This PowerSeller Tips section comes courtesy of Allison Whitehead and is packed with easy, extremely workable and immensely effective ways to increase your profits on eBay and elsewhere online, as well as showing ways to cut your business overheads and thereby keep more of your hard-earned cash for yourself.
8 simple PowerSeller tips to boost your profits…
• Spend at least one hour every weekend reviewing your sales for the week just gone. Look for patterns and trends that caused some products to sell in higher quantities and at higher prices than you expected, also look for goods with regularly high past sales for which orders have recently dipped. By repeating factors causing some listings to achieve very high sales figures, and tackling reasons why some products have declined in sales, it’s quite easy to grow your income for similar products well into the foreseeable future.
The most important thing here is not to try and double your income by using just one idea. I remember reading once that you could save more money by trying to save 10% in five different areas (like food shopping, electricity bills, and so on) than you would if you tried to save 50% in one area. I think that you could apply that same thinking to your eBay business as well, except in this case you’d be looking at how to earn more from your listings or finding ideas to cut your overheads.
You should never let a weekend pass without doing this review exercise, especially after a good trading week when it’s very easy to sit back and enjoy the sales and think all is going well. You remember the old maxim “don’t fix it until it’s broken”? But when you’re doing really well is the best time to look at your business, to see what is working and what isn’t working, and then look for ways to make tiny improvements here and there. Doing all of this when you’re already making good profits is better than doing it when profits are low and you’re too worried and stressed to focus properly.
• Look for ways to increase sales to past and new buyers.
You could give discounts to your repeat customers, for example, or promote combo sales
where you give something free that is related to the main product. My favourite way to do this is always to key words relating to my own products into eBay’s search engine and see what my competitors are offering that I am not offering. Yet!
• Increase your prices by 5% or 10% if the market warrants it.
Sometimes selling too cheaply can actually harm your sales. I had a product once that was selling well for other people, but I just couldn’t shift it. So I increased the price by 50p and it suddenly started flying out. It’s strange how people’s perceptions of price can help or harm your business. A good way to see how just a slight price change might add significantly to your profits is to study other people’s listings and see if just a few extra features can be added to your listings to increase their perceived value over people selling similar items on eBay.
• Don’t overlook the potential of selling outside of eBay, or of introducing another company’s products to eBay business.
I’m thinking here of firms like Café Press, for example, who can create thousands of different products to your exact requirements and even ship them direct to your buyers.
I haven’t tried Café Press yet for my eBay business, but I have bought a few things from their shops and the quality of the items is second to none, so we’ve got no problems there.
The trick is to have a good solid niche audience to promote your items to. The Café Press shopkeepers who focus on a specific niche seem to do quite well, whereas people who try and spread themselves too thin with lots of different designs for countless different product types just don’t seem to succeed as much.
There are limitations to selling for free on Café Press – www.cafepress.com such as only being allowed to list a specific number of products. Limiting yourself this way is not good if you’re going after bigger profits and wider markets, in which case it’s best to opt for a paid-for shop at Café Press. That way you’ll enjoy all of the benefits of achieving a wider audience and having unlimited stock levels, with none of the problems facing free membership. From what I have read you can definitely sell a lot more and experience more success if you opt for a paid shop as opposed to a free one.
And, of course, you can list products from your Café Press shop straight onto eBay and have Café Press process orders direct to your customers. Alternatively, deliver goods yourself by keeping one or two units of your best-selling Café Press products in your own storeroom and remember to replenish them often. Check Café Press delivery prices first though because you might find the company benefits from postage and other delivery discounts that are not available to smaller companies like you and me. So you could find Café Press charging less to send products direct to your customers than you would have to pay. Whether you pass that discount to your eBay customers or keep it for yourself is for you to decide.
Also check delivery costs for Café Press products ordered in bulk, direct to your own door, which may attract discounts over ordering items individually each time you sell a Café Press product on eBay.
Remember, if you can save a few pounds here and there, that adds up to significant savings in just a few months, and incredible savings over the years.
• Look for regular repeat buyers.
Look especially for people who might find you originally on eBay and subsequently purchase similar products from your outside eBay website. We’re looking here for products people need on a regular basis, and which frequently need replenishment, such as:
- Ink cartridges. The appeal of this is that you have an audience that will always need to come back for more. Even if they change printers you can make sure you stock the ink cartridges they need. Ink cartridges are also very cheap to buy wholesale in many cases and the mark up seems to be quite good. You’d need to be able to stock a wide range of cartridges for various makes and models to really maximise your profits here.
- Packaging supplies. Again this brings another captive audience, with lots of people wanting to come back and order more. If you have an eBay shop with all of these supplies in it, you should get plenty of regular eBayers ordering from you. The only real disadvantage is that you would need lots of space to store things like boxes of Jiffy bags, and so on. But you could team up with a local stationery supplier and see if they will deliver direct to your buyers.
• Do your due diligence before buying stock you might have trouble selling.
Personally I always crunch the numbers before buying anything wholesale. I will check and see how something is performing on eBay beforehand. If it does well over a space of time I will probably buy a small number to test a product for real. If that works I will increase my stock. So I have a distinct process to go through.
Sometimes though, despite your best efforts you can get caught out and end up with stock that doesn’t sell. But unlike some people I never remove stock from sale until I have tried shifting it in other ways. So I might bundle an item with something else or offer two units for the price of one, or sometimes I look for a way to reduce my prices and make less money but shift more stock in the process.
If I do have old stock around that is still saleable, I always look from time to time to see if it has gained popularity on eBay again. That’s because history really does repeat itself on eBay, and sometimes you’ll find goods that are not even attracting visitors to their listings, suddenly begin attracting regular sales. So there is really no other way of finding out whether old stock will sell again, short of putting it back on the site. Sometimes simply resting an item before listing it again can have the desired effect, so it can be worth doing this as well.
Yet other items are perennially popular and always seem to be steady sellers. The more of these you can find in your niche the better – it means you can have several items you can rely on most of the time. Just be sure you keep your stock levels up so you can satisfy customer demand and increase your feedback steadily, while also bringing the bacon home on a regular basis.
If you have exhausted all your options and you decide to abandon a product completely, you can always sell it as a batch if you just want to get the best price for the whole lot. You can do this using eBay’s wholesale columns to see if someone else might want to try selling your product outside of eBay. Alternatively, you could sell your stock individually at auction, rather than opting for a Buy it Now item.
• Look for new products outside your normal selling range.
That’s because it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut working very hard to make money from your current product range. Sometimes it helps to step back a little, it doesn’t have to take all day, and to look at what other people are selling and determine whether some product you’ve never considered before might make you a good profit for very little effort. I sell toys and party equipment, but let’s say I wanted to move outside my comfort zone. What products might I choose instead? Well, in less than five minutes I’ve come up with:
– DVDs. I really love the idea that you can pop one in a Jiffy bag and slot it in the postbox without any fuss or bother. There are no large parcels to carry and you can send out lots of them nice and easily. And there’s only one size Jiffy bag to worry about buying too!
– Books. Here I think we would focus on second-hand books and try to find real gems that we could sell for good prices. I’ve certainly got enough second-hand books I no longer want that I could start up with. I know some of the rarer books can go for more than the price of standard brand new ones, but of course it all depends on what you can find. Also I’m a real bookworm so I know I would enjoy this area.
– Collectibles. I sell most of my stuff as Buy it Now items, so I don’t have the thrill of seeing the bid amounts rise over time. I have sold things on auction in the past, however, and I think one of the best things to sell in this way is collectibles. If you are selling something that you know is worth some money, you will get the excitement of knowing the final bid amount could go up a lot. You would need to choose a specific area of collectibles to specialise in that allows you to amass the knowledge needed for long-term success. It’s certainly an area of interest for me, although I think I have more than enough to be going on with as far as the toys are concerned. But then again, maybe I could add vintage toys to the mix?
• Think outside the box, by which I mean you should look for products that few others are selling on eBay and which might never face high competition. I’m thinking of:
– Items you make yourself, or have made exclusively for you. I have a friend who creates her own jewellery, for example, which she sells on eBay. She’s not a trained designer and in fact she has few unusual designs of her own. What she does is study other people’s designs for ideas to use in her own jewellery, without breaking copyright rules, of course. So when she sees someone else getting high prices and regular sales for their jewellery she tries to work out what makes those designs so popular, and then she tries to create her own unique designs based on the best features of other people’s efforts.
You can do this with pretty much any popular hand-made or customised products on eBay. But you don’t always have to make these items yourself, as long as you know someone else with skills to make high quality items for you. I’m looking at the likes of custom-made sheds and other outdoor offices; dolls’ houses – such an amazing seller with many really high price tags; home bars, corner computer desks and worktops; wedding and other celebration cakes, and more besides. See for yourself by keying “hand made” into eBay’s search box, then choose “Price: Highest First” from the dropdown menu right of the screen. You’ll find so many ideas there for high price products for you to make yourself or have other people make for you. If you don’t know how to make those items, then take an evening class at your local adult education college.
– Seasonal celebration items, such as personalized gift baskets for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day; personalised Valentine’s Day candles; Easter hanging baskets and door wreaths, and so on. The beauty of this particular product type is that you can study other people’s listings one year and use those ideas for your own products the following season. That plus the fact you’re never going to get bored with whatever you’re selling because as soon as one season ends there’s another looming on the horizon.
– Brown paper package items that people don’t want to buy face to face in shops or by telephone, but which they will buy online as long as their identify remains a secret. You keep their identity secret by clicking the appropriate privacy button inside your listings and that way you can reach a massive audience of really shy people. People who want to buy sex toys, for example, and nose trimmers, or women wanting wigs but who don’t want shop assistants studying their receding hairline. But remember, eBay have very strict policies on some adult products and you need to adhere to those rules or risk having your eBay account suspended. See what’s involved here.
By Allison Whitehead
by Avril Harper
eBay Trading Expert
Avril Harper is the editor of eBay Confidential and helps new and expert eBay traders find ways to increase their eBay profits. You can sign up for her free weekly eletter here:
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