Love it or hate it, eBay has become a formidable competitor to music retailers. Although originally intended for individuals to clear out their attics, eBay has evolved to become one of the most popular vehicles for selling musical instruments and accessories across the world.

The statistics validate eBay’s popularity, and the number of active registered users on eBay for the third quarter of 2014 reached 152.3 million. That is up from 140 million active users at the end of 2013. According to statista.com, the ”Musical Instruments” category ranks at #18, just ahead of “Coins and Stamps” and trailing “Books, Movies and Music.”

In its short history, eBay has established itself as a legitimate marketplace for all kinds of goods. Buying and selling using Internet auctions has become a way of life for many individuals and businesses. Some eBay sellers, however, do not get the best results from their auctions because many continually make costly errors in their listings. Whether you’re new to eBay or a seasoned veteran, the nine tips that follow will identify the most common seller mistakes and effective ways to fix them.

Not treating eBay selling like a business.
Too many retailers treat eBay like an online rummage sale. They tend to think of it as a dumping ground for old, outdated merchandise. Many approach eBay with a “start slow and grow” attitude, avoiding the mindset of selling on eBay as a business. This attitude puts the cart before the horse and, usually, generates lackluster results and limits your success. In order to make good money on eBay, you will need to think of it as a business from the start. Treat your online selling with the same determination as you do your brick-and-mortar sales. Think of your eBay presence as a destination, just like adding another location.

Lack of descriptive text.
Although it is imperative to have as many images as possible to help influence shoppers, it’s more important to provide enough descriptive text to “romance” the buyer into taking action. A photo alone will not sell your item. You also need a concise, but complete, description. Put yourself in the position of your potential buyer and provide enough information, in terms of features and benefits, to make him or her feel secure in buying from you. There is a fine line between providing just enough information and too much. Remember: it’s quality, not quantity, that counts.

Poor-quality product images, or none at all.
A common mistake that has serious consequences is not providing decent product images. In some cases, sellers use only stock photos from the manufacturer or other online sources. This causes the item to underperform substantially, especially in auction-format listings. Buyers want to see that you’re actually selling the item they will receive. They need validation that you are providing accurate information and rock-solid proof of the item’s condition.

Listing your item in the wrong category.
Most eBay shoppers look for items based on the categories in which they are most interested. A poor category choice can make it much more difficult to sell your product. If you cannot decide on a single category for your item—or if it is equally at home in two different places—pay a little extra and list it in both.

Setting starting bid or fixed prices too high and/or setting a reserve price.
If your items and listings are in good shape, they will sell for something approximating a fair market value…unless you kill interest with a high starting bid price, a high fixed price or a reserve price. On eBay, reserve-free auction items that start at $1.00 earn more bids and finish at higher prices than identical auctions with “stop loss” starting bids or reserve prices.
Too many sellers are so unwilling to trust the market that they set either a bid/sale price that’s far too high or a bid-killing reserve price…in all cases, ultimately leaving money on the table that they otherwise would have earned. Additionally, new sellers of used items tend to overestimate the value of their item. Too many new sellers of used items include language in their listing that’s similar to this: “Costs $XX.XX when new! Our loss is your gain!” Buyers know that a used item is worth a fraction of what it was worth when new, no matter how high the original value. Of course, there are certain exceptions for vintage gear.
Let the proven concept of online auctions work for you and start your bidding at $1.00, without a reserve price, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Charging too much for shipping.
Although it’s tempting to increase your shipping costs to give the illusion of a lower selling price, this strategy only serves to hurt you in the long run. First, cost-conscious consumers who sort their search results by price will see items sorted according to their total cost (including shipping), so making up the difference in shipping tends to lead to decreased sales among price-conscious buyers. Second, eBay shoppers increasingly seek out—and are willing to pay more for—“free shipping” listings, and eBay’s best match system tends to promote listings that offer it to higher search-result placement. Perhaps the most important reason of all is that eBay shoppers are oversensitive about shipping costs and might quickly grade you with a lower seller rating merely because of shipping costs. Keep racking those up and you’ll have a very difficult time gaining any momentum selling on eBay.

Not keeping your integrity intact.
A common mistake when you’re starting out selling on eBay is to create fictitious traffic and interest in your auction items. Some sellers actually create additional profiles and bid on their own auctions in order to bump up the selling prices of their items. Others encourage their friends and family to do the same. In either case, this is simply wrong and you will be in violation of the rules. eBay calls this shill bidding and it is not only against their rules, but also against the law. This practice is unfair to other buyers and opens the door to other possible legal issues.

Not knowing your seller fees and how much it costs to participate.
A common complaint I hear about eBay centers on the costs incurred with listing and selling items. It’s paramount that sellers know exactly what they will be charged for listing items and what will be deducted when items are sold. The same holds true for PayPal fees, which are charged in addition to eBay fees.
Too many sellers forget to run the numbers and price their products accordingly to make a profit after these fees are deducted. Avoid these mistakes by using eBay’s fee calculators and basic accounting techniques to keep careful tabs on and control fees so that you know whether all that selling is actually contributing to your bottom line.
Not using all available tools to grow and prosper.
Too many new and uninformed sellers waste their time and inadvertently increase their selling inefficiency through guesswork. They enable their competitors to list more competitive items and make more sales, in less time, and with better margins, product turns and repeat business. Don’t let this happen to your business, particularly when so many free and inexpensive tools are available to you. eBay provides extensive help to sellers with services designed to improve efficiency and increase your bottom line. YouTube offers hundreds of videos that offer eBay selling and marketing tips, too!
Those aren’t all the mistakes that sellers make…just some of the most common. All are easy to avoid, particularly once you understand the impact they can have on your business, bottom line and growth potential.

David Hall is Vice President – Sales & Marketing for Cutting-Edge Solutions. Their e-commerce products, The Generator and Pro-Active Websites, are utilized by leading vendors and retailers within the music products industry. Contact him at david@pro-ac tivewebsites.com.

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