For most occasional sellers on eBay, there is no need to move beyond the standard auction format. However, if you have a lot of inventory to sell, or you want an easy way to create an online presence, opening an eBay store may be the right choice for you.
There are a lot of things to consider before you open an eBay store. We'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an eBay store and marketing techniques to drive traffic to your store. We'll also examine some non-eBay store alternatives that you may want to consider.
The eBay store pictured on the left is Grapevinehill. It won the 2006 award for best looking eBay store.
EBAY STORE BASICS
Unlike auctions where buyers bid on your items, all eBay store inventory sell for a fixed prices. The listing duration is 30-days and it can be set to renew automatically. Multiple quantities can be accommodated by a single listing. The inventory count is adjusted automatically when units are sold. The subscription fees for an eBay store are:
The difference between each store level is described in detail here. The real advantage of the higher subscription levels is how your store is promoted on eBay. Higher level stores receive better placement in search results and on the eBay store gateway page. You should have a good amount of inventory to take advantage of the promotional benefits of the higher store levels. I recommend starting with the basic store first. Once your store sales growth levels out, you can upgrade your store to see if you get a sales boost. To sign up for an eBay store, click on the following link eBay store registration.
The requirements to open an eBay store are:
- Feedback score of 20 or higher, or
- Become ID Verified ($5 charge), or
- Have a PayPal account in good standing
The easiest way to satisfy the requirements is to have a PayPal account. All eBay sellers should have a PayPal account.
EBAY STORE FEE DIFFERENCES
The good thing about eBay stores is the insertion fee is only 5 to 10 cents, regardless of the starting price. The gallery image listing upgrade is only an additional 1 cent. Multiple quantities can be listed for a single insertion fee. While the eBay store insertion fee is cheap when compared to auctions, the final value fee is almost double the cost of auctions. The following table will give you an idea of the fee differences:
The fees in the table above include insertion fee, gallery listing upgrade fee, and final value fee at the price stated. For items prices at $24.99 and below, the total eBay store fees are roughly on par with auction fees. At higher prices, the higher final value fees for stores overcome the insertion fee discounts. However, if you are forced to relist an auction with a high starting price several times before it sells, the repeated insertion fees will cost more than listing it in an eBay store.
ADVANTAGES OF AN EBAY STORE
Having an eBay store allows you to list a lot of inventory at fixed prices inexpensively. Your products can be seen by potentially millions of eBay buyers worldwide. Unfortunately, there is a significant catch on how buyers see your store inventory (see disadvantages below).
When you open an eBay store, you receive a dedicated URL for your store. This provides an easy way for buyers to find your store on the internet. The URL will have the form http://stores.ebay.com/YourStoreName, where "YourStoreName" is the name you give your store when your first create it. You will want to choose a store name that is easy to spell and remember. The title of your store heavily influences your page ranking in internet search engines. See the search engine optimization section below for more details.
You receive a 75% savings on the final value fee when buyers come to your store from outside eBay. This is a substantial savings, but it is not easy to drive traffic to your store. See the marketing section below for some ideas on how to get people to visit your store.
DISADVANTAGES OF AN EBAY STORE
The main disadvantage of using an eBay store is the store inventory only appears in the main search results when there are 30 or fewer auctions and fixed-price listings found. This means for most popular items, your store inventory will not appear in search results.
Because of this restriction, items that have few existing auctions are best suited for an eBay store. Items that do poorly in the auction format are ideal candidates for an eBay store. These are items that have few interested buyers, and are often sold with a single bid. A minimum price must be set to avoid selling it for a substantial discount. It also could take weeks for a buyer to show up. Why keep paying the insertion fee for relisting the item when you can put it in an eBay store.
Even for popular items, there are techniques you can use to get buyers to visit your eBay store. Take a look at the marketing section below for some ideas on what you can do.
MARKETING YOUR EBAY STORE
The key to successful marketing is finding a cost effective methods of getting potential buyers to visit your store. Just driving traffic to your store is not enough. You need to get interested buyers to your store to have a chance at making a sale. Below are some ideas on how to market your eBay store.
RUN EBAY AUCTIONS
The easiest way to market your eBay store is to have some eBay auctions running. When a potential buyer views your auction listing, eBay will cross-promote other items you are selling, including items in your eBay store. The cross-promoted items appear at the bottom of your listings. Buyers can also click on a link to view the other items that you have for sale. This will show everything that you have for sale, including your store inventory.
An effective strategy if you have multiple quantities of the same item is to list one unit as an auction and list the rest in the store. When buyers see the auction listing, they may check the other items that you have listed for sale. Buyers may choose to buy the unit out of your store instead of waiting for the auction to end.
SOCIAL SHOPPING WEBSITES
Social networking sites are all the rage these days. So it wasn't too long before social shopping sites appeared. These sites allow people to recommend products and stores to their friends. You can add your store to these sites and have your friends recommend products from your store.
Not to be left out, eBay has created Neighborhoods which contain over 600 social neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are broken down by themes and categories like Coffee Lovers, Scrapbooking, Dogs and Apple iPhone. Join the neighborhoods that best fit what you are selling to give yourself some more exposure.
SHOPPING COMPARISON WEBSITES
There are several shopping comparison websites available that enable buyers to search for products from several stores at once. By having your products included in these sites, you can drive interested buyers to your store. Just be sure to have a good variety of inventory available to maximize your chances of making a sale.
The first thing you need to do is export your store inventory to a file. This file is needed for shopping comparison websites to load your store inventory.
Some popular comparison sites include Google Product Search, MSN Shopping, Yahoo! Shopping, Become, PriceGrabber, PriceSCAN, Shopping.com and mySimon. There are other more specialized websites that may be more appropriate for your store inventory.
Only Google Product Search is free for sellers. The other sites use a pay-per-click model where the seller is charged a fee when a potential buyer clicks on a product listing. Some sites also require a subscription fee.
Search engine optimization is the technique of increasing the page ranking of a website on internet search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Live Search, and Ask. If your website appears on the first page of the search results, you will get highly directed traffic from people searching for the exact products you are selling.
An important factor in search engine optimization for your eBay store is the store name. The store name is part the eBay store URL and it goes into the title tag of your store's main web page. These two factors will influence the search engine rankings heavily. You want to select a store name that does not overlap with any established websites which will completely overshadow your store name. Do an internet search on your store name to see what turns up. If there aren't any sites with the same name, then it should be fine to use that name.
Create an About Me page with some meaningful content about your store. Update your store description with specific information about what types of products you are selling. Add custom store pages that contain useful and detailed content about your products. Choose descriptive keywords for your store categories. All of these things help increase your page rankings in search engines.
Search engine optimization is not easy. Even after following the above steps, your eBay store could still be buried deep in the search engine results. With a little luck, you could do as well as the eBay store "Copper Frog Studio". Search Google for their store name and they will appear at the top of the search results.
One more thing you can try to do to improve your page ranking is to create an external website. Ideally, the domain name of the website is the same as your eBay store name. For example, if your eBay store name is "Copper Frog Studio", the domain name of the external website would be www.copperfrogstudio.com. You will need to develop the website with some good content and then have links pointing back to your eBay store. If you don't have time to develop your site, you should still acquire the domain name and send visitors directly to your eBay store. You can register a domain name at www.godaddy.com for only $9.99 a year.
PAY PER CLICK ADVERTISING
If you can't get on the front page using search engine optimization, you can buy your way to the top by paying for advertising. The internet search engines use a pay per click advertising model. You don't pay anything when your ad is shown, but you will be charged when someone clicks on your ad. The cost per click can range from $0.05 to several dollars depending on the keywords your ad appears on.
EBAY STORE ALTERNATIVES
If you are looking to establish an online presence, there are a few alternatives besides eBay that may work for you.
Amazon Marketplace has been a success for many sellers. Like eBay, there is a huge installed base of buyers using Amazon. It cost nothing to list items for sale and there is no monthly fee for low volume sellers. When an item sells, there is a $0.99 transaction fee, plus a 6-15% of the final price commission and a variable closing fee (typically $0.80-$1.35). Most items fall into the 15% commission category. For $39.99 per month, you can upgrade to a Pro Merchant account. The $0.99 transaction fee is waived and you get a host of other nice features. The fee percentage is higher than eBay, but with the right product you may be able to sell at a much higher volume than on eBay.
All the other online storefronts such as Yahoo! Merchant Solutions, ProStores, and others don't provide an active marketplace like Amazon and eBay. They provide everything you need to build your online store, but in the end you need to market your store yourself to attract buyers. No matter what these sites tell you, it is not easy to attract buyers. You should have a well defined marketing strategy in place before you open an online storefront. The advantage of this approach is the transaction fees are a lot lower than eBay or Amazon.