successful ebay business

I Thought I Knew Everything About eBay, Until I Interviewed this Successful eBay Business

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While conducting the research for our previous post  “Why We Almost Abandoned Selling on eBay, And What Made Us Stay”, I stumbled upon a brilliant article by Annie McDonald – “Why are my eBay sales down“.
I was so much impressed with the in-depth analysis of how eBay works, that I felt compelled to contact Annie and ask to “pick her brains” to share her insights with CrazyLister’s community.

The outcome is the first ever interview post on this blog. And just like the title says:
I thought I knew everything about eBay, until I interviewed Annie and her Father Anthony who established a successful eBay business.

Without further due – let’s dive in…

What is your history with eBay?

When RoofTop Antiques first came to be, it was literally a Mom and Pop operation – my Mom and Pop, to be more specific.  They had always collected antiques and unique items that caught their eye. It wasn’t surprising to me when my dad started selling on eBay in 2004. My parents had acquired so much stuff that they really couldn’t enjoy the individual pieces that they truly loved. So my dad began listing items and sending them out into the world. Soon, his project turned into a time-consuming hobby. It was more than he could handle on his own, so my mom joined in the venture. They became regulars at auctions, garage sales, thrift shops and flea markets where they were purchasing items specifically to sell online.
I joined the effort in 2009.

In the spring of 2011, his side business became his full-time job. We moved into a newly constructed facility, nearly 6,000 square feet in size. Within two years, five additional employees were added to our team. Our business was thriving.

As of today, our team has conducted more than 19,000 successful transactions across more than 60 countries.  We are PowerSellers and Top Rated Sellers.

RoofTop Antiques logo

RoofTop Antiques – a successful eBay business

What have you experienced on eBay in the past 2 years?

In the last two years, we doubled our inventory from 3,000 items to 6,000. We increased the quality of items we were listing. Our strong customer service was pushed to a higher level, and we began marketing our business on social media. Despite the push for greatness, sales really began to dwindle in the spring of 2014.

 
We began to do some research, hoping to find an answer for our slow sales. What we found led to a 21 page “manifesto” detailing the changes taking place behind the scenes at eBay. It also mapped our response to these changes.  That document has been presented to the public via our blog. We wrote an 11-part series, which begins here: http://rooftopantiques.com/blogs/blogs/17467677-why-are-my-ebay-sales-down-part-1-in-a-multi-part-series
 
Though we felt broken and beat down, we never considered walking away from eBay. Honestly, we were more fearful that eBay was walking away from us. There were days where we wondered if eBay would even be in existence 5 years down the road. Other days we wondered, if they were in existence, would  they still want to work with us? It began to feel as if there was a push toward large business, leaving small and medium sellers behind.

How have you responded to this challenge?

We faced the challenges of eBay head on. We didn’t take to the forums and bad-mouth executives or policies (though we felt like it some days). We took a good long look at our business and outlined two main objectives:

  1. How can we improve our presence on eBay?
  2. How can we establish a presence outside of eBay?

Taking into account the altered atmosphere of eBay (and really of the internet as a whole) we developed a plan to make ourselves more relevant, desirable and attractive to customers.

What specifically did you do to improve your presence on eBay?

Re-branding

Our first step was really to identify ourselves. We changed our name to reflect the majority of the items we sell on eBay, and had a logo created to speak that identity to our potential customers. We worked hard to make our voice consistent within the marketplace.

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Take advantage of eBay Collections

Our next step within eBay was to make use of two new tools created for users: eBay Collections and eBay Guides.  We started with eBay Collections which eBay describes as:

…groups of eBay items hand-selected by eBay members, mixed and matched around a theme, concept or passion.  By creating intriguing and inspiring collections of products, you can attract eager buyers who are able to purchase items right from the collections you create.  Your collections can also be exposed to new buyers via sharing from other members and have the potential to appear on the eBay Today page.

eBay users are allowed a total of 100 collections. These collections hold an endless number of links, all leading straight to an individual eBay item. Collections are essentially virtual pinboards (like those found on Pinterest) allowing buyers to save items that they want to come back to later. Sellers also have the opportunity to use collections to get their  product in front of the buyer in a unique and interesting way.
 
As sellers, we have created collections containing hundreds of our own items. Our collections contain items arranged by various distinctions, including era, type of items, color of items and more. You can see all of our current collections by visiting: http://www.ebay.com/cln/missouri-roofrunner
 
While we do not know the exact science behind collections, we have learned a few things. For one, we have noticed that our collection views jump at alarming rates when we edit or add items. Weekly view counts fall under 100 when we don’t work them, and rise to 500-700 when we are actively updating. We have also noticed that we sell more items during times we are constantly working on collections, versus weeks where they sit dormant. We believe these occurrences have something to do with the algorithms within eBay and the perceived relevancy of our items.
 
eBay collections algorithm

eBay collections algorithm

Use eBay Guide
Another tool often overlooked is the eBay Guide. Guides give sellers the opportunity to share their knowledge and/or opinions on almost any topic. These allow sellers to give advice, provide resources and answer relevant questions, all while connecting back to their store and even directing readers to specific items. We currently have 16 guides covering various topics, all of which can be found here:http://www.ebay.com/gsr/i.html?uid=%22missouri-roofrunner%22
 
One of our most popular guides has been “5 Shipping Hacks to Make Every Day Easier”.  This guide shares practical ideas we use in our shipping department, which we believe increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our packaging. This guide has positively affected our image as sellers, increasing the perception that we are experienced with a high level of expertise. Our plan is to continue to developing offering eBay Guides, providing users with advice, resources and answers to relevant questions. It is our desire to supply needed resources to help buyers and sellers alike by sharing things we have learned through experience. In the process, our image as a relevant seller increases.

eBay guide - help eBay sellers

Help other eBay sellers

 

What is the basic underlying principle you are applying with these strategies?

Relevancy! You need to have product that people are interested in. Your wares should be desirable to your target customer, and presented in a way that is pleasing to them. It is also valuable to provide information that people are looking for (and that they may not be able to find anywhere else).

If you could travel back in time and give your younger eBay self one bit of advice, what would that be?

Our answer is two-fold.  First, we would advise ourselves to pay more attention to what was going on with eBay in regards to politics and policies.  We now see that doing this would have prepared us for the challenges that we faced (and still face) with eBay, and the resulting impact that had on our business.  We now monitor eBay, and ecommerce news on a daily basis.  Additionally, we have built relationships with top eBay executives which has afforded us the opportunity to be actively involved in new policy development.

Secondly, we would tell ourselves to establish our company as a relevant player in the marketplace.  Until challenges arrived, we were simply sellers that listed our stuff and waited for it to sell.  Looking back, if we would have been more actively establishing our business, both on the eBay platform and apart from it, we would be in a better place today.
 
We don’t pretend that what we are doing has completely solved all of our problems as an eBay business, but we do believe we are headed in the right direction.  The process has been long and tiresome, and has not necessarily produce immediate results. The alternative action is to do nothing and guarantee failure.

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