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Your E-volving Business

15 Sep 2009 4:16 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

Web commerce is growing exponentially, and should be considered a critical component to your business plan.  If you don’t already have a proprietary web sales portal for your product or service, I encourage you to try your hand at entering the online marketplace through Ebay or Amazon.  These sites are a great way to reach a national or even an international market. 

You can design your own professional looking “store front” which is hosted by the parent site for a monthly fee (between $10 and $15 per month).  If you prefer, you may simply sell items under your username, in which case you will only be charged a small fee to list an item, and another small fee if the item sells.  In both cases the fee is anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars, depending on the level of features you select for the listing and the final selling price. 

You can choose to sell your products in either an auction style or “buy it now” format.  To set the price, take into consideration the lowest price you would want for the item, but also weigh that against the price other sellers have listed.  The best way to determine what a reasonable price for your item would be is to do a background check on it first by running a search as if you were a buyer.  Remember that something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it!  If you have a unique item or service, you can set the price as you like.  However, if you see that there are hundreds of your item for sale at $10 each, for example, you will have the competitive edge by selling yours for $9.50, and your item will appear at the top of the list of search results. 

Try Ebay’s “Turbolister” program to really simplify and speed up the listing process.  This software is free to download from the “seller’s tools” section of the Ebay website.  With Turbolister, you can set a template of parameters that will remain unchanged in all your listings, so you will not have to type things over and over again.  This is especially valuable if you are selling high volumes of identical items.  Take a few close up and very well lit photos of your item, which the software will then easily import into your completed listing.   Make sure you set up specific terms in your listings, and follow through with what you say, or you will end up with negative feedback.  You are the boss of your site:  make sure you clearly and concisely state the terms of the sale in each listing, as this will trump any conflicts that may arise.  Otherwise the customer is right!

If a customer has a problem or issue with the transaction and contacts you about it, you will want to attempt to resolve the situation as quickly and as diplomatically as possible.  Even one negative feedback can severely affect your feedback percentage, and if that figure falls below about 98% positive, customers will look to buy from other sellers with higher marks. Usually buyers will not leave negative feedback unless you straight up lie about the product, and only then after you have ignored their emails.   The more positive feedback you get, the more reliable and trustworthy you will appear to your potential customers.  This is one of the ways that e-commerce differentiates from the real world – wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a similar scorecard next to the front door of every brick and mortar business we venture into to make a purchase?

Don’t worry about calculating shipping either:  the United States Postal Service is very smoothly linked to your Ebay and PayPal accounts, allowing pre-filled shipping labels to be printed immediately after the transaction.  All you have to do is print out the label and tape it to the box, so there will be no troublesome mistakes in copying the recipient’s address.  I recommend priority mail flat rate boxes: you can then give customers a discount for combined shipping on multiple purchases (always an attractive selling point) no matter what the weight is.  Best of all, USPS will deliver as many boxes in whatever sizes you need (free!) to your home or business, and will pick up your shipments for delivery once they are packed and ready to go. 

Once you have uploaded your completed listing, you will want to search for your own item.  This way you can see exactly how it will appear to someone who might be looking to buy it.  If your listing doesn’t come up on the first page, try adding additional terms to the title of your listing.  What key words are other sellers using to describe the same or a similar item?  For an additional fee you can also add premium selling boosters such as bold or highlighted words, or a giant sized picture.  You can freely edit your page until the item sells or is bid upon, so check it as soon as it is made public to ensure there are no errors.

Even if you don’t have one of these stores, you can always benefit from having a PayPal account, which will allow you to avoid the cost of traditional methods of accepting credit card payments.  Additionally, you can accept payments from your face-to-face sales by simply asking the customer to use PayPal and giving them your designated email address for payment.

And finally - don’t forget to ramp up traffic to your e-commerce sites by including links to them on your social networking pages and your website. You could even create a Facebook Fan Page for your online store and post pictures of new items you've uploaded. There is nothing like a little free advertising. Happy Selling!


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