Online sales start to slow and it has you panicking. What are you doing wrong? Is it you or is it just like this all over right now? You see other sellers online talking about the drop in sales too, and you feel so helpless.
Is there anything you can do?
Important Note: We currently use eBay for our online platform, so the terms I’m going to be using are relative to the eBay platform. If you do not use eBay, but you use another platform, find the comparable tools to use in your chosen online selling platform. It is applicable to everyone!
How is Traffic Affecting Your Online Resale Business?
If you recognize slow sales, the most important tip is to determine why. The possibilities are many, but sometimes you have to figure out what it isn’t to figure out what it is.
A key indicator is your consumer traffic. Imagine your store being a brick and mortar store. If you had a physical location in which you were selling merchandise, you’re going to want to know how many people are coming into your store, right?
Furthermore, you want to know how many of those people are leaving having made a purchase. This is known as conversion. This is an indicator of how many people shopping in your store are actually buying something.
When looking at your eBay listings, you want to do the same thing.
How many people are walking into your “store” so-to-speak?
How many people are purchasing the items that you’ve listed?
Analyzing Your Current Traffic
In any online selling platform, you’re going to find analytics. On eBay, you can find the “advertising dashboard” under the “marketing” tab on your homepage. For other platforms, look for the place where your impressions statistics are listed.
Choose a sample size between 14 days or 30 days. You want a nice even number that you can easily compare your time frames.
Find the place where your impressions are the lowest. Find the place where your impressions are the highest. Ask yourself the following questions:
- From sample to sample, are the times when the impressions are the highest triggered by something you’re doing yourself?
- From sample to sample, are the times when the impressions are the lowest triggered by something you’re doing yourself?
- Do you see a trend between when impressions are low, versus when impressions are high? (Keep in mind, many things can trigger traffic. The way that eBay’s algorithm runs, it favors new listings and therefore increases the chances that people will see it. If you listed more during one sample than another, chances are, your impressions will naturally be higher. Try to account for this when analyzing your data.)
If you’re noticing a trend in something that you are doing and the increase or decrease of your traffic, that’s the first step in using that knowledge to your advantage. But, if you’re not seeing a huge trend, or if your impressions have maintained a steady pace, let’s go a bit deeper.
The 5 P’s That Will Up Your Traffic and Increase Your Sales
You want to make sure that your prices are competitive, but don’t allow them to drop below your desired profit margin. Keep your prices reasonable, but do not fall into the “race to the bottom” trap.
The race to the bottom phenomenon is a self-sabotaging trend that happens among resellers, most commonly to liquidation resellers. When sales are slow, the first thing a responsible reseller does is look at the prices. If they realize that their cost is not the lowest value, they drop their prices to undercut the lowest seller. If everyone is does that, then the result is a reverse bidding war among sellers fighting for the sale.
Here’s the problem with that– it makes sense to drop your prices if the market value (that is, what a customer is willing to pay for it) has dropped. But if you’re dropping prices to compete with other resellers, then you’re dropping and lowering the value of the item that is determined by the sellers, not the buyers.
Fight the urge to race to the bottom. This fight leads in breaking even on the item or worse yet, losing money on it. Let the consumer determine the value of the item, not your competitors.
eBay’s algorithm favors new listings and here’s why: the algorithm will favor sellers and listings that sell fast and convert impressions. When you list something new, eBay will push that listing to the top because it is new. It’s trying to figure out if what you’re selling is something that people want to buy.
However, listings with poor pictures will likely not get the clicks that tell eBay that your item is desired. Over time, with many people shopping and nobody clicking on your listing, eBay will start to favor other listings with better click rates than yours, effectively burying your listing. This not only reduces traffic to that particular listing, but can also affect all the listings you own. It’s important to keep that click rate up (that is, the amount of people seeing your listing and clicking for more information) to keep traffic coming to you.
Make sure that your pictures are taken on a white backdrop. If you do not have a white backdrop set up a light, solid colored sheet or blanket (even a towel might work) and the best natural lighting you can manage. Then, download an app like “PhotoRoom”. In an app like this one, you can remove the background and replace it with a white background. You can also fix up any lighting issues you might have as well.
Think of the pros and cons of offering free shipping versus paid shipping. Paid shipping is convenient. It’s calculated for you, and you don’t have to worry about the cost of shipping eating your profits. But, if your competitor is selling it for a little bit more but they offer free shipping, the customer will likely see it as getting something for free. You could raise your price a little to offset the cost of shipping, then offer free shipping– then that gives the impression that you’re offering more than many of your competitors.
Of course, there is also the downside that you may calculate incorrectly causing you to lose a little of your profits. It happens. There is a lot more to being careful with free shipping, but ultimately, if it brings in sales, it’s worth the consideration. Is it not better to do a little more work to increase your cash flow? Or would you rather play it safe, even if it may cause you to lose some of your sales? There’s no right or wrong answer here. That choice is up to you.
You can also consider your handling time. Our culture has become spoiled with the increase of technology. We want things, and we want them now! The faster you can move items out and get them shipped to your customer, the more likely they’re going to choose your product over someone with a longer handling time. How can you adjust your daily workflow to make sure that you can ship purchases out quickly and efficiently?
While you’re here, go back to your analytics and see how your click through rate relates to your conversion rate. If you see that you have a lot of people clicking on your item to view it better, but very few are actually purchasing your items, it means that there is something on your listings that are driving them away. Is it your shipping or handling policy? Consider your product description. Is it accurate? Does it match the information shown in your photo and title? Allowing this trend to continue will display to the algorithm that your item is not desirable and will stop favoring it.
Many online platforms offer coupons, sales events, and shipping discounts of some sort. Promotions are great tools to use to experiment short term, but it can also create a long term momentum for sales.
Most or sales events last for only 3-4 days on eBay. If you’re strategic about when these sales end (lining the up with common paydays, or ending them on Sunday or Monday nights), it puts pressure to purchase the item at a discount rather than having it sit in their cart or adding it to a “watch” or “wish” list. Event sales create a “use it or lose it” mentality which may encourage your buyer to pull the trigger and make the purchase.
A lot of resellers have a problem with discounting already discounted items. I can understand that, but the truth is, eBay and other sales platforms are trying to make as much money as possible as well. This means that their algorithm will favor items that use the promotion tools, because they get a bigger cut from the sale. You can choose to fight the machine, or feed it. That is also your choice.
5. Promoted Listings
Say you’ve tried your best with the other four “P’s”. You’ve checked your prices and they’re competitive and fair. You’ve adjusted your photos and they’re looking great. You optimized your policies and your listings have a matching and accurate title and description. And finally, you’ve experimented with promotions. You’ve seen an increase in that traffic, but it’s not really where you want to be.
This is the point where you should be considering promoted listings. Promoted listings are a great tool and can do a lot for you. It’s number one goal is to get your listings in front of more people. When sales are slow, promoted listings are your friend. If sales are slow everywhere, then there is likely a reason why people are not purchasing. They’re likely not going to be on the site for very long, and you want to make sure they see your listings first.
My number one advice for promoted listings, though, is to be very careful and start slow. There is a learning curve to using this tool to be effective. If you do this incorrectly, it can actually end up costing you money in the long run.
The great thing is, you can automate promoted listings or you can control the entire process. You can control how much you’re paying per listing, which items or categories you want to put promoted listings on, etc. Experimenting slowly and steadily to see what happens can help you figure out how to use this tool effectively.
I would start by applying a single ad rate (one rate for all the listings you choose to promote). It is possible to adjust different percentages on certain listings or categories, but if you’re just starting out, I’d recommend starting simple. You can start with 1 or 2 percent. Then keep an eye on your impressions, click through rate, and overall sales for those items and see what happens!
Ask yourself, “Am I willing to pay 1% ore to sell this item? Am I willing to pay 1% more to get this item in front of more people?” If the answer is yes, then try it out. You can always back out any time if you feel like it’s not working for you.
Don’t Give Up!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing you can do when the issue at hand is not something you can control. Don’t do that. One of the most important things to remember about being a reseller is that you have to adjust to whatever is thrown at you. Keep going! Make a plan, experiment a little, and find out what works.