Running a business from home has never been more convenient, but that doesn’t make it easy; with more than $160,000 spent on eBay every 60 seconds there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to start selling, but there’s also plenty of competition. If you dive in head-first you’re likely to have a hard time, so it’s best to do a little research before you set up shop.

 Know Your Market

Before you make any big decisions, you need to understand what the market is like; what’s your competition, who are your buyers, and where will you fit in? You may find that there are many competitors for your product range, requiring you to ruthlessly chase margins – you’ll need to make preparations if you’re going to compete.

You’ll need to identify what it is that you offer which other sellers don’t; for example, you may discover that many eBay sellers from China are offering the same product as you for a cheaper price. However, their delivery times are all two weeks or more; you could compete by offering free first-class delivery, putting your product in customer’s hands within a few days at a slightly higher price. Of course you’ll need to know whether this is economical or not for you, which is why it’s so important to plan ahead before becoming an online retailer.

What’s in a Name?

Your name is part of your online brand, and you ought to consider how buyers will perceive it. Especially when you’re starting out and have little positive feedback, buyers are looking for signs that you’re a trustworthy seller, and a sensible, relevant name will go some way to convince them of that.

“Bristol_Toy_Shop”, for example, is more likely to inspire confidence than “alibaba420”. You may well need to try several different names before finding one that’s free, but make sure you end up with something that sends the right message to customers.

Take Stock

You’ll need some way of keeping stock levels under control, which means keeping an eye on what’s coming in, what’s going out, and what you have on hand. Poor stock-taking can result in lost revenue through missed sales or a surplus piling up, so you’ll need a proper solution if you plan to sell at scale.

Microsoft Excel is great when you’re starting out, and there are some powerful inventory templates to save the headache of setting up your own interactive spreadsheet.

If you’re planning to sell on other platforms, software like StitchLabs provides powerful tools to manage multiple stock levels efficiently, and can even automate re-ordering.

Understand the Fees

There are several different types of eBay Business Accounts available, each of which has its own fee structure and monthly cost. In addition to this, eBay will charge a percentage of the final transaction value (inc. P&P), which is set at different levels for different types of products – the eBay fee calculator is a great way to determine just how much you’ll be paying out on each sale.

Produce Quality Product Images

The first thing shoppers will see is your product’s catalogue photo, so be sure to take high-quality images that entice them to click on your listing. Most modern smartphones have excellent cameras and editing capabilities, but you may find it beneficial to invest in a tripod and some lights, or a retouching app like Photoshop Express to make your listings really stand out.

Prepare Your Packaging

As an eCommerce business, your biggest opportunity to create an impression on customers is through your packaging, and a parcel that stands out builds a powerful brand identity.

Especially as a small business, it’s worth considering some creative packaging ideas to encourage customers to come back, and these don’t have to cost the earth.

Build Your Feedback

In an online marketplace like eBay, buyers are understandably wary of giving their money to vendors with very little feedback (25 positive reviews is generally considered to be the absolute minimum).

Obviously you can’t gain feedback if no-one’s buying from you, but you can get around this Catch-22 by making purchases through your account and gathering positive feedback from sellers (this has the added benefit of giving you experience of the buyer’s perspective on transactions).

You may find that buyers are reluctant to purchase big-ticket items from you while your feedback is relatively low (under 100), so don’t panic if your higher-end items don’t shift straight away. Keep building up your reputation by selling lower-value products and as your eBay reputation grows, customers will feel more confident buying expensive items.

Gather Your Tools

As your business expands you may find it useful to add some automation to your eBay store. eBay’s Selling Manager Pro service offers many tools to speed up your workflow, from the creation of automated listings to inventory adjustments and shipping notifications. You can also improve your professional image and save time by using integrated labels to streamline your shipping process.

Quite simply, integrated labels allow you to print your invoice and the recipient’s delivery address onto a single sheet; the address label then peels away and is fixed to your package, while theinvoice goes in with your goods – boosting efficiency and reducing the potential for mistakes.

Manage Customer Interactions

Your customers will have questions for you, and you should be sure to handle them quickly, politely and helpfully. Even if it’s a stupid question, even if they’re being rude, there’s no benefit to responding impolitely, so keep your cool.

Similarly, if buyers make a complaint, or fail to pay on time, be patient; send follow-up emails to keep them informed, and if it’s impossible to resolve the issue then refer it to eBay.

 eBay is a fantastic platform that empowers individuals to run their own business. It’s easy to become your own boss, but that doesn’t mean that eCommerce businesses don’t have their fair share of issues to overcome. Get started on the right foot, though, and you’ll avoid many of the issues which plague newcomers.

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