For many years, eBay has been one of the most popular destinations for internet shoppers. One of the easiest ways to start an ecommerce business, or to give a boost to an existing business, is to get on eBay and start selling.
Sellers keep eBay alive, so it wants to make your life as a seller as easy as possible. After reading this post, you’ll be ready to set up and grow your own eBay business.
Setting up a seller account
A standard seller account is simple and free to set up. If you want to sell as a hobby and you’re not planning on investing much time into eBay, then simply head to this page when you’re ready to start selling and follow the instructions.
If, however, you’re planning on setting up and growing a fully fledged eBay business, you’re going to need a business account. Registering a business account is free – remember, more businesses selling is good for eBay – but there will be fees to pay based on your sales, just as there are for any eBay seller.
There are several advantages to setting up a business account rather than a standard seller account. You will be able to choose a company name, which will be displayed on your account and in all communication, you can display contact details, and you might even qualify for discounts on fees. On top of all this, there are tools and paid subscriptions available that will allow you to manage multiple orders more easily, and to work on your branding and exposure.
Do I need to register with HMRC?
The answer, in the majority of cases, is yes. If you are buying or making products with the intention of selling them on, then you are a sole trader and you need to register for tax self-assessment, which can be done online. Even if you’re not making much money or you’re selling as a hobby, you need to register with HMRC if you’re buying to sell (as opposed to selling on your second hand items).
It is important to note that, for as long as you are considered a sole trader, you will not have to register with Companies House like limited businesses. This will make the process quicker for you, reducing the paperwork that you need to fill out and keep track of.
Looking at eBay message boards is a surefire way to get confused about registration and tax. As I have said, if you are buying or manufacturing products to sell, you need to register with HMRC, and if you want more information about the specifics of tax, this blog from an experienced eBayer tells you everything you need to know.
Growing your eBay business
In many ways, growing an eBay business is just like growing any other ecommerce business. Factors such as trust, exposure, and quality remain important no matter where you’re selling your wares.
If you’re serious about your eBay business, you should look at getting yourself a shop subscription. These paid plans (between £19.99 and £260.86 a month as of February 2017) gives you tools and benefits beyond a basic business account. The shop subscriptions offer various features, including lower fees, sales reporting tools, and international listings. With a shop account, customers will be able to view all of your products in one place, and you will have the platform you need to build your brand.
Commitment to quality
The most basic principle for growing your eBay business is a commitment to quality and competitiveness in everything that you do. There is a seller rating system built into the site, and most customers will at least look at your numerical rating (a percentage where higher is better) before deciding whether or not to buy from you.
It can be slow going to build up ratings initially, which is why you have to prove to customers that you are worth buying from and reviewing positively. Competitive pricing and delivery plans will help, and you absolutely have to deliver items that are of the quality that you promise, at the speed that you promise they’ll be delivered. If you say you’re selling brand new headphones with next day delivery, don’t make customers wait a week for headphones that turn up in a sandwich bag.
Use feedback to drive product page optimisation
One of eBay’s most helpful features is the ease with which buyers and sellers can communicate via direct messaging. Based on the questions that buyers ask about your products and the feedback you get, you will be able to make changes to your listings that will boost your sales.
If you sell socks and you always get asked what sizes they come in, then add that information to the product headline or description. You might not think this will make a difference, but the longer a customer waits before buying a product, the more likely it is they will abandon it. Give them all of the information that they need in one go, and they will be much more likely to make a snap decision to buy.
Increasing internal search exposure
Internal search results are one of the main ways that shoppers find products on eBay. The search help page lists a number of factors in ‘best match’ search (the initial results format):
- The format and categories of each listing
- Good prices and reasonable P&P
- Accurate and relevant titles
- Clear descriptions
- Good photos
- Clear terms
As with any search engine optimisation, optimising your product pages for eBay searches will be an ongoing process of experimentation. Don’t be afraid to tweak things to see what makes a difference, and to discard changes that don’t help.
It is important to remember that people are going to use other search orders on eBay as well as best match. For example, a lot of shoppers are going to organise by price, so having some of the lowest prices around will help you to get noticed before you’ve built up a bigger reputation. It can be really helpful starting low, even if you plan on raising your prices later.
Increasing exposure through ads
Like search engines, eBay offers paid ad functionality that can allow you to bypass natural search results and gain exposure. This is particularly useful when you’re just starting out, or when you have a new product or sale that you want to promote.
Paying for ads will get your listings displayed in prominent places around the site, including high in search results. You essentially tell eBay what percentage of the sale price you want to pay, and then you pay them that only when you sell a product via an ad, making it relatively low risk. However, ads are competitive, and the amount that you are willing to pay will determine where your ad will be placed, or even if it gets placed at all.
You should constantly experiment and test your ads to see which strategies are most effective. Play around with the amount you’re willing to spend and the text that displays with the ad to determine what works best for your products. Paid ads are an important growth tool, and can be used to great effect alongside more organic methods.