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How to sell on eBay and Amazon

Dan Wilson, ecommerce expert and best-selling author, and two online traders share their insights on how and why you should consider selling via an online marketplace

“Selling on marketplace websites remains hugely popular, it still provides great opportunity,” says Dan Wilson, author of best-selling guide, Make Serious Money on eBay UK, Amazon and Beyond. He helped to launch eBay in the UK in 1999 and is now co-editor of Tamebay.com, which provides news and know-how for online marketplace traders.

“There’s no reason not to sell on Amazon and eBay – the back-end admin’s the same and the process involves listing, selling, dispatching and delivering items. Other online marketplaces could also be right for your products, and don’t rule out selling via your own website, which you can create quickly and cheaply these days.”

As Wilson explains, marketplace sites take a percentage for each sale, while there can also be varying monthly subscription fees and fees for online payment systems. “The major advantage of marketplace sites is they already attract huge numbers of shoppers. Getting a fraction of visitors to your own website means spending time and money.”

Product, price and presentation

Wilson believes the key to selling via marketplace websites is really no different to other channels. “Basically, it’s requires offering products that people want, at the right price, presented in the right way. You must pick the right marketplace and your imagery is crucial – you must show off your products in the best possible way.

“On eBay, you must craft the right listing, use the right title and keywords, so you show up in searches. Your descriptions should engage potential buyers and tell them everything they need to know. With Amazon, items are given a unique [ASIN] number; you must find that out and attach it to the catalogue. Amazon gives prominence to those it believes are the best sellers, and your prices must be competitive,” he stresses.

So, what common mistakes do sellers make? “Trying to sell too many items,” Wilson replies. “Better to try to sell a limited amount well, than to do a bad job of trying to sell many. If you don’t have the necessary back-end support, you’ll let down customers and attract negative feedback.”

Reputation matters

Wilson says seller reputation is extremely important on marketplace sites. “It determines whether you’re found. Get it wrong and it’ll damage your sales. My advice? Start small; create reliable processes; get into good habits. Don’t let customers down; make only small mistakes, but learn from them and build your sales from there. You must provide excellent customer service and deliver on your promises.

“Speed is incredibly important, too. Many people now expect next-day delivery – the days of waiting a week or more are gone. You might start off standing in post office queue to send a few packages, but that’s not going to be a cost-effective solution if you start selling more regularly in higher volumes. As with all businesses, you need to find ways to save time and money, while ensuring that buyers get good value and great customer service.”

Customer service

Ray Qudos is the ecommerce and digital marketing director of Manchester-based RDX Sports. “We sell boxing, mixed martial arts, fitness and combat sports equipment via a few channels, but sales via our Amazon store account for about 60% of our revenue – more than £16m a year,” says Qudos.

“We started selling on Amazon in 2011 and it had an immediate impact – doubling our turnover. We’ve since taken advantage of the wider service Amazon offers and piggybacked new service offerings as they’ve been developed. We now export across the globe.”

So, what is Qudos’ top tip for selling on Amazon? “Really think about the customer service,” he replies. “It must be excellent at all times, even if your business isn’t at fault, deal with the matter professionally, as quickly as possible.”

Quality and choice

Elaine Bell started her Nottingham-based business, The Sewing Belle, in 2008, when she opened her eBay store, selling vintage dress patterns. It was the result of good fortune. “I used to sell vintage clothes, and wanted to buy an overlocker sewing machine,” she recalls. “We successfully bid for one at auction, and didn’t realise it came with a large amount of dress patterns. So I decided to try to sell them on eBay – there was massive demand for them at the time.”

The business provided a welcome way to generate income while Bell was studying at university. “Sales were good more or less from the start,” she adds. “Later we opened our Amazon store and we also sell via our own website, but probably three quarters of our sales come from our eBay store.”

To be a successful eBay seller, Bell advises getting products to customers as quickly as possible, using good packaging. “You have to respond to enquiries quickly, and be fair with customers if they want to return things. You must protect your reputation. Use good quality photographs and your listings must be right. Use the right keywords and titles. We sell a good mix of good quality products and brands, too. Quality and choice are important.”

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