Falling in Love with Repeat Customers on eBay (Vendor Monday)
By Brian Lawe
All those long, lonely nights you post and post and post on eBay. Then you wait and wait and wait. You sigh each time a listing lapses with no bids. The old adage about always the bridesmaid, never the bride, echoes through your mind. But then, like flowers blooming in spring or sparrows returning to Capistrano, a bid leads to a sale. You get that giddy-high, like when you eat chocolate. In fact, the only thing you love more than a new sale, is a repeat one.
To chase that elusive repeat sale, you ship extra-fast and take great care with the packaging. You smile when the buyer leaves feedback: "GREAT eBay seller - wish my spouse was this good." You envision a future of nicely bundled packages delivered via the UPS-stork.
But reality crashes-in like a bad episode of TV's Cheaters. Within a few weeks of shipment, everything gets quiet. You check the buyer's feedback. And there it is: The tell-tale sign of infidelity. Like lipstick on a collar, another seller's feedback has bumped you from the top spot. You've just had another one-timer. Don't feel bad - on average 94 percent of all sales on eBay are one-time flings, driven solely by price and convenience.
Let's draw an analogy here: There are two types of people in the world, those who believe that love is blind - and those who understand why lingerie is so popular. So it is with sellers. Some believe they are entitled to a buyer's repeat purchase just because they have feedback over 99.5%. Other sellers understand a little "lingerie" will attract that precious repeat sale. Here are some ways we've found to increase your repeat purchase rate.
First and foremost, repeat sales require an open line of communication with your buyer. You must own that communication channel. Since no one can take away your buyer's opt-in email permission, get that at all costs. The best way we've found to get high opt-in rates is to offer a reward at opt-in.
Once you have your buyer's opt-in permission, old-fashioned email marketing is the box of chocolates in the new buyer relationship. Every email should bring your buyer a delicious surprise offer from you. In return, every opened email gives you the chance to seduce your buyer back to your listings.
Your first goal in your budding-buyer relationship is to get a second purchase within 30-days. Make your buyer an offer they cannot resist. You want that second sale because it will cement real value in the relationship.
After that, your regular courtship begins. Keep up a steady stream of emails. Don't wait 90-days or think you are being kind by sending something every 30-days. That is no way to build a relationship! Talk to your buyer regularly - they opted-in to hear from you. An email sent every 15 days seems to be the best cadence. But the real key is to always make it worth your buyer's time to read your emails. Sweeten the email with a special offer or reward if they buy another item.
If an existing buyer hasn't purchased something in the last 90-120 days - use your emails to spice things up! Include another super-sweet offer to get them buying again. You need to rekindle their interest. Never let too much time lapse without a sale.
Regular emails also ensure your buyer won't rely on a search engine for an item that you sell. Search engines destroy your buyer-relationship because search engines treat you and your buyer as complete strangers. They are toll-booth takers, not matchmakers.
The philosophy of setting something free, to see if it will come back to you, works with true-love - but it has no place in business. Your job is to keep the dollars of your buyers coming back to you. You do need great service and great pricing to keep buyers. But you'll need more to win buyers back. Test the things I've suggested to see what works best for you. Also, there are very specific laws and eBay policies on email marketing, be sure you know those before launching any email campaign to your buyers.
Brian Lawe is the CEO of MyStoreCredit, Inc., the parent company of MyStoreRewards.com (http://www.mystorerewards.com) and MyStoreMaps.com (http://www.mystoremaps.com). MyStoreRewards.com helps sellers create and run their own customizable reward program for eBay and off-eBay sales. The program received PayPal's "Most Innovative Application of the Year" in 2006. It is a completely automated system designed for the busy online seller and includes a powerful opt-in email marketing program. MyStoreRewards generally doubles the repeat purchase rate for sellers. The company is based in Chapel Hill, NC and works with over 1,000 sellers in 28 countries around the globe. If you'd like to discuss your specific category, drop me an email: BLawe@mystorerewards.com.
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