Read an Excerpt
Selling Beyond eBay
By Greg Holden
AMACOM BOOKSCopyright © 2006 Greg Holden
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCarrying Your Experience and Reputation to New Venues
You've spent months-perhaps years-developing a good reputation on eBay. You've accumulated a good feedback rating; you may have qualified for PowerSeller status; you have glowing commendations from satisfied customers. You're ready to take your business to new venues. You want to open a zShop on Amazon; you're working on a Yahoo! Store; you're going to be upgrading your own website. The question is whether you will need to start from scratch with each of these new ventures. Do you have to build a new reputation on your new marketplace of choice?
Ideally, you should make every effort to leverage your reputation as a competent and trustworthy seller on eBay to expand your online sales. You don't have to start from ground zero when you are opening up a shop on Overstock.com, Amazon.com, Yahoo!, Bidville, or any of the other auction and sales marketplaces mentioned later in this book. In fact, you cannot attain prominent exposure on any of these marketplaces without having a good reputation to begin with. It's up to you to be a salesperson-in this case, a salesperson for yourself.
In this chapter, you'll learn some techniques for making a smooth transition from eBay to another auction venue. You'll learn how to play on yourgood reputation on eBay to build the same kind of reputation elsewhere. One good thing leads to another in the world of ecommerce as well as in the "real" world. You'll discover that your efforts to reach out and build a good reputation not only increase your level of customer satisfaction but also boost your bottom line.
Lose Your User ID, Maintain Your Identity
MC Electronics is a seller of sports memorabilia and electronics located in Gillespie, Illinois. An eBay member since October 2000, owner Mark Carpani became a silver PowerSeller and eventually built up a feedback rating of 1,600 on eBay. (A feedback rating is a total based on the number of positive, neutral, and negative comments an eBay member receives from the people with whom he or she does business.) However, he now says he's "pretty much through" with eBay and doesn't plan to sell there any more. He's opened a storefront with the help of auction service provider Andale. He also has a business presence on Overstock.com, Bidville, and Yahoo! Mark says that having a good feedback rating and an About Me page gives you a base from which you can make a smooth and effective transition to other marketplaces.
Tip: Look closely at Figure 4-1. You'll notice that Mark has displayed a logo from Square Trade, an organization that certifies online businesses that provide a high level of customer service. He also provides his eBay user ID (mcelectronics1) and a statement about his money-back guarantee. Taken together, these items are bound to inspire trust in prospective buyers.
Mark offers new sellers the following advice:
We started on eBay selling collectibles and sports cards. These were small value items that helped us build our feedback on eBay. The best advice I could give anyone is to build your feedback to at least fifty to seventy-five positive comments from other eBay members on purchases by selling small value items that will not hurt you financially if they don't sell well before you go out and try to run with the big players. An eBay seller with one positive feedback can list the same item as another seller with a hundred positives and the seller with one positive will lose money on the sale every time. The feedback system is what makes eBay so popular; everyone who buys and sells on eBay will say the same thing. You have to take some time to build your business up; you can't just walk out of your house and start selling on eBay and turn a profit. It takes time.
Mark says he began building a good reputation with an About Me page on eBay. He took care to craft the kinds of statements about honesty and the importance of customer satisfaction that are guaranteed to build trust.
"We created an About Me page on eBay and tweaked and fiddled with it over the years to ensure our customers know up front that we are a legitimate business. We post our return policy so our customers can refer back to it if necessary and so they know up front what the terms are."
Once he developed a solid business on eBay, Mark was able to wind down his eBay business in reaction to eBay fees that seemed to rise dramatically every year. According to Mark, "The fees were taking up about 19 percent of our profit, and any businessperson will tell you that's too big of a chunk. This is when I started to post things on Overstock.com and Yahoo! as well as other auction sites. We then started our own storefront and pretty much left eBay in the dust. We are pretty much completely done with eBay, I think." The MC Electronics home page on Overstock.com and shown in Figure 4-2 includes the detailed statements about shipping, returns, and customer service that are quoted later in this chapter.
Blow Your Own Horn
You know all about your business, and so do your eBay shoppers, but don't depend on your new customers at Overstock.com or Yahoo! Auctions to know that or to find out all the good things about you. Be sure you tell people about yourself, why you like what you do, and not only that but why you're good at what you do, too. You might say something like:
I've been selling electronics components for years. I started selling while I had a repair business in suburban Chicago. I used to end up with leftover components and started selling them at flea markets and through classified ads. To my surprise, I liked meeting other radio enthusiasts who turned out to be my customers. I try to carry the same sort of enthusiasm over to my auction business. If you ever have a question about one of my components or a problem, feel free to contact me. My goal is 100 percent customer satisfaction.
Remember that prospective customers are visiting your profile page precisely because they want to find out about you. You don't have to identify yourself by name if you don't want to. On the other hand, if you want to use your name, it will boost your page's personal appeal. Any personal background that relates to what you buy or sell will help to build interest. If you sell baby clothes, for instance, photos of your own children wearing the clothes will help portray you as an authority on the subject.
Cite Your Feedback Rating
Your feedback from eBay may not carry over to your auctions on another marketplace, but there's nothing wrong with citing exactly what your feedback is on eBay. Here is what MC Electronics says:
Since October 2000, our company has a 99.1 percent feedback rating, with over 1,600 satisfied customers on eBay! We value our customers and would like to thank them for their business.... We are verified through eBay, PayPal, Overstock.com, and SquareTrade. We are proud eBay Silver PowerSellers, so buy with confidence.... Our company uses modern technology but still practices old-fashioned business sense. We simply don't believe in the "make the sale and forget the customer" attitude that has taken over the industry.
Most sites will also allow you to make a hyperlink from your profile page to your feedback profile page on eBay. If you use iOffer's tool Mr. Grabber, as described later in this chapter, you can import your feedback comments from eBay to your home page on that site.
Simply creating a profile page on a marketplace site will boost trust among prospective customers. You can also boost trust by telling them how long you have been selling online, how many transactions you have completed, how many positive comments you have received, and so forth. Tell shoppers why they should trust you, and why you are better than the competition (presumably, you are, after all). Mark Carpani says this on his Overstock.com profile page:
Our products are 100 percent new or factory reconditioned. If there is an (R) behind the model, the item is factory reconditioned. All of our items have a full manufacturer's warranty and we stand behind our products 100 percent. Our customers will not get stuck with a used item that doesn't work. Check out our website to see what our customers have said about their experience with MC Electronics. All of our Sports Memorabilia is 100 percent authentic and comes with a COA when applicable. These items are manufactured by Steiner Sports, a leader in the sports memorabilia industry!
Testimonials from satisfied customers are another guaranteed way to build trust. Adding quotes from them will tell people that your customers have taken the time to thank you for your level of service.
Build Your Reputation on BizRate
You know about building a feedback rating on eBay. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a feedback system you could apply to your ecommerce website or to your storefronts on other sales venues? That's the idea behind BizRate, a shopping search engine that aggregates sales listings from a variety of websites. It enables shoppers to do comparison shopping, so when a search is conducted, the site returns a variety of sales listings with different prices.
BizRate also provides ratings for merchants based on the shopping experiences of more than 1.3 million active shoppers who have volunteered to provide reviews, and from stores that are designated customer certified because they allow shoppers to submit feedback while they are in the process of making purchases. You can list your own store in BizRate's database and invite your own shoppers to submit feedback. It's free to register, and you can find out more at bizrate.com.
Offer a Warranty
One of the best ways to get customers to trust you is to have a liberal return policy. If you make a statement on your website or in your profile page, you'll be sure to inspire trust. Consider a statement like the following:
All merchandise purchased from Greg's Great Buys carries a seven-day, money-back return policy. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your item, you can send it back for a full refund (as long as you pay shipping). If we make a mistake in the description or in the shipping process, we will refund both the purchase price and shipping cost. We also offer a ninety-day warranty on all items. We are committed to your satisfaction and we thank you for your business.
Also pay attention to any manufacturers' warranties. If you sell merchandise that is under warranty, be sure to include the warranty information in the body of the sales description and invite customers to email you if they have any questions.
Provide Lots of Shipping Details
As you already know, fast and careful shipping is critical to customer satisfaction. The moment a buyer hands over his or her money, that person is wondering when the item purchased will actually arrive. Although eBay has affiliations with United Parcel Service (UPS) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), other auction and sales venues do not. It's even more important, when selling outside of eBay, to assure customers that you will pack and ship their merchandise in a timely manner. Try listing the following shipping information on your site:
We are committed to fast and careful shipping. Instant payments through PayPal will be processed within twenty-four hours of payment. Personal checks and money orders require seven days to clear. But your order will be shipped Priority Mail with free delivery confirmation. Other shipping options are available; please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It might seem obvious to you, but telling people how you pack your items, what sort of shipping method you use, and how long it typically takes for delivery makes you look more organized and professional.
Relist Unsold eBay Auction Items
When you're making a transition to move to another auction site, one question you need to answer has to do with your merchandise. Are you going to sell exactly the same sorts of things you offer on eBay? Are you going to offer a different product line? One option for coming up with products to sell on eBay is to gather up those things that have not sold and relist them on other sites.
A logical place for relisting unsold items is iOffer, a site where sellers can make merchandise available either for a fixed price or on a best offer basis. A prospective buyer makes an offer, and the seller can either accept the offer or make a counteroffer. It makes sense to take merchandise that didn't sell for your original price on eBay and see what the market will bear for these items on iOffer or another website where bargaining and haggling is encouraged. (See Chapter 5 for more information on websites that encourage the fine art of bargaining.)
Grab Your Feedback and Sales with Mr. Grabber
Mr. Grabber is a sales tool that is made available to iOffer members. It enables you to import your feedback rating from the following auction sites:
Besides bringing over feedback, you can also import items that have not sold. You can bring them over to iOffer with a few mouse clicks and put them up for sale again. Mr. Grabber is easy to use. Once you've registered for an account with iOffer, go to the Mr. Grabber home page and click the link HERE in the heading Click Here to start using Mr. Grabber. Then follow these steps:
1. When the login page appears, enter your iOffer user ID or email address and your password, and click LOGIN.
2. On the next page, you are asked to choose the site from which you want to import your data, and your username on that site. You can then choose whether to import your feedback rating, your unsold items, or both.
3. A page appears notifying you that "item duplication" will take several hours and when the process is completed, you'll find your items in your Pending Items area on iOffer.
4. When several hours have passed, check your Pending Items area. You can then activate which items you want to sell. Click the IMPORT-ITEMS FROM EBAY link (or Yahoo!, or Overstock.com, or another site, if you have imported listings from there). If you want to put all the items up for sale on iOffer, you only have to click the BULK UPLOAD YOUR ITEMS link. But it's important to review the items that have been imported. In my case, no fewer than 123 active listings and unsold items were brought over from eBay's database, and I had to carefully select the ones to sell. Some were items that were already up for sale in my eBay Store, and I didn't want them to be sold elsewhere at the same time. At least two were items that were listed as "unsold" on eBay at one time but that were actually sold after relisting.
Note: There is no restriction on whether you can have an item for sale on eBay and iOffer at the same time. But if you have an item for auction on eBay and it sells on iOffer, you have to end the sale immediately on eBay, which might cause disgruntled bidders to leave you negative feedback. Conversely, if something sells on eBay, you then have to remember to terminate the sale on iOffer. You don't want to run the risk of selling one item twice. In my opinion, it's safer to sell something in one venue at a time.
5. Uncheck any items you don't want to sell immediately on iOffer from the list of your active listings and unsold items. (See Figure 4-3.)
6. When you're absolutely certain you've checked the items you want to bring over to iOffer and unchecked the rest, click the ACTIVATE CHECKED button at the bottom of the list.
Excerpted from Selling Beyond eBay by Greg Holden Copyright © 2006 by Greg Holden . Excerpted by permission.
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