Saturday, July 21, 2007

Feast Your Eyes on Good Feedback

You know how they say you are what you eat? At eBay, you are only as good as your feedback says you are. If you're selling, here's how to get a good reputation:

  • Establish contact with the buyer (pronto!) after the auction ends.
  • After you've received payment, send out the item quickly.
  • Make sure that your item is exactly the way you described it.
  • Package the item well and ship it with care.
  • React quickly and appropriately to problems -- for example, the item's lost or damaged in the mail or the buyer is slow in paying.

If you're buying, try these good-rep tips:

  • Send your payment fast.
  • Keep in touch via e-mail with the seller.
  • Work with the seller to resolve any problems in a courteous manner.

If you're selling, here's what to do to tarnish your name big time:

  • Tell a major fib in the item description.
  • Take the money but "forget" to ship the item.
  • Package the item poorly so that it ends up smashed, squashed, or vaporized during shipping.

If you're buying, here's how to make your status a serious mess:

  • Bid on an item, win the auction, and never respond to the seller.
  • Send a personal check that bounces and never make good on the payment.
  • Ask the seller for a refund because you just don't like the item.

Dressing Up Your Auction Image with Templates

To give your auctions a consistent look and feel, you create a template (or pattern) that each auction follows. Just like a stencil that you'd use to paint a repeated pattern, an auction template makes it easy to create many similar-looking auctions.

When deciding whether to create your own template or find a prebuilt one, consider how much control you want to have over the design. If you're comfortable using a template that other sellers are using and can live with designs that don't allow much customization, then a prebuilt template may be for you. However, if you want to create a truly unique design and don't want to have any limitations placed on your creativity, it's time to dig into HTML and create your own!

A quick search on Google for eBay auction templates yields over 100,000 results! Within the first few pages of the results, you'll find numerous sites that offer hundreds of custom templates. Although some sites offer free templates, most require you to sign up for their services. They typically charge a monthly fee in return for access to their template libraries and other services.

What, No Sale? Timing Your Relist Wisely

Boo! Your Dansk China Maribo dinner plate didn't sell. Don't take it personally. It doesn't mean that your merchandise is trash. It's just that this particular week no one was looking for Maribo plates (go figure).

Often, when relisting, you need to make adjustments. For instance, there's always a chance that you're off base on your title. Or perhaps the keywords in your title aren't drawing people to your listing. To help you figure out whether it's you or just the market, try running a search for other, similar items — is anyone buying? If there's just no bidding activity (perhaps you're selling bikinis in January?), then perhaps that item needs to be retired from eBay for a while.

Consider some other variables. Perhaps your starting price is too high? Are other items selling on the site with a lower starting price? If you can comfortably lower your price, do so. If not, wait until other sellers run out of the item. Then put yours up for auction — you may just get more bidding action if you are one of the few (versus one of the many) sellers offering the same item

Placing Photos Inline with Your Text

Buyers love seeing pictures of the products in your auctions. That's why eBay lets you add a free picture to every auction you post. Of course, eBay also offers you the option of adding a few more pictures to the auction (for a minimal fee, of course), but unfortunately every photo you include gets shoved into the same section at the very bottom of the auction — and that's not the best place for photos to go.

You can overcome that positioning problem and add any number of photos to your auctions at the same time by creating your own photo storage area and then including image tags () in your auction text. Although this adds an extra step to your posting process (namely, copying the photos to your online storage area), that minimal amount of work provides you with tons of flexibility, plus the ability to make a really awesome-looking auction.

First things first — you need an online home for your photos. Luckily, any Web hosting service covers this task perfectly. Even the storage space built into every AOL account (check out key word My FTP Space) works great! If you already have a Web site, just use a bit of space on that server. And if you always wanted to start a Web site, this makes a great excuse to start now.

Web hosts come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges, so shop around. You can find basic hosting for as little as $2.95 per month, although reliable hosting usually starts in the $4.95 to $7.95 per month range. Many books and online articles tell you how to pick a hosting service, so dive into Google (or pick up a resource at your favorite bookstore) and see what you can find.

After you arrange for your Web space, find out how the host recommends transferring files from your computer to your online space. Some host companies offer a nifty Web-based tool for this, although a good FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program like Direct FTP from CoffeeCup Software usually works faster, easier, and better. Check with your Web hosting company for its recommendations.

Even though you can add pictures until your auction looks like a photo mosaic, don't get carried away. Every image you add increases the loading time for your auction, so keep the number low. Most auctions benefit from using two to three images instead of just one, but only the priciest auctions — stuff like cars, houses, priceless Ming vases, and such — require more than three pictures. If you want to use a gallery image for the auction, you still need to put one photo into the standard eBay image area.

Improve Auction Photos with Cloud Dome

Ambient light, light that occurs naturally, is the best light for photographing many types of items that you want to auction on eBay (especially shiny items). Problems start when you use flash or flood lighting alone (without a Cloud Dome) for pictures of metallic objects, Common lighting problems that affect the quality of your photographs include shiny spots from reflections (off walls and ceilings), washed out areas from the glare of the lights and loss of proper color.

Enter the Cloud Dome to offer your at-home photos the ability to take advantage of natural, ambient light. The Cloud Dome looks like a giant bowl that you place upside-down over the object you want to photograph. This bowl evenly diffuses ambient room light over the surface area of the object. This way, you can produce quality digital images in average room lighting.

Keeping Track of ebay Sales

Savvy eBay sellers have different methods of handling inventory. They use everything from spiral-bound notebooks to sophisticated software programs. Although computerized inventory tracking can simplify this task, starting with a plain ol' handwritten ledger is fine, too.

Many sellers tape sheets of paper to their boxes to identify them by number, and use that as a reference to a simple Excel spreadsheet for selling purposes. Excel spreadsheets are perfect for keeping track of your auctions as well, but if you're using a management service or software, you don't need both for physical inventory. After you're running a full-time business, however, you have to keep Uncle Sam happy with a dollars and cents accounting of your inventory, so keep your inventory records in a standardized program such as QuickBooks.

Organizing Your ebay Auction Presentation

Selling products through an online auction works like selling things face to face in real life. As the seller, you need to connect with the customer, entice and interest the person in your product, provide information, answer questions, overcome objections, and close the sale -- or, in this case, get the bid.

A well-organized auction starts with the basics: complete, descriptive auction text and plenty of pictures that flatteringly (and fully) show off your product. Atop that foundation, add headings for each major section of your auction text -- namely the description, payment, and shipping information blocks. A consistent design builds your eBay brand in the eyes of your customers, which enhances your professional stature among the buyers and browsers and encourages new (as well as repeat) sales at the same time