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Business tips for eBay

Last updated: 10 May 2022

If you plan to make a fortune as a hotshot eBay trader you can help yourself considerably by following a few golden rules.

Start by practising buying and selling a few times before you launch your business. eBay has its own quirks and it is useful to be familiar with them before, rather than after, you’re up and running. Do not use your business user name at this point as you don’t want any mistakes to count against you. The key to repeat business is trust. Items must be described honestly otherwise you will not only break the trades description legislation, but also upset customers who will leave negative feedback saying how disappointed they are. You don’t want cross customers buying from you on the Internet any more than you want them in your shop on the high street.

Concentrate on sending items fast as customers love efficiency. Keep people happy and exceed their expectations. Have a system in place to deal with non-payers or late payers. There will always be a minority of eBay customers who win auctions but don’t follow through. Allow an acceptable amount of time for payment (say eight to ten days), but if nothing happens email to remind the customer they owe you money and remind them you will leave negative feedback if they do not contact you. After another week without payment use the feedback system to leave a “non paying bidder” comment. If you prefer, state payment must be made within a certain number of days. When selling be aware of bidders with low feedback. There may be genuine reason for this, such as lack of experience using eBay, but there are risky bidders out there. And be very wary of bidders with negative feedback ratings as it means someone has already had a problem with them (maybe not receiving goods or the items badly described). Even positive feedback scores can have a lot of negative scores alongside, so always check the feedback score.

eBay’s feedback system is far from perfect. One of the main flaws is that unscrupulous buyers and sellers will use it dishonestly. Some people always give negative feedback. Fraudsters obtain goods by using stolen cheque books, or writing cheques guaranteed to bounce (if you receive a cheque for an item, be sure to bank it and make sure it has cleared before posting items).

Use eBay, the internet and retail stores to keep an eye on prices. This helps you set prices and reserve prices better, and gives an indication of how profitable your sales will be. Research how well products sell in your marketplace to avoid either buying products that are fast coming down in price or being left with difficult to shift items. Check for gaps in the market, or new products that are easily available and you can sell at a profit. Entrepreneurs using eBay often spot a gap and move quickly to make a profit. Diligence in research definitely pays off.

Try to use pictures where possible. Images sell products online. A product with a picture catches the eye so the chance of bids is higher. Potential bidders gain confidence from pictures as they can see the condition of the item. But the quality must be good – never settle for blurred or dark photographs, and ideally use plain backgrounds.

Packaging is another area to consider carefully. Skimp on packaging and you will look cheap. Disputes can arise over poorly packaged goods so wrap and pack carefully using well sealed boxes or packaging. Bubble wrap or other protective packaging inside can help protect items. A cheap way to cover against problems is to offer postal insurance as part of your postage costs. Also consider whether you are prepared to ship abroad and if so, check delivery costs carefully as they can be prohibitively expensive.

People spend more time on eBay than any other site, and the number of new businesses it has spawned is phenomenal. Whatever ambitious, unusual or bizarre scheme you may have it will only work if you prepare well, keep your wits about you and work hard.

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