Taking the next big step and expanding your business beyond selling on eBay can seem like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. If your store is having a lot of success on the popular auction site, there is no reason that it can’t stand on its own two feet and become a profitable private enterprise. In this article I will share some of the lessons I’ve learned from growing my own eBay store with the aim of helping you to do the same. With a little work, you will be able to transfer your sales from eBay to your own independent business.
eBay is a great place to do business
Even though I am encouraging you to look beyond the website, you should not underestimate the value of eBay to an independent vendor. The website provides the ideal platform for anyone looking to establish their start-up business, with very little outlay required for marketing and a user-friendly interface that makes listing your products very easy.
eBay is world famous and possesses incredible pulling power, with over 17 million visitors to the UK version of the site every month. The ability to tap into such a market is something that no vendor should pass up, especially during those early days. However, even when you spread your wings beyond the website, you should still look to maintain your store on there. Most successful vendors run both their own website and an eBay store in parallel. Many big high street names, like Argos and Currys-PC World, have opened their own eBay stores a long time after becoming established names, which just goes to show how valuable a market the auction site is.
Expand to a larger storage space
When I first started to trade on eBay, I was sourcing my products from a local wholesaler and then listing them online. During those early days, business picked up quite quickly and I was able to learn which items were bestsellers and which weren’t. By looking at what was selling well and what customers were asking about, I was able to anticipate where I needed to expand my range.
The problem was that many of these products weren’t available at the wholesalers, and I found it difficult to persuade the brands that manufactured them to work with an eBay trader who did his business from home. Once the store reached the right level of income, the first thing I did was to rent storage space for my stock. This turned out to be a great move, as not only did it give me more room for an expanded range, it gave me an address for the business. This really helped me to gain the trust of the brands I was negotiating with, and as a result, allowed me to offer a larger range of products.
Look for ways to improve your business processes
With the new storage space and expanded range, sales began to grow quickly. With the increased level of trade came more pressure to maintain smooth and punctual processes within the business. For example, as we were selling higher quantities of stock, there was more importance placed on stock replenishment than before, and it was obvious that something had to be done to make the current system more efficient. At first, I had members of my family helping out to make sure everything ran smoothly, but after evaluating the situation, I identified a number of ways that I could change the way I did things to really improve my business processes.
One of the first things I did was to take on a member of staff to help with the packing of orders. It can be strange at first after being a solo trader for a while, but increasing the number of hands on deck allowed me to concentrate on improving other things. I invested in some multi-channel management software so that I could automate many daily tasks, like accounting and label printing. We also had Royal Mail begin to pick-up from our warehouse, rather than taking the parcels to the post office ourselves. These were both great timesavers as it freed up a lot of time spent carrying out these tasks each day, helping us to speed up processing and delivery. This in turn contributed to our growing reputation as a brand that was both quick and reliable.
Invest in a website
While eBay is a fantastic resource for generating sales, an important part of growing your brand is to create your own website that can act as a home for your business. When the time comes to spread your wings and carve a space in the internet to call your own, make sure you do it the right way. A website done on the cheap is a sure-fire way to make customers think twice about ordering from you, as they try and decide whether your amateurish looking online store is a trustworthy place to spend their money.
Make sure your website is well optimised to maximise the traffic that comes from search engines – if you don’t have the expertise to do this, there are many online marketing experts who can help you out. Don’t go closing down your eBay store, as it can help to drive traffic towards your new website and vice versa. Having both outlets for sales can also help to build your brand.
Don’t get sucked into a price war
One thing that I have learned from my time on eBay is that there is no point in trying to compete on pricing. The website is the world’s most popular online marketplace for a reason, and there will always be another vendor looking to undercut your prices, no matter how low you go. Instead, strive to offer a great service, useful advice, and better quality products to distinguish yourself from the crowd. These are the things your customers will remember, and will go a long way to building a great reputation for your brand.
If you follow some of these pointers and apply them to your own eBay store, you are more than likely to see an increase in sales and a growth in the number of good reviews you receive. When the time is right, set out to establish your own independent store and be patient as you build an excellent reputation for your brand. Success will soon follow.
About Neil Parker
Neil started out selling car accessories on eBay outside of his day job. As sales increased and his store became more successful, he moved operations from his home to a dedicated business address to cope with the demand. The business has gone from strength to strength, and now retails to a large customer base and has a popular website where customers can buy from the company directly. The store recently underwent a successful re-brand to become DriveDen, and has ambitions of becoming a recognisable brand within the automotive aftermarket and accessory retail sector.