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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 156 - December 04, 2005 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 6

Selling Strategies: Looking for Life Beyond eBay


By Greg Holden
EcommerceBytes.com

December 04, 2005
 



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eBay, like any activity, can turn into a routine. You list, you monitor, you sell, you pack. Selling on eBay can become so consuming that you don't have the time or energy to think about other options - until your profit margin begins to dwindle or your sell-through rate goes down, that is.

All too often, sellers stick with eBay until they're fed up with eBay's fees or desperate to make more money. But marketplaces other than eBay have plenty of other advantages. Here are a few to consider:

  • Repeat business. Merchants both off- and online know that developing a clientele of regular customers is like having a goose that lays golden eggs. The more venues you have (such as a Web site), the more opportunities you give those buyers to return to you for goods and services.

  • Better targeting. Some auction sites have a niche clientele of dedicated collectors who are willing to spend top dollar if you have the merchandise they want.

  • Cross-marketing. When you add a Web site and other online storefront to your eBay Store, you gain the ability to cross-market. Each site can link to the others, which gives you more attention and improves your search engine rankings.

  • Wider range of merchandise. Some auction sites let you sell things that are prohibited on eBay. LiveDeal.com lets owners sell animals, for instance.

Now, when sales are relatively good and you are feeling secure, is the time to start looking around for new auction opportunities. As you can see from reviewing an extensive list (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/pages/sitepricing), there's a wealth of sites outside of eBay. They are becoming increasingly popular, thanks in no small measure to eBay's fee increases. The eBay PowerSellers with the biggest sales volumes don't focus solely on eBay. They diversify and pursue a multi-channel effort.

Before you start to move beyond the familiar confines of eBay, do some planning (see the steps at the end of this column). Then, draw up some goals and objectives for selling in new ways. Some suggestions for additional options are presented below.

  • Direct selling through your own website. Many high-volume sellers regard eBay as a customer acquisition tool. Millions of prospects are drawn to the auction site each day. Once you hook them with a successful eBay sale, you can channel them to your personal pond.

  • Bargaining with your customers. iOffer (http://www.ioffer.com) provides a complement to eBay. If you aren't sure of the value of an item or if the item did not sell on eBay, this is a good place to turn. You can invite offers or sell merchandise at fixed price. A software tool called Mr. Grabber "grabs" your eBay unsold auction items so you can easily relist them on iOffer.

  • Free auctions. Tired of paying listing and relisting fees? The most notable auction site that's totally free is Yahoo Auctions (http://auctions.yahoo.com). Bidville (http://www.bidville.com) and ePier (http://www.epier.com) offer free listings but charge fees for successful sales. WhaBam (http://www.whabam.com) and eBid (http://www.ebid.net) offer flexible pricing, such as monthly subscription fees with no listing or commission fees.

  • Specialty auctions. If you are a knowledgeable collector in a particular area or if you specialize in selling to a dedicated niche group of consumers, consider posting merchandise for sale on specialty sites like PenBid.com (http://www.penbid.com) for fountain pens, LabX (http://www.labx.com) for lab equipment, or Just Beads (http://www.justbeads.com) for bead enthusiasts. In addition to attracting buyers with well-focused interests, niche sites sometimes offer other perks: Just Beads does not charge for listing unsold items and provides members with free photo hosting, for instance. Listings on PenBid.com are free. PropertyRoom.com (http://www.propertyroom.com), Bid4Assets (http://www.bid4assets.com) and uBid (http://www.ubid.com) have stricter seller requirements, leading to reduced fraud, which can lead to higher bids from more confident shoppers.

  • Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com). This site's sales options are worth a column all by themselves. Suffice it to say that, while Amazon.com's auction site doesn't attract nearly as much attention as eBay, it's easy to sell books, CDs, and household merchandise in the Amazon.com marketplace. Search Amazon to see if your item is already described for sale. Click the button Sell Yours Here to offer your new or used version of the same item for sale at a reduced price.

  • Overstock.com Auctions (http://auctions.overstock.com). Sometimes, you just need to liquidate a lot of merchandise at once. This well-known site (http://www.overstock.com) attracts a primarily female clientele (as opposed to eBay, which reportedly attracts a 55 percent male to 45 percent female customer base). Obviously, it's a good place to sell women's jewelry and clothing. Volume sellers (those with 100 or more active listings) receive discounts on their listing fees.

As if these options weren't enough, there are other ways to reach local buyers. A few eBay sellers have expanded their successful sales operations to include a drop-off store or other type of brick-and-mortar facility. Or if you have heavy furniture, exercise equipment, or other items to sell that you'd rather have buyers pick up in person, post a free ad on your local version of Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org) or other online classifieds sites.

When you've identified marketplaces and ways of selling that match your merchandise and your target market, follow these steps:

  • One: Make sure you have a reliable sales foundation. Don't move outside of eBay from a position of weakness. You'll be better able to absorb the costs associated with starting up a new sales presence if you are making a profit on eBay.

  • Two: Expand lines of merchandise that are most successful and that you like to sell - and for which you have a reliable source.

  • Three: Research your new venue. Read news articles about it and visit discussion groups such as AuctionBytes'.

  • Four: Get your financing and equipment lined up. You may need additional storage space or computers to handle the additional volume.

  • Five: Make sure you have help. Don't go it alone. Partner with an experienced auction service provider, or at the very least, hire part-time employees to help you with packing and shipping.

eBay may be the big dog in person-to-person sales, but it's not the only game in town. Don't wait until your business starts to break before you start to think about fixing it. By venturing into some other fields where the online sales game is played, you'll end up a winner.

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.


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