Yesterday my little 1.5-person business crossed $500k in revenue by selling used goods on eBay.
It took a total of 1,472 days (4 years and 11 days) to achieve this milestone.
Here are 5 things I've learnt on my journey so far.
1. Pick a niche
The most significant growth I've had over the past four years was due to deciding on a specific category to focus on and niche down into (ie. preowned clothing).
This change allowed me to put a much larger emphasis on refining and optimising the daily processes and procedures.
Knowing the sales data of items I pick up regularly, as well as the exact time required to fulfil each task of the business, means I don't feel like I am starting from zero every day or losing time researching new types of items (which I may never even see again).
2. Zoom out
Another thing that helped me to achieve this goal was zooming out from the day-to-day numbers, or even weekly numbers.
There are hundreds of factors that can impact how many sales you make on any given day and making baseless assumptions about the cause and effect of why stores are/aren't performing will not serve you well.
Take the time to look at your store from a bird's eye view and see how things are trending across months - most easily viewable with strategic charts and graphs.
Zoom out and you're likely in a plateau, which is actually a great thing.
Keep a journal or log of any significant changes that are made to your business (eg. when new expenses are added/removed, or when new systems are implemented) to help you see how they impact your results.
3. Systems vs Goals
As mentioned above, I believe spending time thinking and working on the business by creating rock-solid systems is crucial for scaling up your eBay store.
Working towards specific goals - whether based on revenue, size of store, or volume - is not nearly as important as having an impenetrable set of systems that can be followed daily and taught to new employees with ease.
4. Intuition and data
There are parts of running a reselling business that is based on our intuition of how we think the market will respond to our items.
Having a sense of how things may pan out, whether based on your own experience, subjective opinion, or information taken from other sellers, should only occupy a small part of the equation.
Relevant and up-to-date sales data can easily be accessed and should be relied upon more heavily for better decision-making, rather than leaning on gut feelings.
Markets and buyers can change much faster than a reseller's ability to stay in the loop.
Having access to data is one thing. Aggregating, storing and referencing data often is another.
5. Customer service
Over the past 6 months, I have made the customer experience one of my top priorities.
Coming from a retail background, I understand the value of top-notch customer service and running a 1.5-person e-commerce business is no exception - in fact, it is of much greater importance as this store reflects me, not a corporation).
These are a handful of things that I believe are non-negotiables:
- Clarity - The customer should have no doubts, hesitations or questions about any aspect of the item. Make every detail painfully clear.
- Speed - To operate at a high level and be a real competitor in your niche then you have to ship things as fast as the next guy. Always underpromise and over-deliver.
- Follow Up - Address any issues, concerns or complaints immediately and with empathy. No single customer or transaction should be able to derail you or your business. In contrast, consider showing appreciation to buyers who have taken time out of their day to leave Positive Feedback.
- Deals - Buyers on eBay expect to get a bargain, but generosity can only extend so far. Always be making and taking deals that are reasonable for your business model, but remember to consider the supply/demand of the item before accepting or sending offers.
By actively providing excellent customer service and making the buying experience simple I have been able to increase my returning customers significantly.
Going the extra mile to exceed customer expectations can lead to word-of-mouth and an increase in your follower count, ultimately attracting more buyers and fostering a loyal customer base.