Archive for the ‘ebay’ Tag

My Best Tips for Selling and Buying Online

I’ve been buying, selling, and trading online for over a decade, making me a sort of Galapagos Tortoise of the interwebz–around forever and haven’t changed much.  I was even buying and selling online when ebay still had “What’s that?” status, mostly via e-mail mailing lists and forums.  I bought and sold, and sometimes traded, collectible items; I joined the ebay brigade in 1999, mostly for buying purposes but to occasionally sell a few things and make some pocket cash.

Nowadays, online sales have become almost more de rigeur than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and while most of us have now bought something online at one point or another (or maybe regularly do so), you may not have sold online, or you may still be new to the process.

I’m still a pretty new Etsy seller, but I’ve got years of mild-to-moderate ebay experience, plus my “direct sell” experiences, so here are the most important things I have learned from both ends of the online transaction:

Buying Online:  Read Everything!

The #1 mistake I’ve made as a buyer is being too quick to push that “buy” button without checking everything out first.  I have at times paid far too much for shipping, bought items of the wrong size, given money to questionable sellers, and–naturally–ended up with items I neither liked nor could get rid of.  So read, read, read!

It’s often true that pictures are outright misleading, particularly when it comes to ebay and the like, so read every smidgen of print in the seller’s description and policies, because if you have to file a complaint, it’s the print that will count, not the pictures.

Here are a few details that you should be sure to check if buying on ebay:

Location.  If the seller doesn’t give a specific city, then expect an overseas seller.

Feedback.  Even if the rating isn’t 100%, check it out–sometimes the negative feedback is old, or unjustified.  Likewise, some people give positive ratings but then slip a complaint into the comments, which may prove useful to you.  So skim through at least the feedback for the past few weeks or months.

Shipping cost.  I always look for someone with an actual cost stated; if they say it must be calculated, then send a message asking for a firm quote.  Some ebay sellers try to make a good chunk of their profit from shipping, though most are honest…shipping prices are just really expensive!

And here are a few things people sometimes overlook when buying from my Etsy shop:

Size.  I’m stunned by how many people ask for a resize only after I’ve specifically said, “Thanks for your payment!  I’ll ship your item tomorrow–be sure to let me know if you need it resized!”  Yeah, I state the size in every listing, but folks forget to read all of it, I would presume.  With jewelry and with many other handmade items, size is crucial, so read for size, and if it’s not listed, ask!

Sales and Promotions.  Etsy sellers often have sales information on their announcements (shop front) page, so if you click directly to an item and decide to buy it, you might miss the info.  Be sure to check the announcements on the front page before you buy stuff from Etsy sellers–there may be a code you can enter for a discount!  Also check and see if they have a “Sale” or “Clearance” section in their shop.

Customization.  In the same vein as re-sizing, I think some people simply don’t think to say, “Hey, I like that style but hate pink–what other colors do you have?” or “Can you make that in a bracelet instead of an anklet?”  Most Etsy sellers are thrilled to do custom work, so don’t be shy–or you’ll never get what you really want!

Selling Online:  The Sale is in the Details

Now, don’t assume that because I’ve just said “buyers don’t read descriptions!” that you can get by with vague descriptions.  This is my number one pet-peeve as a buyer on Etsy, and the one thing that will send me fleeing an ebay item quicker than if it were a grumpy skunk.  Even if it’s obvious from the picture that it’s a “blue crocheted scarf,” please state that in the description (for search engines as well as the buyer’s sanity).  Consider that not every picture looks the same on every computer (particularly where colors are concerned); consider also that again, if something goes wrong (for example, your buyer swears that the shirt looked bigger in the picture), you will be able to point to your text as the definitive source of firm information on which he/she should rely/should have relied.

So please:  Put the size.  Put the color.  Put materials.  Put textures.  Put every detail into the description and don’t leave it to me to figure it out for myself.

For both Sellers and Buyers:  COMMUNICATE!

Sorry to shout, but this is really important.  My #1 pet peeve with buyers on Etsy is when they register with Etsy and apparently use an e-mail address that they never actually check; additionally, many new Etsy buyers are unaware of the Conversations feature, or perhaps unsure how to use it.  Thus, it becomes a tooth-gnasher if I need to get in touch with a buyer and can’t.  It delays you getting your item, as well, so please, please, please:  Leave the seller with a way to realistically contact you in case something goes wrong.

Likewise, incommunicado sellers are equally frustrating.  If you submit a question on ebay, it tells you to expect an answer “within 48 hours,” which is patently ridiculous.  If you’re trying to sell an item for a fair price, you simply must answer questions more quickly than that.  I try to have a maximum of 24-hour turnaround on questions, but that’s an outside figure; most of my questions are answered within an hour or two of asking, unless of course you’re on the other side of the earth and I’m asleep at the time.  The same goes for Convos on Etsy or e-mails from Etsy buyers.  Delaying your answers makes you seem either unprofessional or unfriendly, neither of which is likely to bring you repeat customers.

I think things like “pay for your items quickly” and “don’t mislead about what you sell” should pretty much go without saying, so I’ll close today’s tipblog and promise you an even better one next time.  Comments, anecdotes, advice, pocket protectors and Michael’s coupons welcome; post here or e-mail to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.

Until next time, dear reader!

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A Rocky Start, Blog #4: Choosing a Home for the Particles

Confession:  Three months ago, I had no idea what Etsy was.

I’d never even heard the name.

I’m not even sure how I first learned of it, but after I figured out what Etsy was, I got very excited.  Not only was this a potential place to sell my wares, but it was the coolest shopping place I’d been in since…since…since…well, it may just be the very coolest shopping site I’ve ever been to.  I wish I had some (any!) disposable income at the moment, for I have a very strong inkling I’d be spending the vast majority of it on Etsy wares.

As a seller, it also excited me, as it was cheaper and prettier to look at than Ebay, and it had that nice “homespun” vibe that gives the place its oeuvre.  I just spent 12 years living in a place where “handmade” and “sustainable” were everyday bywords on the street, so this kind of atmosphere felt very homey to me.

Now, you may wonder why I was comparing Ebay to Etsy.  Well, as an online seller, I had only my direct-with-the-buyer experiences (from posting things to specific mailing lists) and my years of Ebay experience to go on.  I had actually seen a couple of wonderful artisans doing really well with bead-strung jewelry on Ebay.  Here are a couple of examples that made me believe I could do this myself:

http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Stone-Savvy – Another gemstone artisan like myself, but man, does she have a good eye for design!

http://shop.ebay.com/merchant/robintheraven – She has a very specific “brand” in her style, and it really works for her.  This is a good model for jewelry-makers, IMO.

You can check out a seller’s “completed listings” to see how well they’re selling.

Now, your first reaction may be:  “But they could get more money on Etsy!”

And that may be true–RobintheRaven sells her items under value, IMO, although as she builds a reputation, her auction prices may go up accordingly.  And Stone-Savvy was selling necklaces in the $30-40 range when I found her in January.  Then in February, a fluorite necklace of hers bid up to over $80–and the rest of her prices went up accordingly.  So Ebay isn’t all about “cheap,” depending on what you sell and how well you’ve established your reputation.

So why did I choose Etsy instead?

Truthfully, I haven’t given up on the notion that I may still sell some of my jewelry on Ebay or elsewhere someday, and I fully intend to have my own dot-com biz once my kids are both in school.  But for now, Etsy is my shop home.  Here are my main reasons:

Reason #1:  Price

Yes, Etsy is cheaper.  For startup businesses, this is important.  The cost is somewhat offset by the amount of time most sellers have to spend in marketing (especially the vastly oversaturated Etsy horde of jewelry artisans…alas!), so I suppose the question one has to ask oneself is whether it’s more important to save time or money.  Ebay sellers need little marketing to get their product found, although–and this is a big but–they also don’t get the typical “handmade item buyer” who will frequent Etsy.  Typical Ebay buyers simply don’t tend to value the special-ness of handmade items as much as Etsy buyers might.  Which kind of ties in with…

Reason #2:  Layout

The shop pages on Etsy are clean and attractive and easy to navigate.  To be sure, you have to design a good shop banner and work hard on taking good “Etsy-worthy” photographs, but those are good skills for a craft-business owner to have anyway, right?  Ebay is messy and cheap-looking no matter how nicely you design your store.  And honestly?  I didn’t go with Artfire because I find their layout confusing and artistically hodge-podgy.  Whoever works on Etsy’s layout and branding has a good thing goin’ on.

Reason #3:  Community

This is probably the #1 reason to sell Etsy for most folks:  It really is entering into a community.  Not only can you get e-mail newsletters on featured sellers, promotion, shop improvements, tech issues, and everything else you can imagine, but you have at your disposal an incredibly thriving forum community where a good number of the 100,000+ Etsy sellers communicate about various issues.  Like any online “family,” there are some disagreements from time to time, but generally, everyone maintains their civility, if not resorting to downright warmth.  If touchy-feely isn’t your cup of tea, you can still sell on Etsy and not take part in the community.  But for me, it reminds me I’m not dealing with a corporation, which is always a good thing.

Reason #4:  Ease

I still question whether Etsy is the right place for my items.  It seems that any jewelry that isn’t trendy or Victorian or steampunk by nature tends to struggle for sales.  (Sooner or later I hope to have enough knowledge to write a “Where to sell your wares” blog…but not yet.)  Which means, of course, that I have to go off-site to fish for people to come buy my items.  I won’t say Etsy is easy when it comes to marketing–far from it (this is a whole blog unto itself–watch for it).  But any new business that needs to grow into its potential requires marketing, and keeping my shop at Etsy is still easier than starting my own dot-com and having to deal with my own page layout, shopping cart, payments, and what-not.  That day will come, but for now, I’m just as glad to park my Particles at Etsy and let them handle the grunt work.  I’ll handle the beads.

Reason #5:  I just like the place!

It truly bothers me that Etsy isn’t a household name, that I had to start researching my startup business idea to even find it, and then only tangentially–not because it ranks high in Google searches or gets passed word-of-mouse on Digg or Facebook.  These truths disturb me greatly, not just because I want the benefit of selling on a high-profile site, but because everyone needs to know about this great shopping opportunity!  I have a feeling that, even if I choose to move my shop elsewhere in the future, I will remain an active member of the Etsy forums, and I will still link to Etsy sellers on Twitter and Facebook and my forums whenever I can.  It’s an initiative I believe in, and I hope that they can manage to keep abreast of their amazing growth that is sure to come.

I’ll add one more note about Artfire and other artisan-love sites:  I don’t know enough about them to fully appreciate them yet, but I’m sure that when I’m in the market to shop once more, I may even strike out beyond the borders of Etsy-land and take full advantage of all the opportunities that abound for those who love handmade.  In the meantime, I’ll be over at Etsy…come visit sometime.

E-mail me with questions, tales to share, LOLCats, or whatever strikes your fancy.  I’ll see you next time with Yet Another Exciting Episode of….JoolryNoob!