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How to Increase Online Sales Without Breaking the Bank

Anyone running an online business is looking for ways to stack the deck in his or her favor. eBay sellers are no different. Any and every edge, no matter how small, is an opening to be exploited. If you're selling on eBay, you need to examine the major factors to top seller success.

Today we'll be discussing the major metrics common to eBay's top sellers. We'll examine the statistics behind the sellers with the highest sales volumes and try to gain some insights from those numbers.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the simplest, and arguably most important factor in any e-commerce business model.

Item Selection

Finding items that people want to buy is always a good place to start if you want to be a successful eBay seller. Take a look at the chart below. It contains statistics for the top 10 eBay sellers in the world.

Since they are private businesses and their sales figures aren't publicly disclosed, our measure of success is their cumulative feedback scores gathered over a year's time.


Top 10 eBay Sellers

As you can see, the biggest players in the eBay game show some interesting commonalities in their selling habits. "Phones and Accessories" appears three different times as the sales category for different sellers in the top 10, while both "Music" and "Clothing, Shoes & Accessories" appear twice each.

Surprisingly, "Business and Industrial" is the chosen niche of the number one seller in the worlds. This is particularly unanticipated because "Business and Industrial" is often considered a difficult niche to sell in—not because of a lack of buyer interest, but rather the difficulty involved in shipping industrial equipment. It just goes to show that if you're willing to put in the extra effort to properly promote and deliver in-demand items, you can build your business into an empire.

Here is another chart showing the most popular item categories, without regard to top sellers:

Top product categories on eBay

This puts reality back in line with expectation. Consumer goods reign supreme with clothes, collectibles, jewelry, crafts, toys, and sporting goods all making an appearance in the top 15 sales categories.

Still, the "Phones and Accessories" category is at the top of the heap, which explains a lot about the direction market interest is heading, as well as how important expansion into mobile technology should be for any serious online retailer.

So what should be the takeaway from this information for all of you fine readers looking to emulate this kind of mass transactional success? The answer is two fold:

  1. There is money to be made in many different niches on eBay, but a safe bet at the moment is in the area of
    "Phones and Accessories." Just choose your products carefully. 
  2. Bulky and hard-to-ship items aren't necessarily bad investments, as two of the top 10 sellers in the world can attest, with their stores selling business and industrial products and auto parts, respectively.

If you'd like to explore demand for an item in one of these popular product categories, head over to SaleHoo Research Lab to perform a market analysis.

These, however, are far from the only things we can learn about the top eBay sellers and their business habits. What other factors should you prioritize when selling on eBay?


A man is only as good as his word, as my father used to say. This holds true in business just as it does in personal ethics. To be truly successful in any online sales venture, you must build both credibility and consumer trust. When it comes to your eBay store, there are a couple of important issues to consider.

Age of eBay Store

The amount of time that an eBay seller has been in business directly correlates to the trust customers have. This is because you establish a brand along with the market as it matures.

eBay itself benefits from this sort of age-based trust. Because it is one of the first online auction/retail sites, it's also one of the biggest. This is far from the only component to eBay's success, but it certainly hasn't hurt the company.

Just consider the fact that eBay Top Rated Sellers account for 47 percent of eBay's total sales volume in the U.S. These are established names in the business. Though relatively few in number, they still make up nearly half the sales in the world's largest consumer market.

This because they attract repeat sales from loyal customers. Their customers know who they're dealing with, because they've bought from them before. This news should be taken as encouragement to sellers new and old.

If you're an old hat, then you know you've built up some valuable client relationships over the years. If you're just starting out, remember that persistence yields results.

Feedback Scores

Positive feedback usually correlates very closely to sales volume. The higher the volume, the better the scores. Moreover, a lot of positive feedback establishes your eBay store as a trustworthy source with new customers.

Feedback is most important for newer sellers looking to expand their online presence. As time goes on, you'll likely notice a marked drop in the amount of feedback you receive. The probability of being left feedback decreases as sales volume increases. If you're making thousands of transactions per month and already have a solid rating, customers will feel less pressured to leave their own feedback.

This is even more pronounced since mobile sales are now accounting for much of eBay's overall transactional volume, because leaving feedback on a mobile device is much more cumbersome than on a desktop.

Though customer feedback percentages vary wildly between sellers, many estimates say that the number to aim for is 40 percent for high-volume sellers.

Free Shipping

Aside from trust and items that people actually want to buy, free shipping can be a powerful motivator when checkout time comes around. People are encouraged by free shipping, despite higher prices, because it's simply less difficult.

Statistics agree with that statement as well. During the holiday rush of 2013, (October through December) approximately 55 percent of transactions on eBay in the U.S. included free shipping.

Individual experiences often acknowledge this maxim. According to a case study detailed by EcommerceBytes.com, offering free shipping on all items in an eBay store yielded very positive results.

  • Average revenue per item increased by $8.
  • Shipping cost per item decreased$1.25.
  • Returns increased a negligible amount (0.9 percent), and the additional expense was offset by increased revenue.
  • Overall sales went up between 15 percent and 18 percent. 
  • Visibility increased. The sellers' listings appeared in the first page of results about three quarters of the time. Prior to free shipping it was closer to 40 percent or 50 percent.
  • Returning customers went up by a 12 percent margin.
  • International sales increased from 15 percent to 20 percent of the total business transactions.

These are very impressive statistics that must certainly be taken into account by any serious eBay seller. The added convenience of free shipping is likely to increase your relevant sales metrics across the board.

Trust, free shipping, and product category are all very important to any eBay seller. If at all possible they are factors that can and should be emulated. Doing so will undoubtedly increase sales for your eBay store.

If you'd like to learn more about selling on eBay, visit the SaleHoo Seller Training Center

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