Thursday, July 31, 2014

Profiles of Successful eBay Pickers - David Dean and Rhonda Conner

I'm starting a new series on my blog to showcase eBay sellers who are making it work. eBay is getting a lot of bad press lately about not being a sustainable business, losing traction as a trusted marketplace, or being inferior to Amazon. I reached out to sellers on my eBay seller Facebook group, which is now approaching 16,000 members, to find sellers who have a proven track record of selling on eBay and maintaining a sustainable eBay business over time.

My hope is that we can see similar characteristics across these profiles and define the qualities of a successful seller, then work to achieve those qualities and reach success.

The criteria I set for participating in this series:

1. Full time eBay seller for at least 3 years. (To show sustainability.)

2. Does not sell on Amazon. (Because they were doing so well on eBay, they didn't need to go to another platform.)

3. Sells inventory purchased at thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales, auctions, consignment sales or any combination of those sources. Does not purchase inventory wholesale, from liquidators, retail stores, from China, or drop ship. Must be a "picker."

4. Is an "at home" seller.

5. Must be willing to share eBay ID. (Keeping it real.)

We'll start with David Dean Conner.

When did you start selling on eBay?

May 2010

Why did you start selling on eBay?

I purchased a bunch of Thomas wooden trains for my son for $30 on Craigslist. We had so much that at that time he didn’t need all of it so I gave him half and sold the other half for around $90 making a large profit and having trains for my son. After that I started buying and selling all the trains I could get my hands on.

What is your store name? 


Do you specialize in a certain niche, or are you open to selling anything?

We are open to selling anything and are expanding our knowledge everyday. I specialize in  toy trains, vintage electrics/appliances, vintage rollers/curlers and my wife specializes in plush,  and vintage dolls.

If you specialize in a certain niche, why?

The more products and categories you know allows you to stream line your business, less time at the store figuring out what to buy or what you have in your cart, less time researching online for what you have and what it is worth. You can buy more items, list more items and  benefit of slowly building your store as a place to come to find certain items.

How many items do you typically have in your store?

We generally have upwards of 1000 listings with a goal of raising that 10% each following month.

What is your average monthly profit? 
(We are focusing on profit here because that's what you get to keep!)

We average between $2200.00 and $2800.00  per month for a normal month.

How many hours do you typically work a week on your eBay business?

Between the two of us about 30 hours a week on average.

Many eBay sellers are being shamed into selling on Amazon, as if it is a superior platform. Why have you never sold on Amazon?

Actually we have sold on Amazon before, I played the retail arbitrage game for awhile, we currently do not sell on Amazon. That is because Amazon does not currently fit into our business model. I am not anti-Amazon but I am also not a big cheerleader of Amazon either. Any platform that also sells what it merchants are selling is a scary thing. I feel that Amazon sellers are research drones for Amazon and once a new product has been discovered by a Amazon seller it is only a matter of time before Amazon will also be selling the same product usually at a lower price.

4th quarter can be a lucrative time of year for many online sellers. Have you typically seen an increase in sales during 4th quarter in past years?

Yes sales do increase during the 4th quarter but on the flip side returns also increase during 4th quarter and into the first quarter of the next year.

Do you sell anything different for holiday selling season, or just sell more of the same kinds of things you normally sell all year?

We sell more Holiday themed items and toys, plush, electronics all see a sales spike.

Do you list more items in anticipation of holiday sales? If so, when do you start this process?

We try to list as many items as we can regardless of the season. It is true we make a large amount of sales and profits in 4th quarter but we also try to  list just as many items in other months as well.

Do you have any hired help for your business?

No currently we do not have any hired help. I do anticipate that to change in the coming months as we ramp up our expansion. They will do routine tasks, cleaning of items, packing and shipping, inventory, etc.

What is one piece of advice you would give to new sellers who want to transition to eBay full time?

If you want to make a real income that you depend on having a eBay business then treat it like a business, a dedicated workspace, proper equipment and tools, and keep proper records, hold yourself and your business accountable.

Anything else unique about you or your eBay business you would like to share?

We started this on a whim with some trains, and now we have a successful online business and are branching into the offline area. This business has allowed us to stay home and care for our son with Autism and still make a living. It hasn’t always been easy but we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

David and his wife Rhonda are also in the process of opening a brick and mortar store. Find out more about their venture here. 

Be sure to follow this series here on my blog, and make sure you have subscribed to my newsletter  as I have a special 4th quarter related offer coming out this week.

More successful pickers:

Michelle Farmer

Antique Chic

Nicole Bilbao

Kathy Bradley


Monday, July 28, 2014

83% of eBay Sellers Surveyed Do This - Do You?

I'm seeing a lot of watchers on my eBay items and have often wondered how many of those watchers aren't even buyers - how many of them are other sellers? I have been intentionally sharing my eBay store name online since 2007 to set an example for others, to show I am a real seller just like the average person, and to demonstrate that being successful on eBay isn't the quick rich quick scheme many internet marketers advertise. I understand that other sellers may be watching my items out of curiosity, validation, or for education so I am ok with having watchers who aren't buyers.

But I was curious how many sellers watch items on eBay for research as a regular habit. On an informal poll on my Facebook Group last week, I asked this question, "Do you or have you ever watched another seller's item(s) for research purposes?"

656 sellers responded over a 3-day period. The results:

Total responses 656
Invalid responses 8
Yes 538 (83%)
No 110  (17%)

See the poll here.

This informal poll shows that 83% of sellers watch other seller's items as a form of research. Is this good or bad? Helpful or not? A good use of time or a waste of time?

I am one of the 17% that does not watch other seller's items. I rely on completed listings for pricing information simply because completeds are readily available and I can list the item and move on. I don't have to wait for an item to sell or go unsold to get the data I  need.

Personally, I would like to see eBay discontinue the "watcher" feature. I think it is a distraction and it doesn't provide any usable or accurate information sellers can use to make decisions about our listings. Now that we know how many sellers are watching items they never intend to buy, the "watcher" count is irrelevant and useless information. I think page views are a better indicator of traffic and interest. But really, it only takes 1 buyer to make a sale so page views shouldn't be relied on too heavily as an indicator of an impending sale.

Honestly, I think completed listings gives us what we need. If you are a seller and want to do competitor research, Terapeak has a function for that. I tell my clients who ask ask if a research tool is necessary to try Terapeak for a month or two and decide for themselves. Each seller's business is unique and what works for one seller may not work for another. You won't know until you try out the tool for yourself.

What is your opinion on the eBay watcher feature? Helpful, useful, or just a distraction?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Haunted Dark Shadows Granny Square Afghan

I've been having good luck selling the classic Granny Square afghan. I usually see these at estate sales, and if the price is right, I will buy it to resell. Here is a recent sale - I paid $10 for this one at an estate sale in June:

My profit on this item after fees was $61. Now comes the interesting part. The buyer left feedback for me, and it read:

That one left me scratching my head. What does a Granny Square afghan have to do with the old TV show Dark Shadows? I used to watch that show every day after school with my childhood friend, Jennifer. We would rush home off the bus, plop down in front of the TV, and get ready to be scared.

After researching Dark Shadows afghan, I learned that a multi-colored Granny Square afghan with a black background appeared in the home of almost every resident of Collinsport during the series. The blanket was made in the 18th century and made its way around the residents' couches and beds, in both real time and parallel time. (Dark Shadows Wiki) Does anybody else remember this show?

Makes you wonder if people are buying these for nostalgia as well as for their vintage allure and craftsmanship? Either way, these are a great item to look for and flip on eBay. eBay shows 95 Granny Square afghans (black) sold in the last 30 days. Price high and wait. Plenty of people are willing to take $35 for these, but mine sold for $79.97.

Now I have to go over to YouTube and watch some old episodes of Dark Shadows and get reacquainted with Barnabas Collins while I list my eBay items!

Related Articles:

Granny Square afghans a hot item to sell on eBay

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Dropping Prices on eBay Items Cannot Force a Sale

An overwhelming number of eBay sellers are new to running a business. For many, an eBay business is their first experience with a home business and they may lack skills, experience, and knowledge of how to price their items. A common mistake is dropping prices to force sales. This simply does not work.

Many eBay sellers assume sales will increase if prices are lowered. And while this makes logical sense, it doesn't necessarily work in the real world. Why? Because people do not buy solely on price alone - maybe they have in the past and had a bad experience. Lower price often means lower quality in many consumers' minds. Even on eBay. Bottom line:

Lowering the price devalues the quality of the product, it can change the expectations people will have about it. (Instigator Blog.)

The above snipped is in the August 2014 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. This quote jumped out at me,

"For some reason every small business owner I know is scared to death of raising prices."

This fits many sellers who read this blog or are involved in daily discussions on my Facebook Group (which now has over 15,000 sellers participating.) Is this why eBay is the garage sale of the internet? Because so many sellers believe being the lowest price is the only way to get a sale? I strongly disagree. I sell items all the time where my price on the exact same product is higher than another seller's price.

This concept goes along with what I have been saying for months about watchers on eBay items. Raise the price. See if buyers react. If nothing else, you can lower the price back down later or add best offer. Remember that being the lowest price seller isn't a great thing for your image because rock bottom prices often means poor quality, sloppy service, slow shipping, or some other negative perception in the consumer's mind.

Related Articles:

Watchers Not Buying - Try This Strategy

Turning Watchers into Buyers - The Proof

21 Ways to Boost eBay Sales

Monday, July 14, 2014

21 Ways to Boost eBay Sales

One of the most common questions I hear from other eBay sellers via email, when working with clients on site, on phone consultations, and on Facebook groups is,

"How can I increase my sales on eBay?"

While there is no magic answer that will work for everyone because each seller's business is unique, I have seen the same patterns over and over again, and many issues are a quick fix.

I've compiled information about this issue over the last year from these sources:

eBay Webinars
eBay Announcements
eBay Education Specialists (trained by eBay)
eBay Outreach
Successful sellers in my Facebook group of 14,000 members
My own personal experience on eBay since 2003

In other words, this isn't a bunch of stuff I made up. This is a handy reference guide with 21 ways to boost eBay sales in the 3 major areas of struggle:

Optimizing listings for the eBay search engine (Cassini)
Optimizing listings for eBay mobile (25-40% of sales are made on mobile devices)
Improving customer service to attract more buyers

These strategies don't require you to buy any tools, apps, or services - just sit down and start working through the material. All that is required is your time and the desire to succeed.

This report is an instant download priced at $19. Get your copy today and start applying the strategies so you can increase sales on eBay.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Are You Wasting Time Micro-Managing Your eBay Store?

Over the past year, since eBay's new search engine Cassini has been in place, sellers have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how to to rise to the top of the search. There has been a boatload of "advice" on the eBay forums, Facebook groups, and blogs. But what are we REALLY supposed to be doing?

One tip given in a January 2014 article in Ecommerce Bytes stated,

"Don't Use Good Til Cancelled. New, well priced listings from a reputable seller with high DSR ratings will be automatically placed near the top of the Best Match category for the first day or two and then will slowly move downward as other sellers list their items and they are placed above yours. To make this work for you, don't use GTC, and end every item every 30 days and then relist them."

I started thinking about this strategy, especially when reading the Money Making Mondays posts on my Facebook group (which now has over 14,000 sellers.) Many sellers with large inventories post items that sold each week. I began to wonder if these sellers with larger inventories were using GTC or relisting unsold items. It would be a huge time suck for sellers with thousands of items in inventory to manually relist unsold items. So I asked some of them.

Kathy said, "I have 2 eBay stores - 1 has all GTC, about 250 listings and the other has 1,100 or so right now and I do mostly GTC and run auctions as I have time to list. I am currently shipping about 60 packages per day. I haven't had a slump at all. I think your standing as a seller and overall sales are what helps. if you have lots of sales in general, all of your items get a boost. That's why listing new things gives you a boost. You might sell a new item and it boosts everything else."

Jay, who has 3,400 items said, "Yes, all our items are listed once and 'good till cancelled.' Our motto is 'list it and forget it.' Most items sell within a year, but we have had items take 36 months to sell. At 5-cents a months for listing fee, that's only 60-cents a year. Being listed for three years only costs $1.80. If our profit is $20+ an item, we still make out like bandits.We want things to sell quickly, but you see how we have zero stress once an item is listed. Its not like FBA sellers who worry about storage fees. We do the research, put a strong price, and add 'make offer'. That's gives buyer leeway to haggle.  We did an experiment about six months ago where we ended all 3000 of our items and re-listed them as new. We saw no rise in sales. I couldn't tell if we were noticeably higher in search rankings. What it did do is lose all our followers on the items. Lesson learned.Instead of wasting time trying to fool the system, we just focus on listing more items. It's ridiculous to think that eBay would build a search algorithm that could be so easily fooled." 

*Note - Jay has an anchor store which explains the fee breakdown.

John, who has 5 stores and over 12,000 items in inventory said, "If I could I would switch all my items back to GTC. My number two source of traffic is Google. Before I sold half the business, my best performers were the old GTC items I had, and the traffic was not from eBay, was bookmarked and Google. I think instead of taking the time and relisting I would do something to change the listings. Price, add pictures, social media links, something. But as for traffic other than eBay the sell similar stinks, as when you sell similar you change the url of the item (SEO) with restockable items that long term url is a huge advantage." 

*John's business is based on easily restockable items, so his situation may be different than yours.

So there you have it. If you are spending precious time allowing listings to end than manually relisting them, it may not be doing you any good. The 3 sellers above are successful sellers with large inventories. If you want to be successful, do what the successful people are doing - and they are spending their time listing more items. Don't look back, look forward. Spending hours every week tweaking and micro-managing your listings isn't a good business strategy.

Everyone's most valuable resource is time. We can all get more money, more help, more space - but no one can get more time. Use it wisely so that your actions are focused on income-producing activities, not busywork.

What is your opinion on GTC listings? Are they working for you? Let's have a conversation about it so leave a comment below.

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