In the 13 years we’ve been on eBay we worked very hard to become Gold Power Sellers. We receive many compliments on our auctions … which we still do by hand, without the benefit of professional web designers. We wanted to share some of what we have learned along the way (some of it learned the hard way, too!) with the rest of the eBay community … to help you take your eBay selling to the next level. Whether you are an eBay novice or a seller who wants to take his or her eBay business up a notch, it is important to know the five most important eBay auction tricks of the trade. eBay continues to regularly change their long held policies and this has impacted the importance of some of these five but these five basics are still the most important basics to having a good eBay business ... or a good online business in general. So, regardless of whether or not some of the eBay's policies change -- these basics remain the same --
- Take good photos and post as many as possible in your auction. Start by getting a decent digital camera. There are some really good digital cameras on the market that are very affordable and will take stable, blur free, well focused shots … that don’t need a camera expert to operate. Buy a couple of clip on flood lights from the hardware store so you can light your subject decently. Take lots of photos from different angles and get close ups. With digital cameras, it doesn’t cost anything to take more photos, so fire away!
Once you take your photos and load them onto your computer, take a minute to do a bit of photo editing. Photo editing is as important, if not more, than the actual photograph itself. You don’t need expensive software to do this; you probably have photo editing software that came with your computer or with your camera (if a CD came with your camera, there’s probably photo editing software on it). Start the editing process by cropping your photo to get any unnecessary things out of the image area. Then try “color balancing” your photos – often digital photos will end up very brown or dark, depending on the type and amount of light on the subject. If you color balance your photo, you’ll return its colors to their natural state and enhance the photo’s beauty. Your photo editing software probably has a one-click setting that will correct anything wrong with the original shot with a single mouse click.
After you shoot your photos and then clean them up on your computer, you should try to add as many photos as you can to your auction. Try to find an image hosting service that will host an unlimited number of photos … better yet, try getting a free hosting service. Post as many in your auction as you can afford. We often put more than a dozen photos into our auctions including close ups of many features of the item we are selling (we use an auction service company that allows unlimited photo hosting). Always remember that eBay shoppers are actually buying something “sight unseen” so the photos you take are crucial to their decision to buy your item. Note that if you are selling DVDs, Books or electronics … items that are already known to the marketplace … and you sell them new-in-box, your photos will be less important since people already know what your item looks like. However, it’s still important to show a photo of what you are actually selling … not just a photo you downloaded off the manufacturer’s website. You are providing tangible proof that your item is in good shape and that it is what you say it is.
- Write good auction copy. Seems like a DUH!, doesn’t it? However, you’d be surprised at the auctions we see with little or no copy that explains what’s for sale and its features. Start by telling buyers as much as you know about your item including where you got it (unless it is a new-in-box item that you got from a wholesaler or drop shipper). People really want to know where things come from and as much history as exists on something. We sell antiques and collectibles and nearly always tell people where we got our items. If you bought it at the estate sale of the nutty old lady in your neighborhood, tell eBay buyers that in your auction copy. That makes the item more interesting.
Then do some research on your item. Please don’t write “I don’t know what this is, but it’s cool”. We’ve seen that line in auctions all too often! Your item will seldom get any bids if you can’t figure out what it is, how old it is, who made it, etc. There are often clues on a piece as to who made it – a maker’s mark, a signature, a label, a number. These things can be “google’d” which will lead you into the fascinating world of researching collectibles and antiques. For example, there are numerous good online china matching services where you can look up pattern names (if you are selling china or silver it will really help you to know the pattern name and the maker). There are other websites which will give you photos of hundreds of pieces of antique furniture and the names of their styles so you can tell the difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Just spending even a few minutes poking around the internet can reveal an enormous amount of vital information on the piece you’re selling.
Make sure you give dimensions and a report of the condition of the item. If it’s new, tell us … especially if it’s in the original package. If it’s not new, then tell us about any signs of wear on your item. If it has damage, state the damage clearly – you’d be surprised at what you can sell even if it has damage. There are many eBayers who are in the market for a bargain or are experts in restoring just the type of damaged piece you might be selling. Price damaged pieces accordingly. Don’t let someone find out about the damage for the first time when they receive it. That’s a costly mistake. If the item is new-in-box, make sure to tell people as much as you know about how the item functions. If you’re selling new electronics, try to go to the website of the maker and get the full specs of the item and put them into your auction.
Finally, make sure you type your auction neatly. Please don’t type it in all capital letters or in one long, run-on sentence. That makes it impossible to read and won’t encourage bidding. Above all, please try to make it typo free. Proof reading is really important. It also will help your auctions to learn a little "html" coding so you can make them easier to read (html is computer-read coding that works in the background to enable your text to have paragraphs, bulleted lists, bold face type, colors, etc.). You really only need to know the html coding for two things: 1) creating a new paragraph and 2) making bold type fonts. There are dozens of websites you can visit that will show you the basic of html coding – just type ‘html’ in a search engine and you’ll find them. If you choose to get fancy with html you can learn how to introduce color, add links, etc.
- Tell the eBay community a little about yourself. Create an “About Me” page if you don't already have one. Credibility is the key to successful selling on eBay – that’s the entire purpose of the feedback system. If you haven’t established a large feedback record yet, telling us who you are really helps. Even if you only tell us that you are a hobbyist who is selling off her old clothes or her maiden aunt’s possessions … it gives you credibility. It is important that your potential buyers know who is behind the eBay ID and that you’re a real person, who is going to do an honest transaction and not abscond with the buyer’s money! It’s very easy to set up an About Me page and your eBay auctions will automatically link to it (that’s the “ME” icon you see next to so many eBay ID’s). You don’t have to give any personal information, just the facts that are relevant to your eBay sales … like how long you’ve been on eBay, what types of things you sell, how you like to do business, etc.
- State your policies ... clearly and nicely. It’s important that people know what you will and won’t do and it’s just as important to keep this buyer-friendly. We’ve seen so many listings that literally start with “These are OUR RULES and if you WON'T ABIDE BY OUR RULES, DON'T BID!" Would you bid on anything sold by someone who wrote that?! Sellers who are unpleasant, inflexible and unwilling to work with the customer, limit their bids.
Your shipping policies and the shipping price are the most important things you need to be specific about. For example, will you combine shipping for multiple item buyers? (You should do everything you can to encourage multiple purchases). Shipping is a great concern to all eBay shoppers since the price of it is going up so dramatically, so clear shipping policies are important. If you only ship once a week because eBay is your “second job” and Saturday’s the only day you can ship, state that in your auction so there’s no expectation of the purchase arriving immediately.
eBay now requires sellers to always list their shipping price. You don’t have to include the shipping calculator if you aren’t comfortable with it…. just give a price (unless you have a very large item going by freight - then the cost will vary dramatically by region so you don't need to list a price). Buyers now rate sellers on their shipping speed and shipping price so be certain your price is fair ... and, if you are shipping something large so shipping will be costly, be certain your buyer understands WHY the item will be so costly to ship. Many buyers are used to paying the reduced shipping charged on the larger online merchants -- those dot-com merchants (like QVC, Macy's, Target, etc.) get deep discounts from shippers so the prices they will charge for shipping . Many sellers are trying "free shipping" on for size and eBay is encouraging this option. There are really only a limited number of sellers that can afford free shipping (and they generally have the shipping built into their item price) -- many things are simply to large and heavy to build shipping into the cost of the item. The clearer you make your shipping price, the better it will be perceived by your customer. We sell a lot of large pieces of furniture that are shipped by truck which costs $$ hundreds to ship -- buyers don't hesitate to pay this cost, it they are made to understand the need for crating and truck shipment.
Have a concise, buyer friendly refund policy and state it clearly – this shows you are willing to rectify any mistakes you may have made (we are all human and most eBayers are very patient with errors, as long as you’re willing to correct them). eBay requires all sellers to state their refund policy and it is in the main auction template. However, it's more user friendly for you to write out your policies on refunds and/or exchanges within your own listing copy.
- Take ALL forms of payment. While eBay allows only PayPal and direct credit card transactions to be stated in the listing, you can still accept numerous other forms of payment if those are the only options open to the customer. Many customers will write that they prefer not to use PayPal and want to write you a check. There is nothing wrong with accepting their check and holding the merchandise until the check clears. No, you don't have the PayPal seller protections if you do this but if it is the difference between a sale or no sale, I'd opt for the sale!
We hope you’ve found these five eBay seller "tricks of the trade" to be informative. While there are many more, these are the five we consider to be the most important …. so they’re strictly our opinion and you may have others you’ve found vital to your eBay transactions. With eBay changing the rules of the game regularly, what's important to sellers is changing ... but the five basics, we think, haven't changed much ... just taken on different characteristics and perhaps a new order of importance. We cannot tell you anything about how to improve your "DSRs" or figure out eBay's "best match" algorithm -- because we haven't figured those out either! So, for now, we're sticking to the basics and we've found they still work.