Ebay is the most notable auction site on the internet, with millions of sellers hawking their wares every day and just as many eager buyers searching for all manner of coveted goodies. Buy and sell — it’s a simple concept that has been around pretty much since people had money with which to buy things and things that could be sold. Even so, being a good salesperson — even online — is a bit of an art form. If you’d like to maintain 100 percent positive feedback from your buyers, there are a few things you should do or keep in mind whenever you list anything for sale.
. Be honest.
Hands down, this is the single most important thing you can do as a seller. If a buyer feels as though they were misled due to a deceptive description or photo, they will complain, demand a refund and/or leave negative feedback. Be sure you list the item’s condition accurately, and if the item is second-hand, point out any damage or flaws — no matter how small — both in writing and in photos. Let the buyers decide whether or not those imperfections are small enough to still make the purchase worthwhile.
. Find out how other sellers price items like yours.
This will give you a ballpark figure as far as what price to set for your own stuff. You’ll have to take certain things into consideration, such as the condition of the item (new versus used), whether or not it still has the original packaging and if the item has sustained any damage. Add or subtract from the starting price accordingly, and if the item doesn’t sell, try lowering the price a little bit if you choose to re-list it.
. Invest in a mail scale and a tape measure.
Take a look at your inventory and determine what types of things you typically sell. Small goods like jewelry? Movies and books? Larger items? Purchase a mail scale with a weight limit to match the items you sell most often. This will allow you to precisely weigh your items, buy postage online and print the shipping label from home so you don’t have to hold up the line at the post office for 25 minutes. Some scales can be a little costly, but rest assured, it’ll be worth the trouble it saves you. The tape measure is to ascertain package dimensions, which will affect shipping costs as well as available shipping methods. In addition, you should round up to the nearest inch, as eBay doesn’t allow sellers to enter fractions of inches as measurements. Also, when it comes to package weights, it’s best to round the weight up to the nearest ounce (for example, 1 lb. 5.6 oz. should be rounded up to 1 lb. 6 oz.) and then add one more ounce onto the total weight to be safe. This is to compensate for minor things like the weight of packing paper/tape or small differences in weight between your scale and the one at the post office. Unless that extra ounce is the difference between 15 ounces and one pound, this will almost never impact the shipping cost and you won’t lose money or have to charge the buyer extra.
. Choose your shipping methods wisely and correctly.
Start by familiarizing yourself with the shipping limitations of the carrier or method you choose (USPS, UPS or FedEx). First Class mail can only weigh 13 ounces, at most; anything heavier must be sent Priority. Media Mail is an economical option for books and movies, and while it’s very cheap even for large books, it can take longer to be delivered. It’s usually good to offer several services so buyers can decide how much they’d like to pay to receive their orders or how quickly they’d like their orders to arrive. You may also list your shipping option as “Local Pickup,” which means buyers must be willing to come to where you are to get the item themselves. This is usually only done with very large items (such as vehicles) or extremely fragile things that the buyer isn’t comfortable shipping or simply can’t ship.
. Don’t overcharge for shipping, as in don’t charge 99 cents for your item and then $49.99 for shipping (unless, of course, it’s a heavy item that requires expensive shipping). A good rule of thumb is to select shipping method(s) yourself and then charge the actual cost of shipping rather than a fixed cost. Seriously, don’t try to wring a few extra cents of profit out of shipping. It’s very easy for a customer to determine if you overcharged them on shipping and they’ll feel very cheated (and will probably report you to eBay too). Besides, eBay will often offer a discount for purchase of online postage and you can keep the difference out of the shipping fees the buyer pays. It may also be in your best interest to offer free shipping on high-priced goods; if a customer is already paying a small fortune for their order, don’t make them pay for shipping too. You can bump up your asking price by a couple bucks to make up for it.
. Decide if you want to offer international shipping, and if you do, make sure you find out if any of your items are prohibited from being shipped to other countries. Generally speaking, the process for international shipping isn’t much more difficult than domestic shipping; all you really have to do is fill out a customs form online, which involves describing the type of item in the package and then signing and dating the form before attaching it to the parcel. For that little bit of extra effort, you can expand your customer base from national to worldwide.
. Pack items properly.
Certain things like shirts, books and DVDs can easily and safely be packed into yellow bubble mailers, but if the item is something more fragile, be sure to secure it with the appropriate protective fillers. Shipping supplies you should always have on hand include packing tape, bubble wrap (or those green eco-friendly bubble “pillows”), brown wrapping paper (to wrap packages or to provide extra cushion in the package), a decent pair of scissors and a printer (if you choose to purchase postage online, which is immensely easier than dealing with postage at the post office).
. Check your messages every day.
Sometimes, buyers and potential buyers have questions they need answered before committing to a bid/purchase. Don’t keep them waiting too long because you could wind up losing a sale. Answer all customer inquiries in a timely and professional manner.
. Auction, Buy It Now or Best Offer?
These are the options a seller can choose from for the items they list, and it’s entirely up to you which one(s) you’d like to use for each listing. By and large, auctions are a good choice if you have something that you don’t know the value of and you’re okay with setting the starting price relatively low. Conversely, auctions can also be a fantastic choice if you have something that would attract a lot of buyers (like a popular toy, for example) and you can let people fight over it via bidding. Buy It Now is the ideal option if you know exactly how much you’d like to be paid for the item, and Best Offer is sort of a combination of the first two: you have a set price in mind, but you’re willing to entertain reasonable lower offers. Many sellers will use a combination of two of these options to maximize their odds of selling, usually auction/Buy It Now or Buy It Now/Best Offer.
. Returns or no returns?
You can let buyers know if you’ll accept returns or not, and each option has its own pros and cons. Accepting returns allows customers to feel more secure in placing bids or making purchases because they know they can send the item back and get a refund if it doesn’t meet their standards. However, allowing returns can also mean people will be more likely to find problems with your items simply because the return policy makes it easier for them to do so. Not accepting returns can lower the number of bidders or interested buyers, but it also means you don’t have to deal with returns. If you have a good seller feedback, buyers may feel more confident making a purchase even with a “no returns” policy. There is no right or wrong answer as far as returns; it’s totally a matter of personal preference.
. This one’s optional, but it’s a good idea to include a hand-written note with every order you ship. Nothing elaborate; simply invest in a nice stationery notepad, write something like “Thank you for your business! Please enjoy (item)!” and tuck the note into the package with the order. It may not sound like much, but you’d be surprised how touched customers are when you take time to personalize their orders like this. It makes the transaction seem more “human” and will make them feel as though their business matters to you. Along these same lines, if you can afford to include a free trinket of some kind with an order, by all means, do so. People love getting surprise freebies, even if it’s something small like a keychain or a sticker.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of every single aspect of the eBay seller experience, it’s a great set of base rules for folks who are looking to get into online sales or who would like to improve upon their current sales tactics. Be honest with your customers, don’t overcharge, do your homework on similar products and appropriate shipping methods and provide fast, professional responses to all inquiries. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to perfect customer satisfaction.