save some eBay cost as eBay charges transaction fee based on the selling price when you sell an item successfully. However, the shipping cost must be reasonable, or it may violate eBay's policy about Excessive Shipping Charges.

When posting items in eBay, remember to add a gallery picture to each of your listing. You have to realize that most customers are attracted to your items because of your pictures. When they search and look around thousands of listings in eBay, it's quite unlikely they will go into your item page if they don't know what you sell by a quick glance.

For the price settings for store inventory items, I set $2 more expensive than the auction items. It's a strategy to earn more profits. If the customers want to get the items immediately, then they have to BUY IT NOW at a higher price. If they don't mind waiting until auctions end, they may have a chance to buy at a better price.

I offer shipping discount when people buying more than 1 item at a time. In this way, hopefully I could encourage people buying more items at the same time, less profit per item, but more profit in total. You may think about and see if this strategy also suits you. By ordering from Giftamax, your work doesn't differ much between placing order for 1 item and 100 items. Now I charge $5.99 for the 1st item and then $3.99 for each additional one.

Now after selling in eBay for a period of time, I know the sales conversion rate of my items. But as a new eBay seller, you may need to estimate at the beginning. And don't be too optimistic in your estimation. It's also true that certain customers may have hesitation to buy from a new seller. So the sales at the beginning will be slow for you. Be patient. Everyone needs to get thru this stage before they can make real money as a Powerseller. Now as a Powerseller, my sales conversation rate is about 40%, i.e. about 8 items sold per day.

OK, with all details, we can start our budget calculation:

Fixed cost I have to pay, i.e. even without any sales, I still need to pay and that will be my risk of loss:

- Store inventory items posted each month:
1000 x 0.03 = $30
- Auction items posted every day: 20, i.e. 600 listings per month:
600 x 0.35 = $210
- eBay store monthly subscription fee: $15.95
- Giftamax monthly membership fee: $19.95

Total fixed cost: $30 + $210 + $15.95 + $19.95 = $275.90

Cost I have to pay after my items sold (8 items sold per day, and around 50% auction items sold at $5.99 + 50% store inventory items sold at $7.99):

- eBay transaction fee for store inventory items:
$7.99 x 12% x 4 x 30 = $115.06
- eBay transaction fee for auction items:
$5.99 x 8.75% x 4 x 30 = $62.90
- Paypal fee for store inventory items:
($13.98 x 3.4% + $0.3) x 4 x 30 = $93.04
- Paypal fee for auction items:
($11.98 x 3.4% + $0.3) x 4 x 30 = $84.88
- Item cost paid back to Giftamax:
$3.49 x 8 x 30 = $837.60

Total cost for items sold: $115.06 + $62.90 + $93.04 + $84.88 + $837.60 = $1193.48

Total sales payment received (120 pieces from store inventory and 120 pieces from auction): $13.98 x 120 + $11.98 x 120 = $3115.20

Net profit per month: $3115.20 - $275.90 - $1193.48 = $1685.82

Now you know how to calculate your budget. One point you have to bear in mind is that your sales volume at the beginning will be slow when you are new to the market. Also, lack of item choices may be another reason customers don't stay in your site for too long. It does take some time before you can have thousands of items in your eBay store and encourage your customers to buy more from you. Don't worry too much if you find you can't reach the scale like mine. It's understandable. But my suggestion is: just start from a small scale. Even with only 40 or 50 items ready in your list, post them up and start making little sales. You may have little loss at the beginning when the sales are not enough to cover your cost. But if you treat it as a serious business, certain investment is a must.

Once you get in track and prove your strategy profitable, you may start expanding your scale by creating more items with different designs, or creating different items with the same designs. Either way you should expect your profit may grow as you wish.