EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 98 - July 13, 2003 - ISSN 1528-6703     7 of 8

'Dear Nick': Advice Column for Auction Users

By Nick Sevino

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eBay PowerSeller Nick Sevino (a pseudonym) answers questions about buying and selling on eBay.

Hi Nick,
I am an eBay Powerseller with close to 1500 feedbacks. I feel that eBay takes a very big portion from my sales and therefore would like help transferring my sales "out of eBay". Do you perhaps have any suggestions on how to do this? I can be reached toll free at (XXX) XXX-XXX. Can't wait to hear from you,
Suzi

Hi Suzi,
As a seller, my goal is to maximize my revenues and minimize my expenses. This runs counter to eBay's goal, which is to maximize their revenues. I have a Web site and do everything within the framework to get customers to buy on my site (minimize fee expense) without breaking the rules.

Right now, I would suggest you make sales to customers who have found you through eBay in the spirit of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. If a sale comes to your site directly from eBay, then you've done nothing wrong. But if a customer asks you if they can buy the product directly from you instead of through eBay and you say yes, you're guilty of Fee Avoidance, which is a suspendable offense.

The smart way to think of eBay is as an advertising medium that will drive new and repeat business to your site. First, you must set up a Web site with a shopping cart solution, and make sure you register it with Google and other search engines.

Next, make sure people who see your listings on eBay know how to find your Web site. It is against the rules to solicit a sale off of eBay, but there is nothing wrong if customers find your Web site on their own. (Hint: eBay allowed Home Depot to register the name HomeDepotOutlet, and their About Me page lists their email address, phone number and a link to the Home Depot Web site. Since eBay is a "Level Playing Field," why shouldn't you be able to do the same?)

Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers find your site and your eBay listings, and purchase wherever they feel most comfortable.

Change your eBay User ID to one related to what you sell, and make sure that it is a dotcom name. Make it the same as your Web site name, and set up your email bank accounts, etc., using the name.

The advantages of an integrated name are the following. It's easy for the customer to return to you if he can type in www and your name. If he sees an email from you with your domain, it reminds him of your domain and how to find you. Also, if you bill using a credit card, it is very easy to locate you to clarify a billing item. I've also had a number of calls over the years from individuals who saw my name and added the www and got my phone number from my Web site.

Tricky Nick Tip:
If you already have an established Web site name and don't want to change it to your eBay User ID: For $7.95 you can register your eBay User name with GoDaddy http://www.godaddy.com and set up an Auto Referrer that will redirect customers to your Web site. You'd be surprised how many customers will type www.ebayid.com.

Include a non-clickable logo in your listing that contains your eBay User ID, i.e. Widget.com. (This is one of the reasons why I've suggested that your eBay User name should end in .com.)

Put your email address in large letters: Nick@Widget.com.

Host your enlarged picture at your Web site. Customers that click on your photo will see the URL for your Web site.

Consider including your phone number in the auction description. This is a tradeoff that might work best for high-end items. (Handling phone call may be inefficient and time consuming, but the returns can be great.) Customers that are laying out big bucks for high dollar amounts feel comfortable if they feel they can pick up a phone in the event of a problem. It can also give you the edge if they are trying to decide whether to purchase from you or the competition.

Sometimes a customer emails you for a freight quote. Send them the URL to the product and tell them to use the shipping cart to figure out the shipping charges. If they decide to go to the next step and actually check out, well, that's their decision.

Use your eBay About Me page to direct people to your Web site. This is a great way of directing customers to your site (and is eBay sanctioned). It is also a great way to make buyers feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Stay-out-of-jail Nick Tip:
In your emails, never influence a customer to buy outside of eBay. You could be dealing with the eBay Gestapo, or if the customer becomes disgruntled, they might turn you in. Don't leave a paper trail! If it gets dicey, ask for a telephone number and have a conversation by telephone. Never blatantly steer the sale away from eBay. Email can linger to haunt you as Microsoft, Enron and a bunch of Cons have found out. Leave yourself plausible deniability.

It's not always a good idea to completely cut eBay out of the sale. If a customer is going to buy 20 units, why not have them buy the first unit on eBay. This affords both of you some of the protections of eBay. Buyers are very protective of their feedback rating, so they would be more reluctant to chargeback a credit card or play other games, since you can leave negative feedback for them. This is especially true with foreign customers and high-risk areas.

To encourage repeat business, set up an Opt-in email list of former customers and try to get them to buy directly from you in the future. (Do not send Spam!)

Leave clues for your customers that will lead them to your Web site, using the tips mentioned above. Once you've set up a Web site, you can explore other venues to advertise.

To comment on this letter, post a message in the forums at http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=6379200#6379200 or http://tinyurl.com/gsox

If you have a question you'd like Nick to consider for a future issue of "Dear Nick," send it to nick@auctionbytes.com.


About the author:

Nick Sevino is a pseudonym for an eBay PowerSeller who wishes to remain anonymous. In "Ask Nick," he will answer questions about buying and selling on eBay. Send questions to nick@auctionbytes.com


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