Two years ago, we met George, an early ShelfTrend beta user, to talk about how he used our data to win in his daily battle for market share. ShelfTrend has evolved from the beta application from two years ago and so has George.
Today, George and tens of thousands of other online sellers all over the world are using ShelfTrend to benchmark themselves against others, monitor their rank, find product niches and watch their competitors.
We caught up with George over a beer and persuaded him to talk about how he uses ShelfTrend data to keep his sales rolling in despite some pretty big business disruptors over the last 2 years. He shares 5 great tips.
George's eBay business
George is a Parts & Accessories seller. He has a catalogue of over 150,000 products that hasn’t really grown that much over the years. It fluctuates a little depending on whatever inventory he and his business partner can opportunistically get their hands on, but generally core sales come from approximately 20,000 SKUs.
George is the ‘sales/marketing/tech’ guy in the company. His business partner is the ‘buyer.’ They agree on a monthly margin and sales targets – then off they go. They work really closely together sense checking each other’s business decisions since both are passionately familiar with their category.
The company holds inventory for approximately a third of his catalogue at various quantities. Products with stock in warehouse are all listed on eBay. Their website has the full catalogue.
Although George prefers sales on his website, eBay has a massive active buyer base and opportunities to get in front of international buyers. Two years ago, George got some traction with selling worldwide and then actively selling into other eBay global sites. Until recently, his international sales were almost 8% of total revenue.
eBay is in constant change
When we met with George this time around, he was in good spirits. He had just come off the back of some pretty stressful times with changes to the structured data and compatibility requirements to some of the categories he sold in. A tip off from a website introduced George to some overseas and eBay experienced outsourced teams that cost effectively helped him update his listings.
Meanwhile, George still obsesses about how eBay shows pages and pages of the same products at the same prices. Competition is intense and there are only a few levers to make a sale. In George's opinion, 'Group Similar Listings' and the eBay 'buy box' are not going to make the situation better. Although it significantly reduces the sameness of search results, buyers are prevented from making a bigger picture purchase decision.
He's tried Promoted Listings but he feels that it's just another way eBay is trying to make money while not solving the real problem. Since he's seen a competitor use it, he's more committed to putting more time into getting his head around it.
eBay is always changing and evolving. George has learned the hard way that if he's not paying attention, some of those changes can be pretty disruptive, impacting his operations and revenue. He's also learned that if he's not looking, other disruptive forces like new sellers or products could also cause the same amount of pain.
Here are George's 5 tips for keeping eBay sales rolling in.
1. MAKE IT A HABIT - GET A VIEW OF WHAT’S HAPPENING ON EBAY RIGHT NOW
George monitors the rank of his top core products using ShelfTrend's Top 500 Report like he’s day trading on wall street.
Some of these core products are a critical source of stable revenue for their company so it is vital to protect their rank. With all other factors, like his feedback scores, remaining the same, George is not against undercutting his competitor to preserve rank. For him long term sales momentum in those products is more important than his margin because as he regains rank, he can raise the price again.
George also regularly monitors the rank and sales of his competitors. It’s a bit of a benchmarking exercise. He feels that by doing this, it could notify him of lost opportunities or problems with his own business. It’s not a zero-sum game, but it could be a hunch that makes him or saves him thousands of dollars that week. So it’s worth it.
2. USE THE COLLECTIVE SMARTS OF COMPETITORS
The motoring industry is super busy and eventful. With recall announcements occurring all the time and motor events filling up the schedule, smart sellers frequently reshuffle their inventory to take advantage of the season and the news. George and his business partner are both on top of what’s going on, but a quick look at ShelfTrend's New Listings Report gives them a view of what others are listing on eBay, which then helps them get ideas or identify opportunities they might have missed.
3. THROW BOMBSHELLS
George hates selling product in categories where the product and price have little difference. To him, it's a race to the bottom. In these categories, George likes to throw, what he calls a ‘bombshell’ to shake awake the buyer and wreck a bit of havoc with competitors. Here are a few tactics he’s tried:
Add Best Offer to higher priced listings. It attracts a few low-ball offers, but for the most part it increases engagement. In a few cases, George has been able to persuade a buyer to buy something else.
In a recent Best Match face off, George thought he’d try something completely different. He threw in limited freebie branded merchandise he got from one of his suppliers. It was no skin off his nose but buyers liked it. He broke the tie and rose to the top of search.
Convert low stocked core products to auctions to create buzz and engagement. Timing is everything. When the listing rises to the top of search, it creates a ruckus with both buyers and competitors.
4. REFRESH SHELVES FREQUENTLY
George noticed that frequent store and listing maintenance had a positive impact on his sales. There have been times when he hadn't tweaked listings or brought in new stock for months on eBay. Sales became as stale as the inventory. A more regular flow of new listings or, even shuffling stock around seemed to renew buyer interest and sales.
5. KEEP LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITY
Finally, when George gets the chance he likes to poke around to see what other competitor are doing, research a few brands or private labels that are emerging in the Parts and Accessories space and check out what he can glean from ShelfTrend’s Supply Demand report to identify unmet demand in low supply categories. Other times he just looks through complementary categories or global markets for comparisons. George’s perspective is that, you never know what you’ll come across when you explore – new brands, new products and a different way of doing things.
Disruption is an unfortunate part of business and life. It's about minimizing impact. George is determined that by using ShelfTrend to keep his eyes on eBay activity, he can be on the front foot of competition, be in more control of the situation and keep sales humming along.
ShelfTrend is a real-time marketplace intelligence tool that presents easy to use and easy to understand eBay data reports to help Professional online and eBay sellers :
• benchmark themselves against other,
• monitor their search rank to gain more sales,
• find product niches and
• research competitors.
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