Tell me about your business. How long have you sold on eBay?
I've been buying and selling on eBay for 22 years. Long enough to remember most listings without any product images and sending/receiving checks or money orders in the mail as payment.
I was a collector raised by collectors so, despite the mail order time frame of purchases, I was absolutely smitten by the depth of the marketplace eBay provided. I quickly went from buying everything I couldn't find locally to selling as well.
Dorm Room Games started mostly with video games but expanded rapidly to include comics, art, trading cards, tabletop gaming, entertainment/pop culture related products, and collectibles. Very much an extension of my interests and knowledge base that grew over the years.
What do you like most about selling on eBay?
At one point this would have been a difficult list to narrow down to a favorite, but today I enjoy how seamless it is for me to reach a global marketplace on eBay. eBay does make that process fairly simple and it has been an influencing factor when deciding where to list specific products.
A big part of my daily workplace enjoyment comes from sharing the items that I have an interest in with other collectors - being able to do that on a global scale is very exciting.
What is your favorite item you’ve ever sold on eBay?
Oh, I couldn't possibly pick one. I've sold items to be used as film/TV props, to artists/creators I admire, and to museums across the globe. These are always exciting transactions but I also, routinely, sell to collectors adding a personal "grail" or new addition to their collection and this is my favorite type of transaction. A recent example of this would be a signed Seth Johnson Heroclix Bystander Token that I sold.
Heroclix is a comic superhero based tabletop miniatures game that was released in 2002. The game was revolutionary in that each game figure contained all the stats (game values) for the unit and it didn't require a separate book of stats to consult in order to play the game. Each figure had a base that turned and altered their stats as they took damage during the game. It was an instant hit with gamers and comic fans alike. After a few years of product releases they introduced the "bystander token". These were mostly non-superhero characters, from the comics, that would be knocked out if they took 1 damage.
A Heroclix game designer, Seth Johnson, thought it'd be a fun idea to print bystander tokens of himself to give away at gaming conventions he attended. While they were not an official product (so they could not be played in official events) they were a good reason for fans of the game to seek him out at conventions and he could chat for a few minutes about Heroclix with the customer base.
Most Heroclix players do not know these bystander tokens even exist. They are incredibly hard to find, often years between one becoming available on the market, and are not normally signed. A collector happened to find my listing and was instantly intrigued with the creation backstory. It now resides in their collection and certainly brings with it the bragging rights of owning a piece that rarely sees the market.
What do you find the most challenging about selling on eBay?
There are definite learning curves when it comes to selling on eBay but the most challenging aspect on eBay is when something goes wrong.
When something goes wrong that I, as an eBay seller, don't have the ability to correct due to the control eBay as a platform extends to me, that means I have to contact eBay for help and there is no way to predict what an eBay representative will actually do. There are protections, expectations, and guidelines that eBay lists in their user agreement but getting an eBay representative that doesn't know policy or how to handle the situation at hand is extremely common.
Adding to the problem is that when you do come across a representative that doesn't know eBay policy, getting transferred to a supervisor is nearly impossible. As a seller you are routinely promised a callback from eBay supervisors when you request them but these calls are often never returned and if the callback is made, you are never given a scheduled time so if you miss the call the entire process starts over from scratch.
Keep in mind that eBay sets a specific amount of time in which you as a seller need to respond to a problem before eBay automatically takes action and a supervisor callback is a minimum of 24-48 hours of wait time (if they actually do call back). A typical eBay required time to respond is 2-4 days so waiting for a supervisor immediately wastes a minimum of half your allotted response time or could come too late.
Which eBay seller tools do you find most useful to your business?
Most of the eBay seller tools I haven't found a use for. Seller reports often miss transactions and accuracy issues are the deathknell when I'm looking at sales/tax reports. I have to use my own reporting system in order to make accurate business decisions in that regard.
Searching for sold listings is probably the most useful part of eBay. It allows me to quickly determine pricing while I list but also while I source inventory. Which means I often go directly to eBay for selling those sourced items as the price research has already been done.
The addition of the Terapeak Product Research feature was a big boon initially. Unfortunately they have since had issues with not being able to enlarge older photos and, currently, seem to miss a large amount of applicable sales. I still use that feature from time to time but it is no longer a staple of my seller tools.
One eBay feature from years and years ago that I found incredibly useful was a part of the traffic reports. They had a section called "referring domains" that would show you where traffic to your listings originated from. Whether that be on eBay, Twitter, facebook, Google, etc...
Often I would find discussions over some of my items that were happening on message boards, Twitter, or facebook and could immediately interact with those communities to greatly increase the chance of a sale. I found most of these communities had a distrust of eBay and were wary about purchasing hard to find items from someone on the platform.
When I would introduce myself as a real person they could interact with that clearly understood their collecting community, it would often lead to a sale for me/eBay as well as some positive PR for eBay. I would love to have that feature returned to eBay sellers.
Where else do you sell? What percentage of your sales come from each channel vs eBay?
I was once a 100% eBay seller but that changed about 7-8 years ago when I watched my monthly sales drop almost 80% with no explanation or help from eBay. No one seemed to have any reason why a 15 year sales history would suddenly drop overnight to a fifth of the standard, expected sales level.
From that moment on I started branching out to pretty much every competing platform in the collectible markets I was already involved in. I currently use 7 different marketplaces with eBay accounting for under 40% of my total sales. I grow each of these marketplaces year over year, including 30-50% growth in product offerings on eBay, but eBay's share of my total sales continues to drop.
What would be your best advice for new sellers?
Above all else; get a shipping/postal scale. This is the #1 problem I see coming from new sellers. Don't guess what your package weighs and don't try to use your bathroom scale. Invest the ~$20 in a shipping scale or definitely check out your local area selling platforms (Facebook, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc...) for a cheaper used one.
If you are new to selling online I'd highly recommend starting on a platform that is very new seller friendly like Mercari. Platforms like Mercari help take away the learning curve that is knowing what to charge for shipping as they will present you with all your options as soon as you put in the weight/size of the package. It removes the trap that a lot of new sellers fall into by offering a shipping amount that is well under what the actual cost of shipping is and digging into their profit. Mercari also will inform you of exactly what your selling fees will be during the listing process and before you accept any offers. It is a very user friendly platform that helps new sellers concentrate on listing rather than also having to learn fee structure and shipping tables.
Once you have some inventory listed, regardless of the selling platform, don't get wrapped up into why your items aren't selling faster. It takes time to sell most items and that just involves waiting for a buyer to come along. If you find yourself being impatient, instead of taking the time to reduce the prices on everything you have listed, invest that time into listing more items. The key to regular sales is to just keep listing more stuff.
If you could have 10 minutes of CEO Jamie Iannone’s undivided attention, what would you most like to tell him?
The time investment it takes to list on eBay is hurting eBay's ability to attract fulltime sellers and be competitive. The biggest offender of time not well spent is with the constantly changing and ever expanding item specifics (required or otherwise). As eBay sellers, we are bombarded with messages and notifications that we need to fill in as many item specifics as possible or possibly be looked over by eBay's search algorithm. This results in much more time spent in listing new products (as well as updating old products) compared to any other platform eBay competes with.
The old saying "time is money" rings true when it comes to listing. If I can list 40 products an hour on a competing platform compared to 20 an hour on eBay - I'm often going to list on the platform where I can get more product available for sale in a shorter amount of time.
Another big offender of time not well spent is with the previously mentioned current state of eBay Seller Support. I sell on 7 different platforms and have had to use 7 different forms of seller support - eBay consumes the most of my time and it isn't close.
Competing platforms often have their seller support handled through email so I can access them at any time of the day and have an easily referenceable chain of communication should the support issue need to be raised to another tier of support.
Other platforms also offer sellers greater control over problems when they occur so that I don't ever need to contact seller support for the vast majority of issues. For example, having complete control of the return process including when an inaccurate return reason is selected.
On those platforms I can apply the appropriate deduction for damage or deny the return if a completely different product is returned without ever having to contact seller support. Instances of fraudulent activity are greatly reduced on these platforms as a byproduct of allowing sellers to appropriately control their returns.
Instead of eBay seller time being spent on working to bend around the search algorithm, change the algorithm to allow for sellers to focus on adding new products to the platform. Instead of eBay sellers spending time contacting a seller support group that is often unsure of how to correctly resolve issues, or having sellers wait around for a supervisor callback that could never come, give eBay sellers the agency to control what happens during the return process (for example).
eBay can still have oversight in order to catch offenders that are not making decisions within policy and the threat of restricting their ability to sell for policy violations is enough to keep sellers within policy. I watch it work for competing platforms, and their sellers, daily. Competing platforms that continue to grow their share of my overall sales despite taking up less of my time to operate on that platform.
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