The co-author of the hot new book eBay Power Seller Secrets has some insights into what works on eBay, how to get buyers to trust you and why the new eBay regime may be on the right track by emphasizing fixed price listings.
Brad Schepp and his wife Debra wrote eBay Power Seller Secrets to show how some average but dedicated eBay users have not only made eBay their full-time job, but made a great living. They also offer tips and guidelines for anyone selling on eBay to get the most out of their listings.
There are currently about 650,000 listings in the Sports Memorabilia, Card and Fan Shop category making it what Schepp calls "one of the most active and robust on eBay."
Collectors are a dedicated group and there are enough of them demanding everything from vintage baseball cards to game worn jerseys that the supply still doesn't overwhelm the market. Still, sellers see their items go unsold about half the time.
"The sell through rate for items in this category is 45-55%, which comparatively speaking is quite good," Schepp told Sports Collectors Daily. "If you want to increase your chances for success you should post your item in the Buy It Now format—that will increase the chances of a sale by about 10%. The trend is definitely toward fixed price listings even in the area of collectibles. Certainly if you are selling commodity-type items that's the way to go."
Schepp advocates starting lower-cost items at a low price to attract bidders and save money. He believes most items started at even a penny wind up selling for what they would with a higher minimum as long as there is at least some demand for that item. He doesn't believe in reserve price listings, unless divulging that information up front.because buyers don't like them.
Sellers often wonder whether the long-held belief that Sunday is the best day to close the more traditional 7-day auctions is accurate. Schepp's research indicates it is.
"AuctionBytes.com looks at this regularly and has consistently found that Sunday is the best day to list and Tuesday and Friday are the worst. Best time is 6pm to 9pm Pacific time Sunday but remember outside events can skew all this, like the SuperBowl or a holiday weekend."
Operating an eBay store can help a seller's reputation as well, as long as it's treated like a business, "If for no other reason than learning the best way to go about running an e-commerce site without breaking the bank," Schepp explained.
"All successful sellers know their markets well, create professional-looking listings and make customer service job one. That includes shipping fast and securely."
While sports card enthusiasts may feel the need to list everything from vintage football cards to old programs, PowerSellers typically specialize in one particular area, building a 'brand' online with their inventory, expertise and professionalism. Writing for eBay's Review and Guides section can help establish a seller's reputation. Schepp believes treating the online eBay business like any other helps the seller "by coming across as a professional and not some guy just looking to clean out his attic. That means using a lot of high-quality pictures, no typos in your listings, being as accurate as possible in your descriptions, and also marketing yourself as an expert to your community of buyers."
PowerSellers, Schepp discovered, work extremely hard and even get involved in groups such as IMA (Internet Merchants Asociation), PeSA (Professional eBay Sellers Alliance) and ECMTA (E-Commerce Trade Association).
Schepp is a big supporter of online resources like Terapeak and Medved, which offer research opportunites to find out what sells, when and why. Medved's auction counts are free and provide those kinds of breakdowns.
Current eBay CEO Meg Whitman will step down in March, turning the company over to another eBay executive, John Donohoe, who promised on Wednesday that eBay would be making some changes including lower listing fees but higher final value fees. Schepp sees challenges ahead as eBay strives to maintain and eventually get back some of the market share it has lost to other shopping sites.
"How do you prevent the market from being glutted with look-alike and substandard merchandise when listing is so inexpensive?" he asked. "That's where greater policing of its site comes into play, and also improving the Find function--both of these are priorities."
Fake sports autographs continue to plague eBay. While many of the items for sale are legitimate, others aren't and some experts believe there are currently not enough safeguards in place to protect unsuspecting buyers. "Fraud remains a big priority and has to be addressed aggressively," Schepp said of Donohoe's upcoming agenda.
Originally printed in 2004, the eBay Power Seller Secrets second edition has just been published. The first edition sold 35,000 copies.