Being adept as an online reseller is no longer a suggestion, but a requirement. A great platform to conduct ecommerce is eBay, whose Chelsea Walsh joins us to provide retailer tips for online selling, plus much more.
There is no question the retail landscape has changed forever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One great way MI retailers have adjusted their business plans is by dramatically boosting their online ecommerce efforts, with eBay being an excellent place to do so. Chelsea Walsh, senior category manager, media and musical instruments, for eBay, provides tips for MI retailers to boost online sales and describes the company’s charitable efforts, plus much more.
The Music & Sound Retailer: Please tell us about yourself, your background, how long you have been at eBay and why you originally joined the company?
Chelsea Walsh: My love for music developed very early in my childhood. I grew up in a family with seven siblings, and my parents bravely embarked on countless summer road trips using music as a way to keep the peace, so my passion for music — as well as my passion for travel — likely came from these adventures. In my adult years, I have continued to pursue music and travel, visiting 27 countries in the last 10 years with my husband.
Often, the fondest memories of our travels are the music we experienced in each country. I have worked at eBay for 17 years, joining while I was still in college in our customer service team and quickly transitioning into various roles in our account management team. From there, I moved into my role in category management and have been doing that for the past five years. When I joined eBay, I was excited to be part of a company that was enabling commerce for small business in a revolutionary way. Seventeen years later, that is still one of the things I’m most excited about when I come to work every day.
The Retailer: How have you personally changed your personal shopping habits during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Walsh: Having worked at eBay for so long, I was already a seasoned online shopper before COVID-19 — perhaps too seasoned given the number of packages that arrive at my house each week. With shelter-in-place orders enacted, I tried to limit my trips to stores and did find myself shopping for essential items like groceries and health and beauty items online. And like many people around the world, I have been purchasing more at-home entertainment items. My small vinyl collection has grown quite a bit in the past few months.
The Retailer: During these times, it is perhaps more important than ever for MI retailers to have a strong online presence, such as the one eBay provides. Can you provide some tips for retailers, both beginner and advanced, on how to improve their online presence and make more sales on eBay?
Walsh: Understanding the challenges that so many businesses were facing in the initial months, eBay launched its “Up & Running” program that focused specifically on retailers without an online presence. In order to keep these businesses running, and to connect them with new customers online, eBay committed $100 million to cover their selling fees and resources to get started. We have welcomed tens of thousands of new businesses onto the platform, connecting them to a community of small businesses offering to help.
Once set up on eBay, my advice to sellers would be to list as quickly as possible, even if it’s just a few items, to try it out and kickstart that additional flow of income. Of course, considerations like taking high-quality images, pricing it right, and including the right product descriptors are all important as well. But, we help sellers every step of the way, and the power of eBay is that each seller can configure their online presence to best complement their business needs.
In a time like this, eBay is an invaluable, low-risk tool for retailers to expand their online footprint. From small businesses that have never before sold online to those that have a web presence but want to reach more customers, any entrepreneur can start listing and selling right away. eBay reaches more than 174 million active buyers worldwide, so retailers using the marketplace are truly able to reach a global audience.
The Retailer: Have you seen a strong increase of music instrument sales during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, can you tell us what types of instruments have been good sellers and why that may be the case?
Walsh: eBay has long been a destination for music enthusiasts. We sell a musical instrument or piece of gear every five seconds on an average day. But during the pandemic, we have seen a definite spike, since most people began spending time at home. In the overall category, we saw a nearly 35-percent increase in sales from March to April when most stay-at-home guidance was issued, with guitars and basses, and DJ equipment seeing the steepest increases. In fact, sales for DJ equipment have increased 60 percent year over year, which is the biggest increase, even over our more traditional instrument categories.
It’s evident that finally learning to play an instrument or reinvigorating an old hobby have become common pastimes for people these days. I attribute the increase in sales on eBay to the fact that people are generally buying more online, including items like instruments, and they’re moving beyond preconceptions about where and from whom they buy. They don’t have to settle for what is available from two or three major retailers; they can instead find the exact instrument they’ve been looking for from a trusted eBay seller.
The Retailer: Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will forever alter the retail landscape? If so, what can MI retailers do to ensure their eBay presence is strong and they change with changing times post-COVID-19?
Walsh: When life returns to normal after the pandemic, I think we will see a sustained change in the way consumers and businesses approach retail. A lot of people who may previously have shied away from purchasing certain items online, or perhaps frequently bought from the same big-box retailers, have realized they can find just about anything on the internet. With eBay, not only can they find that very thing they’re looking for, but they can also choose to shop small and feel good that they’re supporting the nation’s Main Street music shops.
To take advantage of this change, I would encourage MI retailers to bake an eBay presence into their broader business strategy. There are countless sellers that have seen success with this, but I like to highlight Rocky Schiano and his store Streetsounds NYC. Rocky opened his business in 1988 and relies on eBay in addition to his own website to maximize his reach and customer base. Like I mentioned before, there isn’t really a downside to establishing and maintaining an eBay store because it complements other sales avenues.
The Retailer: eBay has been heavily involved in many charitable efforts. Can you tell us about some of those efforts, with a specific focus on any music-related charities?
Walsh: Purpose is at the core of our business, and it is important that we have a positive impact, especially on sellers during challenging times. As such, the eBay Foundation announced a $15 million grant investment in organizations supporting small businesses and COVID-19 relief efforts, including Alice, the Opportunity Fund, Small Business Majority, and Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Regional Response Fund and Regional Nonprofit Emergency Fund. We also announced in March that we would match up to $1 million in funds donated by sellers to Feeding America, Direct Relief and Opportunity Fund. Relating more specifically to music, we worked with Corey Taylor of Slipknot to auction guitars from his personal collection, and we ultimately raised more than $150,000 with eBay’s match to support Feeding America.
Beyond COVID-19, eBay has an established track record partnering with music-industry performers and organizations to help raise funds for charity. In June, eBay announced a donation of more than $1.3 million, split between the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Equal Justice Initiative, in an effort to take action against systemic racism and injustice. This includes proceeds from “Blackout Tuesday” (June 2), during which we donated all fees collected from items sold in the music categories. Further, since 2002, eBay for Charity has partnered with the GRAMMY awards show on an auction that includes exclusive items and experiences from GRAMMY award winners and nominees. This year, we raised more than $85,000 to support MusiCares and the GRAMMY museum to aid the advancement of music learning and appreciation, as well as the music artists themselves that are in need.
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