4 Mistakes Holding eBay Sellers Back from Sales Growth

ShelfTrend was a proud Gold Sponsor of the Retail Global Conference at the Gold Coast, Australia.  With the help of other leading eBay experts such as Tim Davies from Zellis, Nathan Huppatz from Costumes.com.au & Ready to Ship, Matthew Cummins from Retail Revolution, Katrina Kail from Reboot Retail and Apurva Chiranewala from Sendle, we hosted 100 one-on-one sessions with online sellers at the eBay Injection Lab with the purpose of providing advice and assistance in driving their businesses forward to reach that next level of growth.

Sellers who came to book time with us were not new sellers but seasoned sellers who after 5-10 years on eBay are now experiencing a plateau in business.  The questions they posed, and the subsequent investigations into their businesses, revealed a number of common mistakes that were holding sellers back from enjoying the growth they wanted.


Mistake #1 – Not thinking like the customer

One of the big surprises of the conference was the time we spent reviewing and auditing listing titles.  Despite their experience, sellers were still struggling to build findable listing titles and were basing titles on model numbers given to them by suppliers.

One seller we met sold coffee makers. She had included the brand name, the category name and where it was made (Italy!).  Yet, she had not thought to include the commonly used search terms of "espresso maker" "stove top coffee maker" or even "percolator". Imagine the volume of searches she was missing out on!  Adding these terms in, and removing some redundant text, brought her to 79 of her 80 character limit.

Another seller titled their range of fins for swim training. Yet, when we found a comparable range of fins from a higher ranked competitor, they had listed their fins for snorkeling, diving and other water sports.  A quick change in the title resulted in a pretty quick rank improvement.

There are a lot of articles on the internet related to writing better titles for your eBay listings.  Some sellers claim that even a change of order in search terms can sometimes make a difference in rank. 

Most important to writing the most effective title is to get into the mindset of your buyer and how they would search and find your product. 

If you sell a VS hair curling wand, then think about how your buyer would search for your product and what product features would make them click through on the listing.  For example:

  • The buyer may search the brand as VS or VS Sassoon or Vidal Sassoon.

  • Stand out product features that attract the buyer could be:

    • It is cordless.

    • It is triple barrel. The size of the barrel. Different type of barrel.

    • The different styles it can create including crimping and waving in addition to curling.

Second, compare the titles of similar products to get an idea of best practice. Do you see a lot of model numbers?  Are there other stand out product features higher up in rank that seem to be more desirable for your buyer in the market for a hair curler?


Mistake #2 – Not keeping watch on competitors

Monitoring competitors is an essential business practice to get an idea of how you benchmark against others, learn from others and be aware of potential threats.

A seller who sold parts & accessories proudly stated that he had cornered the market in the area of tow bars.  When we looked into the category on ShelfTrend, he indeed was the top seller in the category, but he didn’t recognise all his competitors and he didn’t realise that one of the top performing products in the category was a product he himself did not carry.  Needless to say, he took note of that model. 

Another seller came to his one-on-one session with the complaint that his rank and sales had dropped dramatically.  When we ran ShelfTrend’s New Listings report for him, his face went white when we discovered a completely unknown and new seller had listed practically the same products they carried over the last several days.

ShelfTrend offers live eBay data to research categories, listings and products but it is really great at monitoring competitors and keeping an eye on marketplace activity.  It’s free or upgrade when you want more for just US$14.99 a month.  Most sellers we met were pretty convinced that there was great value in keeping watch on eBay.


Mistake #3 – Being left behind by eBay changes

eBay announces seller-impacting changes twice yearly in what is called ‘Seller Releases,’ giving sellers 3-6 months’ notice, if not more, so that they can adjust the way they sell on eBay.  In recent years eBay’s announcements, especially in Australia, have largely been around adoption of structured data and shipping enhancements. 

Parts & Accessory sellers came out to the conference in droves this year, ready to talk in more detail about how to ensure their products were either associated to the Vehicle Parts & Accessories catalogue or mapped to the Master Vehicle List so that they wouldn’t lose visibility when a buyer searched for compatible parts. 

Parts compatibility is not new on eBay but most sellers have been complacent with uptake.  eBay is a lot more determined to drive more sales with front end buyer improvements but it requires strong structured data adoption in the backend.  The best way to benefit from these buyer enhancements is to stay on top of structured data.

One of the most common complaints we hear is that eBay’s catalogue is wrong or missing data.  Don’t let that hold you back.  eBay wants to hear about any issues with their catalogues: 

  • For parts and accessory sellers, if there are vehicles missing in the Master Vehicle List.

  • If you are selling a product that should have a catalogue but it is missing.

  • If you are selling generic products or your own private label products and need to submit your own UPC/EAN/MPN.

Submit catalogue edits, updates and changes to eBay on sdsupport@ebay.com

Here is the list of all the Master Vehicle Lists around the world:

eBay changes can impact your business.  If you’re not on top of the changes you could lose ground to competitors who were more prepared than you resulting in a longer recovery for your search visibility and sales.  Keep the Seller Centre bookmarked and keep visiting it regularly to ensure you are on top of announcements and tips.  Here is a list of all the Seller Centres across the major eBay countries:


Mistake #4 – Expanding without research

A seller at a one-on-one session shared his frustration where, at the encouragement of consistently turning over $30,000 a month on eBay, decided to triple his listings.  To his dismay, revenue did not triple but stayed the same.  Another seller told the same story, except that instead of their revenue not growing, it had gone backward.

Expansion is tricky.  Generally, we recommend that sellers research demand, competitive participation and popular product features (if any), for the products they are thinking of sourcing and listing on eBay.  ShelfTrend’s Supply Demand Report is an excellent way for researching recent sales and demand, offering a weekly sales volume as a comp ratio for what to expect.  It also gives an idea of how many sellers are already in the space and how hard it could be to break into that market.

An Australian health and beauty seller came to their session with ideas for expanding into the US market. When we looked deeper into the category, he quickly realised that there were a number of strong competitors with similar products, and that he could not compete against them until he figured out how to bring a different and unique offering to the market as well as reduce postage costs.

There are a lot of success stories as well.  We had two sellers approach us at the eBay Injection Lab to tell us their success from using ShelfTrend.  One seller was approached by his supplier about a new product that he had actually rejected because he didn’t think there was a market for it.  But when he researched it on the Supply Demand report, not only did he find that there was a healthy demand for the product but there were only two other sellers listing it, one of which was his direct competitor.  With that knowledge he felt more confident in investing and competing with this new product. 


Selling on eBay is hard.  There is a lot to think about.  It is not a set and forget business.  But with the right routines and practices, selling on eBay and online can be a very rewarding experience. 

We really enjoy hosting the eBay Injection Lab and meeting with sellers at Retail Global.  We love getting close to the customer and hearing about their triumphs and grieving their challenges with them. 

We received a lot of positive feedback about ShelfTrend and some really great suggestions for future features.  ShelfTrend is a great tool for keeping abreast of the marketplace and competition.  Try free and upgrade for only US$14.99 when you want more.