Saying “goodbye” to my eBay Shop
After an extensive period of testing, I’ve turned off my eBay shop. In June, I created a new business selling candle-making kits to be developed alongside writing the “How to set up an online business” magbook for PC Pro. As part of that process, I experimented with selling via eBay and, to that end, set up a Basic shop at £14.99, the main benefit of which is that it offers a discount on “Buy it now” listings.
I think it’s fair to say that this particular experiment was a failure. Although we sold a number of our candle-making kits, the only real success was with the lowest-priced items and then only when offered in auction format rather than “Buy it now”.
The non-eBay version of our store on the other hand, has been very successful. Sales have been very good with a definite bias towards the more expensive items (a bias that has become progressively more pronounced as we get nearer Christmas).
When I’m buying, it seems to me that there’s an entirely different mentality at work when I look for something on eBay. I’m either after a bargain (in which case I’ll bid on auction listings) or I want something quickly. In the latter case, this is usually a necessity: perhaps a part for a computer, business supplies or a specialist item such as a mat to fit my car. It’s easy to see now, in retrospect, that our candle making kits fell into neither category and, once fees were taken into account, the shop wasn’t worth the effort, not even in the run-up to Christmas.
There are two lessons I’ll take away from this. The first is the importance of experimentation. It didn’t cost much to set up and run an eBay shop and I learned a lot about the sort of products that appeal to eBayers. We sold a lot of “micro-kits” that include wax, wick, tabs and dye so that you can make a container candle in an old tea cup. Whilst these were, in percentage terms, very profitable the turnover they generated did not justify the effort. The mainstream kits, containing professional-grade materials, were simply too expensive to attract this audience. It appears (perhaps not surprisingly) that people don’t go onto eBay looking for a new present for their relative. At least not a gift of that type. Had we not run the experiment I wouldn’t have found this out: it may be that I can work out a way to make money selling low cost kits but I can’t, at present, be bothered.
The second lesson is to think carefully about how my potential customer arrives at my site when choosing a shop platform. eBayers arrive looking for a low cost bargain, Googlers arrive (via Adwords) at our main shop looking for a gift (even if the gift is for themselves) and their set of needs is different. Sure, they want good value but that doesn’t necessarily mean a low price. We set our prices to be similar to those of the plasticky retail kits you’ll find in your local craft retailer whilst including much higher quality ingredients and equipment and our customers have responded to this. Google shoppers are also looking for someone to trust: do the design, copy and policies suggest they can safely transact with us? Finally, shoppers are looking for validation, in other words to know that someone else bought the product and liked it. This is where our eBay feedback came in handy so it wasn’t a total loss financially.
So, farewell eBay, for now at least. The entire process threw up a number of surprises and insights into our customers so it was extremely worthwhile and it helped in setting up the “real” shop which, for now, uses EKMPowershop as its underlying technology. If you know of a better ecommerce platform (hosted or self-install) please leave a comment.