After buying and selling many items on ebay over the past 9 years, I have found that the way items are listed will greatly determine how much profit you can make. I hope the following information will be useful to other Ebay sellers, but bear in mind these are just my personal opinions and nothing more. The info is not in any particular order...
Timing on Auction Items
One of the most overlooked and important considerations is the time that you list your auction item. You need to consider when the auction will end. No matter how many days you list your item for (1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days), the auction will finish at the same time of day that you list it.
Bear in mind that if you put a listing on ebay starting at say 4pm, then it will end at 4pm several days later. Consider that 4pm for example is not a good time for an auction to end during the week as many people are either in work or travelling home from work so you are missing out on those all important closing bids.
For auction items I have found that the best time for the auction to end is Sunday evening. Second choice would be Monday - Thursday evenings (between 6:30pm and 9:30pm) as far less people use Ebay during the working day, Friday or Saturday evenings and particulary during the typical "rush hours". Therefore listing an item at 7:30pm on a Thursday night for a 10 day auction will probably ensure you have the largest number of last minute bids when it ends at 7:30pm on Sunday 10 days later.
If you are listing multiple items, spread them out by 5-10 minutes. If a buyer wins one of your auctions, its likely they will look at your other auctions ending soon, particularly if they get a postage discount. If they all end exactly the same time the buyers won't have time to bid !
Consider what people are searching for on ebay and not just the item itself. For example if you were to list "5 England T-Shirts", consider adding the words "Job Lot" or "Wholesale" as buyers often use this as a seach category. As another example if you were to list "Mens Silk Tie" then add the words "Father's Day" as this is a common search at the appropriate time of the year. A buyer may be searching for a Father's Day gift but would not think to put in "Mens Silk Tie".
Also as another example, lets say you are selling a Welsh gift item - try and make sure you get the words Wales, Welsh and Cymru in the listing title therefore you will get a lot more hits when someone seaches for these items too and not just Welsh.
It might sound obvious but a few minutes of thought about the extra title words can greatly increase bids on your auction - use the whole title and if it is an expensive item then consider paying the extra for the subtitle and just cram the subtitle with any potential search words.
Listing items slightly cheaper then cranking up the postage costs always backfires. Sellers seem to do this to save pennies on their EBAY fees or to try and appear cheaper than other suppliers. Lets face it buyers are not going to fall for that, most buyers now look at the total price including postage and are put off by sellers who clearly over-inflate their postage prices. This also causes a sense of being ripped off, much lower seller ratings and potentially negative feedback. Its a complete false economy.
Postage discounts for multiple purchases are a must. If buyers purchase more than one of your items and pay for them together, you will save some of the paypal fees and posting costs will be lower. If you pass this on to your buyers they will buy many items (and come back again in the future).
Its often difficult to work out what the postage discounts would be before multiple items are purchased
About Me Page
This is something everyone who sells items should complete. You don't have to write war and peace in your "about me" page or go into personal detail, but for regular sellers this is a great way to let buyers know what you are about and get them interested in your products so they come back again. For example an about me page starting with "Welcome to My Shop... Over the coming months my shop will be growing to include xxxyyyzzz ......." You get the picture.
You can also use the "about me" page to get across your terms and conditions such as returns policy, contact details for pre-sales queries, postage policies etc.
One of the worst thing you can put in your auction is the words "Untested", "Sold as Seen" or "No Returns". This basically says to the buyer - broken item and no chance of come-backs ! If you are selling something take the time to test it - you don't have to provide a guarantee but some evidence that it has been tested will greatly increase your sales. If its broken or "sold for spares/repair" then be honest - you will probably get the same money as saying "untested" but there is far less likely to be negative feedback left as the buyer knew the status of the item before they bought it.
Renew your Shop Inventories
Shop sellers often list items on 30 days "good till cancelled" so basically after 30 days the listing is renewed and the seller is charged for the next 30 days. This is fine for a while but experience shows that these items seem to attract less interest after 2 or 3 30 day cycles. Bear in mind also that anyone who has put you in their favorite sellers list will be looking for newly listed items. What I suggest is to monitor your inventory items and after 2 or 3 cycles , just before the item is due to finish, end the inventory listing and relist it as a fresh listing. Its very surprising how much new interest will be generated - this really does work !
Always include a picture - it no longer costs money to use Gallery. If you don't have a good quality picture, explain this in the listing and where possible borrow a camera. A picture can really increase the number of bids.
Donating to Charity
Companies regularly donate to charity as this increases their exposure, reputation and is a form of advertising. This is a perfect situation as both the charity and the business benefits from this relationship. If you are a regular seller on Ebay or you are having a clear-out and are creating a large number of listings, consider donating the proceeds of a small number of these to charity. This can be done easily and automatically through the ebay listing (which is powered by Missionfish).
By doing this, the listings that are contributing to charity will recieve more hits and exposure - ebay say that donating part or all of the proceeds to charity will likely increase the amount of bids you will recieve but I believe its more than just that.... The buyers who have been attracted to your auctions because of the charity donation are much more likely to "view other sellers items" out of interest or to benefit on combined postage. Therefore a charitable contribution could actually lead to a large increase in sales and overall profit plus the charity of your choice will recieve some much needed donations (which can be increased by a further 28% from the government if you agree to gift aid)
Remember also that Ebay refund the basic sales fees for auctions that contribute to charity.
See the following ebay page for more details... Ebay for Charity
Fonts & Detail
Whatever you do, don't use lots of large or multi coloured fonts - it just looks like noise and buyers will move on very quickly. I have found that the use of more plain colours works best. For example, at the top of your listing use a large brown font to create a 1 line title, centered in the page. Next describe the item in standard 12 point font, dark grey or brown again looks good. Keep the description centered, no more than four or five lines in a paragraph and use bullet points if you need to give a specification. Make sure the price stands out and postage costs too.
Ideally the buyer shouldn't have to scroll down through pages of information to find the details they want and although a good description helps, sometimes too much information causes buyers to loose interest. Also try and avoid using listing programs that have boxes of information everywhere - its often just too much information and puts buyers off. I believe it is best to put all your terms and conditions (if you have any) in your "about me" page then just point users to this in your listing.
If you have to scroll down more than a page or two then its far too much information !
The "Tone" Of Your Listing
How many times have you been in a shop where the staff seem rude or unhelpful ? When this happens you will probably walk out, right ?. The same applies to Ebay - your "customer" doesn't know you and they have very little to go on. Feedback is one way of assessing the credibility of a seller but the listing is equally as important. All too recently I have looked at auctions which end in "No zero feedback bidders", "No Refunds", "No scammers please" which are possibly valid points that every seller feels but it sets a tone and gives the impression of someone unhelpful - often potential buyers will be put off by this.
While we all agree non paying bidders or awkward customers should be avoided, I don't believe that putting harsh statements in the listing will do any good and only paints the wrong picture of you.
Also think about your reply before responding to negative of neutral feedback. If you feel the feedback was unjust, retalitory or left by someone deliberately out to damage your reputation (it happens), consider your response and don't resort to knee jerk statements. This will almost certainly paint you in a worse picture than them. Consider the situation where someone has left you negative feedback about the quality of an item and you believe this is unjust. A feedback response such as "Sorry you were unhappy but why didn't you contact me to discuss" firstly shows that you empathise with them but they are in the wrong for not considering the options before resorting to feedback. Think about it - it makes you out to be someone who is willing to help and could actually increase your credibility ! Even the best sellers will get a negative eventually from the customer you just cannot please.
Responding to Messages
Allways respond to customer questions as soon as possible and check for questions every day. Your ebay selling manager can quickly list all auctions with outstanding questions. When responding I suggest you tick the box to hide your email address from the sender (to prevent your email getting in circulation with people who haven't completed a transaction with you)
Payment & Checkout
Always use Paypal. It does take a few percent of your profits but you will loose so many customers and bids if you don't accept it. I firmly believe that the extra sales or bids taken because you accept Paypal will always outweigh its cost. Plus there is a good level of protection for all parties
Always avoid using 3rd party checkout tools "channel advisors" - you will loose significant business believe me ! When a buyer purchases or wins one of your items they don't want to be redirected to a third party company where they have to fill in all their details again - Many buyers just won't do this as they don't know the 3rd party company. I personally will never shop with Ebay sellers who do this and many people feel the same. Ebay's checkout facilities work well so use them.
Another thing I have observed - Ebay often recommends that you "insist on immediate payment from buyers". I totally disagree with this. The chances of someone buying one of your items and not paying for it is slim, however think how much business you could loose from multiple sales if you adopt this. If a buyer is forced to make immediate payment for an item, they don't get the opportunity to browse the rest of the shop and buy multiple items at the same time to save postage costs and therefore you don't get the sales.
Blocked Bidder List
Always add users to your blocked bidder list if you have a bad experience. Easy to do and saves a repeat episode.
Also look at your buyer conditions - its now possible to prevent buyers bidding if they have a total negative feedback score or unpaid item strikes.
Listing Costs, Start Price and Reserve Auctions
The starting price for a listing defines the insertion fee and also the amount of interested buyers you have. Consider the situation where you are selling an item (lets say for example a games console) and you want to get at least £100 for it. Take a look at other sellers on ebay and judge if that is a reasonable expectation. If auctions are regularly ending at this price or above then you will get your £100 no matter what price you start it with. If so then I suggest listing it at 99p with no reserve ! Ok sounds completely ridiculous but consider these points:
1. Your insertion fees will be much less than if you listed it at a start price of £75 for example
2. Lots more people will see the item as buyers regularly sort their search results by lowest price so a lot more people will "watch" the item and bid on it in the hope they get a bargain. Within the first day or so you will probably have the bids pushed right up to at least half what you expect as buyers are chasing the bargain. Think about it - you are a buyer and see a console listed at 99p and one at £50 - you are likely to have a punt at £40 straight away on the 99p one as its less than other listings
3. No reserve = no reserve fee but also seeing the "reserve not met" just puts people off. Its like saying you're not going to get a bargain here so they move on. Whats the point of starting the bidding at 99p for example and putting on £100 reserve - people just loose interest.
Obviously there is a risk here that someone wins your item for 99p but in my experience (and I have sold many things starting at 99p) you will actually make more money simply because a bidding war starts and so many more people are involved.
For this suggestion I must stress that THIS IS JUST MY OPINION but its always worked for me!
When running an ebay shop, the shop categories displayed on the left of your shop & listings are the window to all your goods - choose and word them carefully. Too many categories and buyers don't read them all, too few categories and your items don't stand out.
For every shop listing you can list it in two shop categories at no extra charge (I refer here to shop categories and not ebay listing categories). Consider the example of the Mens Silk Tie. why not list it under a category called "Clothes & Accessories" but also create another category called "Gifts for Him". That way you can build up a list of items under categories like "Gifts for Him", "Gifts for Her", "Childrens Gifts" and so on. Buyers who are looking for a present for someone in particular will then be able to see all suitable gifts under one category and will also have the option of looking through the main categories. I find I get a lot more multiple purchases this way when someone buys many items from the "Gifts for...." category, particularly at Christmas time.