I started selling my used text books through half.com when I was in college. Soon after, I started selling some unwanted personal possessions on eBay and have been ever since. I’ve learned a lot about business from selling on eBay.
For the moment, here are five quick lessons I wanted to share:
1. Even if it’s transactional - make it personal.
eBay is largely a transaction-based platform as opposed to relational. But that doesn’t mean people want to feel like they are buying from a nameless, faceless entity. When you make it personal, people are kinder, more understanding and friendlier.
To make it personal, I include a hand-written note with every item I ship so they understood that the sale mattered to me personally and that I’m not processing thousands of orders like a machine.
2. Most people don’t buy because they need something.
Many people buy out of emotion, which is deeply personal. People buy out of nostalgia to purchase something that connects them to their memories. They purchase out of desire to be associated with a brand. They purchase something out of their hopes that an item will help them achieve their goals.
There are so many reasons people buy, but many of them are highly personal. Knowing this helped in the way I communicated during issues (like if an item broke during shipping) - because their frustration wasn’t solely based on a broken item that could be resolved with money. They needed to be given understanding and compassion, not just recompense.
3. Be really clear about what buyers should expect.
This is especially important on eBay because most buyers don’t know you from Adam, can’t physically examine the item and everything is communicated via text and images (no body language or tone of voice to help in communication).
Therefore, I have tried to be as clear as possible about shipping terms, in item description and by posting as many helpful photos as possible. The more information given, the more a buyer will know what to expect, the more trust is earned.
4. If you have what’s in demand, it will sell.
On eBay, you can tell if an item will sell if you look at completed listings for the type of item you’re selling. I rarely am able to sell something that the market is flooded with and isn’t in demand. Conversely, even if I don’t have an item in perfect condition that is in demand, it will sell. There is an immense value in keeping in tune with what people care about and the consequent demand.
5. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I’ve had occasional issues - A high priced item breaks during shipping and though insured, the post office won’t pay. I’ve done everything to the best of my ability and I still receive a lukewarm feedback.
Just because this stuff can be disheartening doesn’t mean that I should quit selling on eBay altogether. There will be issues, it’s just a part of doing business. We simply need to learn from what we can and keep showing up to do consistently excellent work.
Do you sell on eBay or any other online platform? What are some lessons you’ve learned?
Disclaimer: I'm not compensated by eBay in any way for this post.