Open Thread: Your single top tip for new ecommerce merchants

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European Eagle Owl Portrait - London Bridge, London, England - Friday 7th September 2007

There are some amazingly experienced ecommerce merchants reading TameBay: some comment, most don’t. So for a bit of fun while half the world’s on holiday, I thought we’d pass on some of that wisdom. What’s your top tip for new ecommerce merchants – on-eBay or off?

I get asked this quite a lot, and have said various different things over the years, but my one, practical *you must do this* thing is this:

put a returns address on everything you send out.

And you? The rule is, you get one top tip per commenter, so make it a good one 😉

Creative Commons License photo credit: law_keven

50 Responses

  1. believe only half of what you see, and nothing you read

    and a question what happens to all those missing packages
    we put a return address on everything and yet nothing is returned ?

  2. Stop thinking like a seller … think like a buyer!

    How many people do I visit who describe an item with every single technical piece of jargon they can fit in a title and forget what their buyers will actually be searching for? Loads!

    People, if it’s a light, call it a light or you’ll never get your item found.

    If someone wants to buy a light they will search for a light. Buyers are not always so technically minded as you are about your product.

    So ‘Think like a buyer’ from a buyer’s point of view, this goes for many parts of your business 🙂

  3. Decide whether you’re running a business or a hobby.

    Hobbies take up your time and cost you money.
    Businesses take up your time and give you money.

    Most businesses are part hobby: they have bits which make no money.

    Track and account for your time and every last penny or you simply won’t know which ideas work and which do not: it’s easy to be really really busy and not make much.

  4. Costs will kill you if you don’t understand them. Lots of cash coming in means nothing if lots of cash is going out.

    Know the cost of everything!
    What is the product cost and delivery costs plus VAT?
    What are your fees, commissions, post and packing charges?
    Know that if you sell a product at XX then your profit will be YY by using Spreadsheets.
    High Turnover doesn’t always mean High profit
    Have a business plan

    PS – Wish I’d followed this advice before I started, might have saved a fortune.

  5. Try to be one step ahead.

    Not just stockwise but also dispute/resolution wise.

    Consider your options and make the best move for your business. It may mean you have to refund that impossible buyer but losing 1 sale may be a better option than getting a neg and having them badmouth your company all over ebay.

  6. My top tip would be ‘Do your research before buying’.

    Just because something is incredibly cheap, it doesn’t always mean you will be able to sell it at a profit. Either it may not be popular, or too many others are selling it at a silly price.

    Before you buy any stock, always check to see what profit you can make on it, first.

  7. Treat your suppiers like yyour partner.

    Let them love you, but always keep a spared one handy :>)

  8. Never listen to anyones business advice given to you on an internet forum.

    Always trust your instinct.

    Never give up.

    Be flexible.

    Swallow your pride.


    Be prepared to change everything to keep your business alive.

    Watch your cash flow.

    Watch your cash flow more.

    And most importantly, cross your fingers and toes!

  9. Answer questions/inquiries as fast as you can. Questions from buyers are invisible tests that can make a buyer feel like you’re attentive, aiming to please, and prepared to deliver a great experience.

  10. Watch what other sellers are doing. If they are successful try and do what they are doing right. If they are unsuccessful try not to do what they are doing wronge. Don’t drink indoors if your work from home.

  11. Answer emails swiftly “wow thanks for the fast response” etc is seen by us daily, engage with them and keep them online.

    As soon as you are done for the day/night put on an out of hours auto responder on your emails and let them know exactly what time you will reply to them.

  12. seriously !
    if you dont have the right product, at the right price ,in the right place
    all the above means nowt

  13. Perform occasional time/motion studies of all your order process/pick/pack/post procedures and see where you might be wasting valuable time.
    Those seconds shaved off every order really do add up.

  14. I keep getting foreign buyers e-mailing me questions in foreign when all my listings are in English.

  15. Do your homework! Having consulted more eBay businesses than I can remember, I can confidently approximately 70-80% of all issues could be solved by pre-empting, err, said issues are likely occur in the first place. Most of the good info is here @ TB!

  16. I really must get round to getting a website, had a look on old posts on Powersellers Forum, came up with EKM, Firepages and Tidyware, any recommendations ?

  17. Spend time on getting listings right first time with all the information required by any buyer and a top rate original photo.

  18. I have 3 tips:
    1) Be Nice. Would you rather buy from the guy who “yells” at you and is rude or impolite? Or the one who smiles, even if there are problems, and does his utmost to make you happy? Customer service can’t be underestimated.

    2) KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid 😉 Make it as easy and painless as possible for a customer to buy from you. Buyers have limited patience and won’t put up with having to jump through hoops to buy your wares.

    3) Focus. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Pick one thing and do it well. Later, once you’ve mastered the art of online retail, you can expand into other areas.


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