Amazon & Marketplaces > Merchant Voice

For success on Amazon and eBay, don’t follow others

For many ecommerce merchants, it is essential to list stock on the likes of eBay and Amazon. The potential sales volume from these sites is too large to ignore. However, we should not do it blindly. We should carefully consider what to offer and how to offer it.

On eBay, design a unique page

On eBay, for instance, we have the opportunity to design the page, within eBay’s parameters. eBay has image standards, for example, but the look and feel of our offer pages is up to us, the sellers. So many merchants either ignore this option, or design one themselves.

This is very likely a mistake. It would be much better to pay a professional to design a page that presents what you are trying to sell, properly links your offerings so you can potentially sell multiple items (rather than one), and builds your brand so that you can tempt buyers away from eBay, to your site.

The investment in a good designer can pay off many times over. A professional looking page will convert better than an amateurish one. Although I frequently counsel merchants to cut costs, upfront investment is not an area to scrimp on.

A well-designed page stands out. It provides shoppers with the confidence that your business is reputable and established. This can push up the page in search results and improve sales, even with slightly higher prices.

On Amazon, have a unique offer

On Amazon, there is no opportunity to improve product display. Our best bet to improve sales is to review what we list and make changes where appropriate. This is much harder than on eBay.

Amazon tends to group all offerings to a single catalogue item. Thus, price rules. It would clearly be better if merchants could have their own branded, custom item that is just as popular (or even more popular) than the common one. This is not easy.

For example, I buy expensive shoes. To protect them I also buy cedar shoe trees. On Amazon there are many offerings, all seemingly good quality. The prices range from $20 to $50. I consistently buy a brand of shoe trees that is not the cheapest but, instead, is $5 to $10 more. I do it for one reason: the offering includes a tiny cedar shoe horn. It is barely 4 inches long and is clearly carved from the same wood as the shoe tree.

It probably added less than a few cents to the cost of the product, but it is a useful addition. It adds value to the product by making it easier for me to always have a shoe horn at hand whenever I want to slip on my shoes, thus helping to preserve my shoes.

I have purchased the cheaper shoes trees. They are just as good. But I missed the “free” shoe horn so I always go back to the slightly more expensive product. The point here is that the retailer has cleverly invested a few cents in significantly improving the offer and is reaping the rewards by getting a better price.

Unfortunately not all products lend themselves to having value-added accessories. Another way of standing out is offering bundles. In the shoe tree example, you could offer a discount for buying three or five or more. Selling multiple items in one sale can significantly lower the per-item cost of packaging and shipping, as these costs rarely double when you send out twice as much.

Many retailers forget that it is the profit on the sale that matters, not the sale price. For example when an item sells on Amazon for $30, the actual profit could be just $3 once you have subtracted the cost of the item, Amazon’s commission, taxes, and shipping and packaging. So if by investing 10 cents you add just $3 to the price and get just as many sales, you have doubled your profit.

Likewise if it costs $3 to ship one item and no more to ship two, you have just saved $3 by selling two in one order. Tight profit margins are inevitable on Amazon and eBay. Anything that reduces costs or improves prices can have a massive effect on your bottom line.

Thus when you list on Amazon or eBay, don’t blindly follow the other sellers. Try to be better.

Richard Stubbings
Richard Stubbings
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