When ebay first launched in 1995 it was something of a revolution. An online marketplace where consumer to consumer and business to consumer sales could take place opened up a lot of opportunities. Now, thanks to the success of the site you can sell anything via ebay – all you need is someone who wants to buy it. And, as a result, ebay now sees around 2 billion transactions per day. Whether you’re a regular ebay seller making a living out of the site, or you use it occasionally to get rid of old clothes or electronics, it’s a great way to generate cash. However, the way that you use ebay is important – this not only dictates how successful you’ll be in getting a great price but also how to protect yourself from losing out to scammers.
Protecting yourself on eBay
The London Metropolitan Police investigate thousands of ebay related crimes every year. Most are focused on unscrupulous sellers looking to rip off consumers but there are issues for those who are selling too. From buyers who claim not to have received an item, to the opportunities for scammers looking to steal your personal details it’s important to protect yourself when using this online auction site.
Get to know the ebay seller protection policy and get familiar with the ebay resolution process. Buyers use the resolution process if they believe the item is not as described or hasn’t been received but sellers can contest it. You can also appeal an ebay Money Back Guarantee decision if you do it within the correct time limit (30 days) – get to know the rules now before you need them.
Use PayPal for all transactions – PayPal also has a seller protection policy so you’re doubly covered.
Make sure you post items within the stated handling time and send via a postal method where you can get proof of delivery. If you have that then any disputes raised by a buyer are likely to be decided in your favour.
Ensure what you’re selling is authentic. If a buyer can prove it’s a fake then you won’t get the item back and you’ll still have to issue a refund.
Don’t click on links in messages from buyers that don’t seem genuine and avoid giving away personal information.
Stick to the sales structure provided by the website – don’t give a buyer your bank details for payments and don’t agree to a cash payment and in-person hand over of the item.
Getting the best prices
Listing items on ebay provides no guarantee that you will find the right buyer for them. You need to build a credible profile and bear in mind a few key marketing principles too. The best place to start selling with ebay is to buy. You’ll not only get to grips with the buyer experience but you’ll start to build an authentic profile with good ratings, which will establish trust with buyers. While you’re going through the buying phase – whether it’s old books or bottled water – look at how items are marketed, what kind of photos are used and the language other sellers employ to convince people to make a purchase.
Bear in mind that ebay charges a variety of fees to sell via its site. You can list 20 items for free every month but you still pay a 10% fee (the ‘final value fee’) of each one sold. Outside of the 20 free items the insertion fee is 35p per item. Then there are the PayPal fees to take into account – 3.4% per sale, plus 20p per transactions.
Tips for creating your listings:
Using the right words is key. You need to be accurate in your descriptions, including any brand names, colours, sizes and exact descriptions (e.g. ‘Hobbs 80% wool sweater,’ as opposed to ‘top’). When buyers search, ebay uses only the item title so if you want to get to the top of the search results make sure your key words are there.
Spelling mistakes will lose you opportunities. They suggest carelessness that is off-putting for buyers.
Some keywords are more effective than others. E.g. ‘authentic’ tends to get more conversions than ‘genuine.’
Give a full description. Items described in detail sell better.
Photos are essential. Clear images on plain backgrounds work well – you can list up to 12 for free so capture your item from every angle.
Tips for selling your items
If you’re using the auction method then browse other similar items and see what they sold for. Go for a modest opening price – London University researchers found that those auctions with a lower opening price tend to encourage more bidding.
Set your auction to close on a Sunday – this is when ebay is at its busiest.
Opt for a 10-day auction to allow for the most possible bids.
Consider a ‘Buy It Now’ price – this should be 30% higher than the auction price and you can remove it at any time. For items likely to be popular it’s an opportunity to make more money by cashing in on the desire not to miss out.
Allow a Best Offer. If you don’t have a specific price in mind then buyers can make you a best offer that’s good for 48 hours.
For ebay sellers, the most important tip of all is transparency. If there’s a problem with the item, include it in the description; if you can’t actually get it to the post office, make delivery by collection only. Problems like that are not insurmountable but not being truthful with buyers can end up being incredibly costly in the long run.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley