Selling on eBay for Beginners: A Guide to Success

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Learn More About Omnichannel Ecommerce With Our Guide.

As one of the world's oldest and most recognizable ecommerce platforms, eBay still holds an important place in the online marketplace.

Despite the rise in ecommerce, the platform is still going strong, with more than $10.2 billion in revenue in 2020 and more than 1.5 billion active listings

However, selling on eBay can be tricky, especially for beginners. By understanding the finer details of the platform, prospective sellers can take advantage of eBay's brand authority and selling options to launch a successful ecommerce store.

The Current State of eBay

With its gross merchandise volume (GMV) and total active buyers down from its peak in 2018 — and with the ever-competitive Amazon looming around the corner — eBay has had a tumultuous past few years. Combining this with the rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) websites across the Internet, eBay faces more competition than ever.

eBay still finds itself in a strong position as the second leading online marketplace worldwide, with more than double the number of monthly visits as the third-place option, Mercado Libre.

For new sellers, there is still a significant opportunity available on the platform — as long as you’re willing to take the necessary steps to success.

Why Sell on eBay?

The short answer? Few companies can compete with eBay’s size and breadth.

By 2021, there were nearly 160 million eBay buyers worldwide. It’s one of the largest global online marketplaces, featuring approximately 1.3 billion product listings on any given day. 

Additionally, eBay has around 109 million visitors per month, and the eBay app has been downloaded almost 600 million times.

Who is Selling on eBay?

There are two primary types of eBay sellers.

You have amateur resellers — who sell a few items at a fixed price — and then you have PowerSellers. PowerSellers are professional sellers who spend a lot of time purchasing items, packaging products, shipping and receiving goods and managing auctions.

Whether you’re an amateur reseller or a PowerSeller, you can flourish in this time of growth of the secondhand economy, getting your products in front of a global audience with eBay.

What Does it Cost to Sell on eBay?

Although it may be free to create an account on eBay, there will be seller fees you have to payout, whether you plan on using an eBay business or personal account.

According to the eBay Seller Center, these fees include:

Insertion Fees.

Insertion fees occur when you list an item on eBay’s platform. They are charged per listing, per category. If you re-list an item in two categories, you’ll pay an insertion fee for both.

However, sellers can get up to 250 zero insertion fee listings every month (not including certain categories such as real estate and automobiles).

Final Value Fees.

Each time a transaction is completed and an item sells, eBay charges a final value fee.

Final value fees are a percentage of the total amount paid by the buyer, including the starting price, handling charges, the shipping service the buyer pays for, sales tax and any other applicable fees.

Payment Processing Fees.

Each purchase made through a credit card, debit card or other payment processor will likely lead to payment processing fees, even if eBay isn’t charging you. These fees include third-party payment methods such as PayPal.

Even if you decide to use eBay’s Managed Payments platform, you will incur processing fees — this time directly from eBay itself.

Other eBay Fees.

While insertion and final value fees are the most common that you will encounter when using eBay, there are other selling fees you may come across.

If you want to sell an item using a classified advertisement, you'll have to pay an elevated insertion fee. If you're interested in adding upgrades to your general eBay listing, there will be fees depending on the upgrade.

Additionally, if you plan to use supplemental services through eBay, such as shipping labels, you'll have to pay any associated costs.

What Should You Sell on eBay?

While some eBay sellers focus on niche products, others follow the trends to sell what is popular at the moment.

To decide on what you want to sell, you should consider:

Find out what’s trending.

One way to find out what’s hot in the marketplace is to see what is trending on eBay. You can use this page to see what potential buyers are searching for and what is selling.

Another resource is Google Trends. You can use it to help gauge consumer demand through season trends and historical data to determine the best time to list and sell your product.

Used products.

Reselling used items is where eBay first made its name as a business. Here you can sell your old electronics, clothing, video games, books — almost anything you can think of, you can sell.

Collectables.

Rare or collectible items are a staple of eBay’s platform, from coins and watches, to stamp collections.

Vintage items.

Before there was Etsy, there was eBay, providing a location for purveyors of vintage items. This can include categories like records or memorabilia to out of stock clothing.

It’s never been easier to dress just like your grandfather did.

Brand new items.

Brands are increasingly selling new products on eBay, leveraging the pre-existing audience already on the platform against competitors such as Amazon and Walmart.

How eBay Works

When eBay first launched in 1995, it was a true peer-to-peer marketplace built on auctions. As it evolved, however, eBay introduced an alternative to the auction with its “buy it now” feature.

Each selling method has pros and cons — the one that will work best for you is highly dependent upon your individual business.

Auction-style selling.

eBay rose to fame on its auction-style sales. You run a traditional auction for a specified number of days. At the start of the auction, you list an opening bid, and then buyers will bid up from the opening price listing. When the auction comes to an end, the highest bidder wins.

This type of selling works great for someone who deals in unique, collectible items.

For this method, setting a reserve price or the lowest price you are willing to accept for the item can give you the control to ensure you don’t sell the item until you can get the amount you believe it is worth.

Buy It Now.

eBay's Buy It Now option enables the seller to declare a fixed price for an item. Shoppers can see the exact cost upfront and buy it immediately — without any bidding necessary.

This style of selling is efficient and convenient, as there is no haggling or waiting for an auction to end.

Writing Product Descriptions for eBay

On eBay, shoppers search for products using keywords. You can optimize your product description by including relevant keywords and product identifiers.

Make sure to structure your product attributes similar to the words and phrases users are typing into their eBay searches. Additionally, be transparent about any product defects the item may have and disclose any issues or flaws related to the product.

When writing product descriptions, be sure to review the following:

Product identifiers.

Using product identifiers in your listings can help increase your item visibility, which can help optimize eBay sales.

When buyers look for items on search engines like Google or Bing, those search engines look for specific data called product identifiers. eBay requires product identifiers when you list branded products in new or refurbished condition in certain categories such as consumer electronics and health and beauty.

Product identifiers consist of three elements:

  • Brand.

  • Manufacturer Part Number (MPN).

  • Global Trade Item Number (GTIN).

eBay uses product identifiers to help buyers quickly find items and promoted listings during a search. When you include product identifiers in your listings, your product will be eligible for higher search visibility — on eBay and outside search engines.

Adding product identifiers is highly recommended to maximize your potential on eBay through better product placement and SEO data for search engines.

Product attribute guidelines and best practices.

Product attributes define a product's relevant and essential facts — such as brand, style, size, and color. You can often find product attributes listed as product specs (specifications).

eBay defines a set of item specifics for each category. Product attributes are created by mapping the product specs to the item-specifics of the eBay category.

Providing a detailed set of item specifics will create a complete set of structured data that allows the search engine to locate and filter products — improving the relevance of search results to what users are typing in their search queries.

Product dimensions

If applicable, include the dimensions of the item in the attributes. The product dimensions should specify the size of the actual product, not the packaging size.

Multi-packs and bundled products

Here are details to remember when creating the attribute list for a multi-pack or manufacturer-created bundle:

  • The attributes for a bundled product should include the product identifier(s) assigned by the manufacturer to the bundle.

  • Attributes for the bundled product should use the manufacturer’s GTIN number for the bundle. Don’t use the GTIN of the base product or any products within the bundle.

  • The attributes for a multi-pack must include the product identifier(s) assigned to the multi-pack by the manufacturer.

  • The attributes of a multi-pack must specify the GTIN of the specific multi-pack being described.

Product variants

Another tip is to include product variants on one page instead of multiple. We’ve seen that eBay is starting to group products by GTIN, which will be increasingly more important in your setup.

Managing Your Product Listings

Once you’ve decided to jump into the eBay marketplace, how should you manage your product listings?

You could use spreadsheets if you only have a half-dozen items listed, like eBay Ellen. However, if you have hundreds, thousands or even millions of products, a spreadsheet will be too complicated, unwieldy and inadequate. 

A feed management platform can make your listings much more manageable. If your products are listed on an ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, feed management platforms can take the existing product feed, put it into the correct format and export it to eBay.

Managing Your eBay Orders

It’s critical that you manage your orders carefully and monitor your inventory. You never want to be in a position where you list out-of-stock or sold items on your site. 

With feed management platforms, orders are updated and synced to your online store. It’s essential to keep everything in sync with the shortest lag times possible, especially if you have a low inventory of an item selling across multiple marketplaces.

Managing Payouts

After an order has been placed and a transaction has been completed, it is critical to make sure that the most crucial step occurs — that you get paid.

The payout process includes three steps:

  • Sale Completed: Once the buyer has been paid, funds will appear in the Seller Hub. From here, you will complete the shipping process.

  • Funds Available: eBay will make funds available within two days of the buyer’s agreement.

  • Payout Initiated: Here, the payout finally occurs. You can choose to send available funds to your checking account based on your preferred payout schedule.

To receive your funds, ensure this process is completed within a week and the money has reached your bank account. If not, you’ll want to contact eBay as soon as possible.

eBay Best Practices

The best practices listed here are much the same as best practices you should follow on any marketplace and on your ecommerce site. However, they are vital on eBay, as you’ll need to differentiate yourself from competitors also selling on the channel.

Here are some general tips, with more information to follow:

  • Ship within the expected timeframe.

  • Process your orders promptly.

  • Respond to customer questions promptly.

  • Ensure that you follow the refund and return policy listed on eBay.

High-quality photography.

High-resolution photos displayed against a plain white background can help to make the products stand out. Ensure the lighting is sufficient to feature the item and its relevant details.

Try taking shots of the product from different angles, and get some close-up shots as well to highlight details. Don’t use props — that will only distract your shopper.

Fast, low-cost shipping.

Cost and speed are top of mind for eBay buyers. Over the years, buyers’ expectations have increased, and they are more frequently looking for free shipping options.

In fact, 71% of products purchased through eBay's Global Shipping Program are shipped for free. Offering competitive shipping costs is one of the best ways to appeal to more buyers and increase your chances of a sale.

Free returns.

eBay offers five different return policy options for you to choose from:

  • No returns accepted.

  • 30-day buyer-paid returns.

  • 30-day free returns.

  • 60-day buyer-paid returns.

  • 60-day free returns.

Of course, the most attractive return policy for eBay buyers will always be free returns.

Strong customer service.

The reviews are in — literally and figuratively. It's one thing to gain customers, and it's another to keep them coming back. 

The best way to increase customer retention, receive positive feedback and avoid bad eBay reviews is to maintain a strong standing with your customers through exemplary customer service.

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The Final Word

To maximize your ecommerce store’s potential on eBay, you have to do the research, put in the work, and be patient.

There is nothing quite like eBay, which offers diversity and breadth of unique products — giving sellers the opportunity to sell products you wouldn’t see in any other marketplace.

With the help of an ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, you can expand your reach into selling even more on eBay through features such as automated product updates and centralized inventory management.

Until now, selling on eBay has often been a manual, expensive process. With BigCommerce, connect to eBay in minutes.

FAQs About Selling on eBay for Beginners.

How much does it really cost to sell on eBay?

As explained above, while creating a business or personal eBay account is free, you may eventually encounter additional costs when listing products — especially if you’re a larger business that sells more than 250 listings a month.

These fees include:

  • Insertion fees.

  • Final value fees.

  • Payment processing fees.

Is eBay selling still profitable?

While eBay may no longer be the dominant online reseller with the likes of Amazon emerging as a competitor, there is still significant room for profit. 

In fact, eBay’s net revenue has increased by 50% since 2013 to more than $5 billion. By understanding how to sell on eBay, sellers can take advantage of the platform’s opportunities.

Do I need an eBay Store to sell on eBay?

No, you do not need an eBay Store subscription to sell on eBay, especially if you are a smaller, casual seller. 

However, subscribing to eBay Store can provide you with discounted fees and additional free listings per month — not to mention added tools like the eBay Seller Hub to manage and promote listings. The eBay Store is recommended for larger businesses operating on the platform.

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