Expanding Your Business with eBayBy: Charlene Davis
With all of the technological advances businesses have today, the internet is unquestionably the one with the greatest influence. And under this big umbrella of "doing business on the ‘Net” is a well-known online auction venue that provides extraordinary opportunities for sellers to reach hundreds, thousands, and even millions of buyers at a time: eBay.
Chances are you have already spent some time browsing around eBay (http://www.ebay.com/) and perhaps even bought a few things. If so, then you know that it is a very user-friendly system. Even if you’re a newbie, the site will quickly and easily sail you through the process as a buyer or seller. No intimidation tactics used here!
Of course, eBay is not the only game in town. With hundreds of online auction sites operating around the world, this is a $3 billion-plus industry. However, while the other kids are struggling to catch up, eBay is still the Big Daddy of online auctions with more than 800 million page views each day.
Melissa Robinson makes expressive contemporary art (http://www.simpletermsart.com/) and has been selling her work on eBay since 2000. "In the beginning, eBay offered me a chance to connect with collectors I would not have been able to reach via galleries,” she says. "Plus, it allowed me to find a group of my peers as well.” So why should you hawk your wares on eBay? James Dillehay, author of "Sell Your Crafts on eBay" (http://www.craftmarketer.com/), provided the Association of Artisan Businesses with three excellent reasons:
1) To make year round sales. During the three months following Christmas of 2008 through early March 2009, more than 150,000 items that included the word "handmade" sold on eBay. That's 150,000 items selling in the months of January, February and March which are typically the slowest months of the year for craft sales; never mind a terrible economy. Research showed that even handmade Christmas ornaments were selling on eBay during those post-holiday months.
2) To learn what is selling. EBay is the only online venue where you can do accurate market research regarding which arts and crafts are selling and how much buyers are willing to pay. EBay lets you view "completed listings" of any category such as artwork, crafts, or handmade products. You can then sort those listings and note which items received bids and how much the winning bidder paid.
3) To reach buyers around the world at minimal cost. EBay’s growth of registered members has skyrocketed to include people from all over the globe. Artisans can have an international 24/7 storefront for around $16 a month. Show me a business anywhere that costs so little to operate.
Other benefits of selling on eBay are:
• Targeting traffic through eBay’s outstanding search engine optimization. Browsers looking for your type of products and services will be pointed to a landing page featuring your eBay auction page. You pay just a couple of dollars in listing fees to be paraded in front of millions of viewers.
• Use eBay as a way to test the market to find out the demand for a particular product and/or what the price points are.
• Combine online auction sales with your existing business. So long as you follow the terms and conditions established by eBay, visitors can be directed to your non-eBay site for additional information and products.
When approached methodically and systematically (as a business owner should), eBay is really a very simple selling platform. First you have to set up a seller’s account and then choose a selling format. The most popular is the auction format to see how high bidders will go for a particular item. However, you can set a fixed price or sell products through your own eBay store and forego the bidding process. Heather Paine of Dragonfly Candles & Gifts (http://www.dragonflygiftsvt.com/) uses the standard auction format, but also sets a minimum "reserve” amount so that she is not obligated to sell an item if the hidden reserve is not met. The reserve price is not disclosed to buyers and allows sellers to protect their investment without revealing how much they actually want for the item. Many artisans who sell on eBay prefer this type of format.
Next, you will need to select a category; perhaps even more than one for maximum exposure. Richard Meixner makes and sells 1/48 scale architectural models on eBay (User ID: ramtext) and cautions sellers to list their auctions in the right category. "Lots of people miss this,” he says. This can be detrimental because while many bidders look for specific items by keywords, others browse for interesting items in select categories.
You will also need to decide how long you want your auction listing to run (a week is the standard length of time), when it should start and end, and what your starting price will be. Unless you are using eBay as a test market, it helps to know the value of what you are selling. There are many strategies to setting a starting price or opening bid, but if unsure you can either put down the absolute minimum you will take or use a reserve price to start the bidding lower.
Finally, you will need to write a killer title with applicable keywords, an interesting description, and provide detailed pictures. Melissa Robinson encourages artisans to "Write a clear and engaging description. Introduce yourself through your listing and on your About Me page. And be sure to offer multiple images of your art [or craft].”
Of course, this is a very basic overview on how to get started on eBay. But if you are interested in pursuing this type of business model, it costs very little to get started. You can literally be up and running in minutes! You will also discover helpful communities and discussion forums on eBay and throughout the internet to answer questions and help you develop your online selling skills.
CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.