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The secret to success on eBay

eBay is about the customer, not about the seller.
eBay is about the customer, not about the seller.

As eBay sellers network on Facebook groups and the eBay Discussion Boards, a common question is, “What am I doing wrong? Why are my sales so slow?” While each seller’s business is unique and everyone’s situation is different, the answer is still the same – eBay isn’t about the seller, it is about the buyer. Sellers who focus on what eBay and customers want will succeed, sellers who fear being victimized by customers or who focus on how eBay policies might inconvenience them will not succeed.

eBay openly sets forth what it wants sellers to do to be rewarded in search and placing high in search is the cornerstone of eBay success. eBay recently published its Spring 2014 Seller Update and very clearly stated what is required to attain Top Rated Seller Status. It’s really simple. If sellers want to be Top Rated and be rewarded with higher search placement and a discount on fees, do what eBay asks. If sellers are not able to meet these standards or choose not to, they won’t be rewarded. Follow the rules and you will win, buck the system and you lose.

One bone of contention for eBay sellers is the return policy issue. What many sellers fail to understand is that a return policy isn’t about punishing sellers. It is about gaining buyer trust, something very important when it comes to online selling. eBay is trying to keep up with other online marketplaces like Amazon and Zappos where a return policy isn’t an option for sellers. A return policy exists to attract buyers and to increase buyer confidence.

Not many people will purchase something online; from a stranger they can’t see or talk to, without a safety net for returns. Sellers tend to take this personally, that eBay is forcing them to have a return and refund policy. Sellers should be smart and add this disclaimer to the listings, “Item must be returned in original condition.” Of course, a seller won’t honor a return of a pair of designer jeans sold new, then returned with beer stains and smelling like cigarette smoke. eBay isn’t asking for anything unreasonable here.

Sellers of certain types of items, like books and DVDs, are highly offended that a buyer might read a book or watch a DVD and return it. So what? The book can be sold again if returned. Sellers should take their ego out of the situation and think about how they can best accommodate the customer while doing all the things eBay suggests to improve search placement and customer service.

Another common comment during the return policy debate is, “I shouldn’t have to offer returns, I am not Wal-Mart.” No, eBay sellers are not Wal-Mart because buyers can’t physically walk into our stores and inspect the merchandise before buying like they can at Wal-Mart. eBay sellers are better than Wal-Mart because we can give personal one-on-one service, work harder to accommodate our customers, and do it all from home in our pajamas if we want to.

There are several steps you can take if you don’t agree with eBay’s suggestion for a refund policy.

1. If your product line is pre-disposed to returns (like formal wear), change your product line. There are unlimited choices for inventory – find something else to sell that isn’t as likely to be returned.

2. Write a clear and concise return policy stating the obvious - that items must be returned in original condition. The buyer needs to send the item back exactly the way they received it from the seller.

3. Find another site to sell on. No one is holding a gun to sellers’ heads forcing them to sell on eBay. And eBay isn't for everyone.

Although eBay provides the perfect venue for creating a convenient at-home business, more sellers need to understand that selling on eBay isn’t about the seller, it is about the buyer. As soon as sellers make their business about what eBay recommends and what the buyers want, and less about what the seller wants, an eBay business will become more successful. When you sell on eBay you are part of a team. And there is no “I” in team.

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