Part 1- Algorithms & The Listing Process

In the Beginning… How I got started selling on ebay

I was introduced to ebay in the year 2012. It seemed like a gold mine! An online garage sale and who doesn’t love a good garage sale, right?!? I was hooked. I bought everything from jewelry to clothes, shoes, birthday and Christmas gifts. I went wild!Department store Revised Clip Art 002 I had got to the point in my life I no longer liked going to malls. Who wants to get mugged walking out to their car at a mall? Most of the malls are filling up with a lot of people that are, to me, just a little bit scary looking. Walmart gets old. Believe it or not they are not succeeding in their mission of being the best of the best because between ebay and Amazon the world is changing to online, e-commerce,  shopping at a very high rate of speed. I started selling items that I wanted to return but didn’t want to pay for the shipping to return the items. I was intrigued by the depth of which the ebay platform has, I was able to make money on some of the items, started gathering things up around the house to sell and the rest is history!

Ebay is making a lot of changes right now trying to compete with Amazon. Ebay’s goal, in my opinion, isNew Used arrows to attract more sellers interested in selling new items. This saddens me because it changes the platform. What attracted me to ebay to begin with was their extensive inventory of used items at great prices. Ebay announced recently that over 80% of the items selling right now are new products and they were advertising this in a very proud manner in a commercial. My heart sunk. If ebay is catering more to the new item sellers then the computer algorithms will be set in their favor.

The resale community on ebay has struggled these past few summer months. Saying that sales are down is an understatement. There’s been a lot of talk about ebay’s reconstruction, their new global shipping program, the Fast and Free and now the guaranteed deliver program that the majority of ebay sellers are scared to death of and confused on exactly how it will or won’t work. Who’s backing up the guarantee? So many questions and so few answers. I did see a video with an ebay representative at the Las Vegas gathering in July 2017 say in an interview that ebay will be the one backing up and paying out on the guaranteed shipping program.

Sellers rely on youtube videos provided by other resellers that think they have it all figured out. I’ve been selling long enough to know that nobody has it all figured out. Success depends mostly on the products you are selling. Supply and demand wins again.

The very first thing I learned in my marketing class 30 years ago was that supply and demand will set the stage for any platform. If there is no demand then obviously the product will not be a success. Ebay sellers have a choice to make… take their chances reselling in hopes of finding great deals on items that have a high demand or drop a big wad of money on buying new items either wholesale or through retail arbitrage. Either way it is a gamble. I believe that’s what keep all of us sellers motivated. The thrill of kill so to speak… “killin it” to an ebay seller means the same as hitting a home run on a sale and earning a good profit margin. One group refers to it as “cheese” which I find extremely comical when watching their youtube videos. They have a lot of great videos and between them they also share a lot of helpful information to other resellers.

The Listing Process

The algorithms in ebay rely on your account staying active on a daily basis. The more you list on a daily basis the higher your ranking will be (supposedly) online. The majority of youtubers say list minimum 20 items per day. This may sound simple but it’s easy to not do it. Listing the item on ebay is just part of the process.

  1. Sourcing Inventory:  If you don’t already have a stock pile of inventory to list then you have to go source your products. Then there’s the make ready. Some items may need small repairs. Others will need a deep clean or a light touch up. All clothing items are to be washed per ebay’s terms of service. Shoes are to be sanitized.
  2. Photo Shoot:  It’s picture time! Lights, camera ACTION! If you don’t know anything about photography when you start you will learn a lot in your first year. I started out taking my pictures on the black felt of a pool table with a florescent light above it. If my now ex-husband didn’t take his pool table with him I may still be taking my pictures on it. It worked great! Loved it! The lights made my jewelry really sparkle and shine and I really didn’t have a big issue with the colors on the clothing. And at least the pool table allowed plenty of room to take pictures of long pants, skirts and dresses. Shadow box light kits and umbrella lights are what a lot of seller use. I chose the shadow box lights and ended up having to lighten the background on almost all of my pics. This is very time consuming. I use a cannon digital camera I paid $350 for it at Walmart. I use the manual setting and adjust my light exposure to a lighter setting but wish I could achieve a clean white background without the time it takes to adjust it in the listing. I usually take approximately 400+ pictures in one photo shoot. I take 10-12 pics per clothing item because I lay a tape measure in several pics to show flat measurements. Smaller items are generally 4-5 pics. It will take me 1-2 full days to list the 40-50 items in the pics.  All of the information you need will be in your pictures. I take pics of any labels, tags, flaws, anything that I feel like I need to make sure the buyer needs to be aware of.
  3. The Listing Template:  It is important to build a few general listing templates. What I have done is make one for men’s clothing, women’s clothing, toys, home decor and children’s clothing. Make them for whatever it is you sell the most. If you are re-selling used items then there will always be several that will have to be changed and updated from categories, brands, colors, sizes to item specifics. So a template only serves the purpose of not having to add the data that you want to show in each listing. I use the cross-promotional program frooition in my ebay listings. I don’t totally trust these apps to auto populate my listings so I go into an existing listing and copy and past the html code from the active listing and paste it into the html of the template or new listing. I’ve found 2 listings just today that still didn’t have it added so at least doing it this way you get the full benefit of the app.
    • Click create new listing either on the products screen or from a template.
    • Add your first item’s pictures. You can add up to 12. Because I do a lot of “sell similar” it is important to me to delete the existing pics and add the new ones so this is not forgotten while adding all the details to your listing. This is the one mistake that I made many times in the beginning. You will see that when doing listings your procedure and sticking to structured steps will help you avoid some small mistakes that can turn into big ones if not caught soon. This is also why you always want to use the “Preview Listing” feature at the end of your listing process before pushing it live.
    • Add your title line. Make sure you do not have adjectives or any other words that serve no purpose in a search. Try to think about what the buyer will enter into a search when trying to find your product. My goal has always been to use all possible spaces to fill the title line but I have noticed that when you do this it may actually be hurting your chances. Less is more. The more basic and to the point the description, the more likely to show up in a search for that item.
    • Choose the correct category. I like to open a second window and do a search for the item I am listing. This will provide pricing information and when looking at the sold items it will also tell you which category the majority of the items are being sold in.
    • Store Categories – if you have an ebay store this is the category in your store you want your item to show up in. You can add these categories in by going to Overview, Selling Tools, Manage Store and in the side menu you will see under store design “store categories.” This is where you can create your categories and organize your store. You can also create sub-categories. I love this feature! It also helps the buyers move around and find what they are looking for easier while shopping in your store.
    • UPC – if it is in a package or has a tag with a UPC symbol I always add it.
    • Condition – item condition is very important. If there is any flaws in the item you are to add it here. If it is in great condition then add that. If it is a used item then add Used, Gently Used or preowned. You can not put “like new” here because of the word “new” will cause ebay to reject your listing.
    • Item Specifics- Here you want to add as many item specifics as possible. Always try to pick from the options they give you because those will show up in the most searches. If you need to add special or different ones then use the option “Add your own item specific”.
    • Description- Try to keep your description exactly that. Do not use this box to add all your selling terms, return policies, shipping information or store information. The algorithms also search the the descriptions so all of the extra stuff is just garbage that will clutter and confuse the search engine. A good way to check your descriptions is to look at them on a mobile device. When I had first started out I did have all my store policies and terms in my description and when I looked at it on my mobile phone it was distorted and showed chopped up information. Keep it short and to the point.
    • Selling Details-
      • Format- some items do good in auctions, others do better in Buy it Now format. Always look at the sold items in an ebay search, items like yours in the same condition as yours, this will also tell you which you should do as far as auction or Buy it now.
      • Duration- the duration of the actions depends on your goals. A quick sale may mean less people will have a chance to find it which may mean less money. The buy it now I always list as 30 days. I often wonder if it would be better to list these for 10 days. It would make sense that it would get more exposure in the algorithms but with over 500 listings I don’t want to have to constantly be relisting. And again, the shorter the duration the possibility you will make less money.
      • Price- If your item is not priced according to the supply and demand of the market it will not sell. Do your research, figure out what you need out of the sale. Make sure you know and are aware of all the costs, fees, shipping, paypal’s percentage and cover yourself. You should already know an approximate amount before you buy any inventory to sell so you know up front that you can make money on the item.
      • Quantity- Is it one item or is it a bundle? Do you have 1 or 100? Are you selling it individually or as a lot of several different items in one sale? This is where you will define the quantity.
      • Sales Tax- If you are selling only a few items then most sellers do not deal with charging sales tax and just pay income tax on the additional income on their tax return. This is what I have done in the past. If you plan on being a full time seller, making a living doing this or making a substantial amount of sales and income it would be in your best interest to ask the advice of your accountant on how to proceed with charging sales taxes. I can not advise you on this because I am not a certified accountant.
    • Shipping Details-
      • Business Policies must now be setup in your seller account settings for Shipping, Returns and Payments.
        • Payments- I use paypal for my payments and ebay requires all sellers to have a paypal account, at least that is my understanding. I know I have had buyers want me to use other forms of payment but since I didn’t have those accounts setup I had to tell them no. Paypal has done me right for 5 years now and I use my paypal more than I do my bank accounts. It is a great service and has never let me down yet.
        • Returns- In order to gain Top Rated Status (TRS) all items must now have a 60 day Return policy. I changed mine to the 60 day returns last Christmas because it was supposed to lift my status in the algorithms during the holidays because it allowed buyers to buy gifts knowing the receiver would have a chance to return it if needed. I almost never have a return and when I do I know it’s just part of doing business. Return rates did not go up just because I changed my return policy from 30 days to 60. No harm done.
        • Shipping- Now this one can make you or break you. From 1/4 to 1/2 of your gross income on sales may go straight to the shipping costs depending on what you sell and the cost per item you are selling. Any seller that can sell higher end items that are small, like jewelry for example, will have must better percentages. But for the average ebay seller selling used clothing that sells for $5.00-$15.00 shipping will cost generally from $3.50 – $6.00 per item. The weight of every bit of padding, every sheet of packing paper, your tape and the boxes or poly and bubble mailers you use matters! Literally 1/10 of an ounce can raise your shipping cost from a $4.00 shipping charge to a$7 or $9 charge depending on where you are shipping it to. Be careful and pay attention to every detail. Don’t mail full sheet receipts if it only takes up 1/2 of a page of paper. Get a paper cutter and cut it in half and hand feed it into the printer for the next packing slip. Buy your labels, poly mailers and tape in bulk. Use the free bubble mailers, flat rate envelopes and free priority boxes the post office supplies and will drop off right at your house. Just go to the USPS.com website to register and order them. Always ship your items packed well and tape the edges. If your item does not make it to your buyer in one piece then it’s all for nothing. Try to always ship using services that provide tracking. This is also a requirement of ebay for the Top Rated Seller status. If you don’t have a toner printer then GET ONE! I paid so much money for ink when I was using my color printer that I started to just use the black ink and used gray tones trying to save money. I bought a $79 Brother printer and a $75 toner cartridge and it lasted almost a year! It would’ve cost me 5 times that in ink not to mention it was never good to run out of ink when in the middle of crunch time packing sales to take to the post office at the 4:00 deadline!
    • Preview your Listing- Always preview your new listing, especially when in a hurry and think you don’t have time because that is when you will make the most mistakes.
    • Submit it and on to the next! Remember the minimum goal is 20+ per day!

 

More to come! I will be

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