Guest Post: Life after eBay

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Many eBay sellers are diversifying to other marketplaces and also selling from their own websites. Here Gill James from Foilplay (who also blogs here) offers her perspectives on going it alone and establishing an independent ecommerce website:

This month I’m feeling mostly relief, tinged with a bit of sadness. After trading on eBay pretty much continuously over the last five years, it’s time now to move on and concentrate on the website side of my business. I don’t want to burn any bridges, there may well be a place for eBay in my sales channel portfolio at some point in the future, but right now I need a break from the constant change – of which, much more to come, as we heard from eBay Analyst Day last week.

One of the great things about eBay is the ease and speed with which it is possible to establish and build up a new business. Websites can take much longer to establish, a much more ‘slow burn’ process, but hang on in there, and it can be well worth your while in the end.

Building a website can be dispiriting in the early stages, a lot of work may have to go in before you see any return, and it can be tempting to give up at that stage. Don’t do it! The great thing about a website is that you lay a foundation and then build on it incrementally. The initial work may be harder, but ongoing maintenance is much easier – for example, you don’t have keep relisting everything every 30 days. Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate actual progress made day by day or week by week – but when you start to look back year on year, you can really see how far you’ve come.

There are many ways to improve the profile of your website and drive traffic to it: flyers with orders; permissible links from other sales channels; mailing list; social networking; SEO; ad words; other forms of advertising and more. Some of these are very simple and straightforward, others take more work. I’m not an expert on any of this, there is still plenty of room for improvement on my own website and plenty on this list that I need to get stuck into. Again my message is, just get started!

Of course there is no reason why you can’t run a successful website alongside eBay, Amazon and/or any other sales channels of your choice. Personally, I’m happy as a sole trader and given the finite number of hours in a day, the decision to take a break from eBay and concentrate on the website right now is the right one for me.

I know too (before you tell me so, North!) that websites may not suit all market sectors and business models. I operate in a sector with a lot of repeat business, which has been a big help in growing my site.

If you’re at the stage where you are thinking about setting up your own website, I hope this has encouraged you to just take that first step. If you have the patience to see it through in the long run, your efforts may be well rewarded.

30 Responses

  1. Great post – thanks Gill!

    The great thing about a website is that you lay a foundation and then build on it incrementally. … just get started
    Spot on.

  2. Good for you.

    I’m looking to open my own website for very much the same reasons. Been selling for 5 years and I’ve been trading full time for six months and business is good, but I think I’ve gone as far as I can with ebay, and have just about had enough of constant changes and a complete lack of support. Not going to leave ebay, but intent to seriously reduce my presence and fees. Having a hard time picking the best ecommerce host at the moment. Any ideas or thoughts would be welcome.

    Good luck to you.

  3. Good luck Gill you deserve it.

    eBay is still a great product for us despite all the repititous BS you have to endure, however, I have zero loyality towards eBay, as soon as I can ditch the dirt I will.

    Hope it all works out for you.

  4. our website has been slow, but we know its because we struggle to find enough hours in the day to give it the attention it deserves. ebay and amazon are doing well for us and take up all our time, you have given me some inspiration not to throw in the towel on the website quite yet!

  5. Thanks for the kind comments, folks 🙂

    Andrew – one of the things that I found so daunting before I set up my website was the vast array of choice available. In the end my head was spinning – then I looked at the site of someone else I knew via the PS board and her site was so simple and straightforward, which I found refreshing. So I asked her to put me in touch with her web designer & he built a similar site for me (for around the same initial amount that I was then paying for a month’s eBay fees).

    When choosing what’s best for you, I think it’s important to weigh up how much control you need to have over the process vs how much time in practice you would have to implement stuff if doing it yourself. If I had decided to build my site myself, I may have got there eventually, but more likely it would still be a twinkle in my eye now! I’ve heard people recommend Firepages and Whirly’s mate Tidy, who build websites, I’ve also heard plenty of people recommend EKM for their off the shelf type websites too.

    Probably the most important thing though is to make a start and get something up and running – I would say that it is far better to have a slightly ‘rough and ready’ site that is live and starting to earn you money than to take forever to launch a much more polished site.

  6. I’m a bit like Kat & Jen, I don’t spend as much time on my website as I should, but there are many things that can fall into that category for me. But the £75 per year it costs for mine it sure does rake in the sales for me even without the time spent.

    I takes about 1 minute to list a new item on my website and ebay takes an age for a new listing that is way too much longer than I would like.

    All the best Gill 😉

  7. If you want an all in one solution for Website/ebay/amazon/play/ (unlimited different portals you ) then there is a company called Giant systems in Leeds who can supply this for you, its not cheap to set up but It was the best investment I ever made:

    The Garden Centre provides a quick and easy way of buying garden furniture online. We built Garden Centre a bespoke website using our Cascade platform, allowing the display of their products in a stylish and accessible way. The site is attractive and simple to use, with large pictures of the products on offer throughout.

    In addition, Casade’s back office system allows a hundreds of products to be published on Amazon Seller Central and eBay. All listings, including those published on the Garden Centre website are pulled from a single inventory in Cascade automatically, generating bulk listings at the touch of a button. This saves time, which in turn keeps the profits margins up!

    Also, listings on Amazon are subject to a sophisticated re-pricing feature (according to personally defined rules). Consequently, this gives The Garden Centre a competitive edge over competition, which together with the new site will encourage customers to buy furniture in a trouble free fashion. In return this will promote customer satisfaction, brand awareness and customer loyalty.

  8. I always say to eBay sellers who wish for their own ecommerce site is to ‘google’ for the products they are selling, using keywords a buyer would use, then look at the ecommerce sites on page 1 of the results, as those will be your competitors!

    Don’t be put off by the slickness of some of the competitive sites, but use them for ideas to develop your own site around – and they didn’t get to page 1 overnight!

  9. Great post Jill, we’re in the same boat as you and are seriously considering what ebay does for us.
    Our website has been running since December and it has already paid for the development costs (That was the christmas rush though!)
    Since then it has slowly been increasing week on week.

    I think the only thing to be careful of when choosing a webhost is to think what facilities you may want in the future and plan ahead a bit. Theres nothing worse than having a development plan and then finding the things you wanted to add at later stages cant be added!

  10. GREAT POST Jill we have just opened our webshop and your post gives us great hope for the future

    holding onto ebay amazon as well to spread our sales about, good post good food for thought

    suzy & andy MAX-MPH

  11. Great post. Gill. I agree with just about everything you have written. Ebay is a great place to start. You learn so much. You can make contact with other sellers and seek advice, you can pop fliers in your parcels, but a web site is so much easier and more profitable once it is up and running.

  12. Websites can take much longer to establish, a much more ‘slow burn’ process, but hang on in there, and it can be well worth your while in the end.

    Yep, absolutely!

    If you can’t bear the pain in the beginning, you will NEVER know how sweet it is in the end.

  13. Websites can be far better than eBay but you have to be careful not the burn your bidges. It can take years to get a website showing in Google naturally and Googles PPC is great if your competition isnt too string. We spend a hell off alot a month of getting our site ‘out there’…. Then again I’d hate to think how much we spend on eBay! lol

  14. It really shouldn’t take years to get even an ecommerce site to show up in Google. If it does, you are doing something seriously wrong (or more likely, not doing enough right).

  15. I think alot depends on your industry…
    Our is very competative (health supplements) and closely related to the less scrupulous ‘items’ you probably recieve it your spam folder every day. These sites will use any ‘black hat’ technique going to get good results

  16. To appear on page one for the most important keywords/phrases etc isn’t so much down to time but “matched requests” by searchers.

    Everytime someone searches for something using Google, and that person clicks on a link, Google match the search phrase/word with the link clicked on. It then scores the page based against the keyword/phrase and related content and watches for a “bounce back”.

    If the visitor simply clicks the back button then Google will attach a negative or neutral score for that phrase and that specific website/webpage.

    To try and increase your natural placement within Google, I would suggest the following:

    Make sure specific key pages are content heavy, with an immediate and obvious “call to action”. For example if most visits from Google are hitting your index page, make sure that there is something that prompts the visitor to click deeper into your site. This will eliminate the “bounce back” effect.

    Use Googles “webmaster tools” to see what keywords/phrases people are using to find your page and make sure that the content matches those requests.

  17. #26 I think there are VERY different views as to what “the” most competitive area on the internet is. I very much doubt you have a website that fits my view of that area… 😉


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