New to eBay and Online Retail? The 2 Decisions All New Sellers Need to Make

Although starting an online retail business is straight forward compared to other types of business, there are some crucial decisions you need to make when you first start out. In this blog post, we dig into the two most critical decisions you will need to make and point you to some helpful resources that will ensure you get the best outcomes. 

Beginner Decision #1: What to sell

The question of what to sell isn't so much a decision, it's more a conclusion that you will come to after you've done market research. Lots of market research.  As someone new to online retail, it might be news to you that on eBay and some other  online marketplaces, many product markets are flooded. This means that some of the more obvious things that you have thought about selling such as fashion or electronics are highly competitive and it's highly likely that you will have trouble making profitable sales in these categories. 

So what should you consider selling instead? Niche items! You will hear a lot about niches when you browse around SaleHoo resources and articles because we've seen how powerful niche items are. Niche items are those that are wanted by a smaller, but more targeted market. By contrast, non-niche items are wanted by the masses. For example, baby organic cotton sleepwear is wanted by babies whose parents prefer organic products and who are in the market for sleepwear. This makes it a niche market because not everyone wants organic sleepwear and not everyone has a baby. 

If we apply this same principle to mp3 players, for example, which are wanted by a mass market, not a more specific market. Therefore, one of the things that you need to ask yourself when you are looking for an item(s) to sell is "who would want this?". If the answer is "everyone", then you are best to steer clear. If the answer is "babies with eczema", for example, you are one step closer to finding a niche item that you can sell for a profit. 

There are other factors that go into determining if an item will sell profitably on eBay. We have some fantastic resources on the site for how to do this, so check them out:  

What sells on eBay? 

Monday Market blog posts. These are published on the blog every Monday so keep an eye out. 

The SaleHoo Research Lab - Analyze real time eBay data and learn what sells and how much profit it makes. 

Beginner Decision #2: Where to sell

Sometimes this decision and the decision of what to sell go hand-in-hand: A product might sell better on one marketplace than another. For example, some sellers find that an item that will not sell on eBay will sell very profitably when they sell it on ArtFire or RubyLane. 

When deciding where you sell, you need to consider  Marketplace fees range dramatically across the board. eBay and Amazon are among the more expensive, but for good reason: eBay and Amazon are among the most visited websites in the world which equates to more sales (if you are selling the right product at the right place using the right sales techniques).  

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many eBay alternatives to choose from that yield some very solid results for SaleHoo members. Most of these get a fraction of the traffic that eBay and Amazon do, but they have two benefits that seduce many sellers: 

1) The marketplace owners listen to what sellers want. Because these marketplaces are still young and growing, they consult buyers and sellers about how to make the marketplaces work better for the users. This is a refreshing change for many eBay sellers who feel that eBay don't always have the seller's best interests at heart. 

2) The fees are lower. Most alternative marketplaces do not charge a listing fee which makes it risk-free to try selling there. When you do make a sale on the more popular alternative marketplaces such as ArtFire and Bonanza, you will be charged a final value fee or a success fee which is usually a small percentage of the sale price. 

There are some marketplaces out there which are completely free such as eCrater, but they have advertising on the site which can cause buyers to get distracted from your items and click away. Furthermore, it's expensive to manage good marketplaces and you can't do it if users aren't paying. This means that most of the free marketplaces are a little more difficult to use and customer support is (understandably) lacking. 

Another option which many SaleHoo members and other successful online retailers have a lot of success with is selling on your own website. There are some significant advantages to selling on your own website, especially when done in conjunction with selling on eBay. Most importantly, you eliminate your competitors. Unlike on marketplaces where there are thousands of other sellers, on your own site, it's all about your products which makes it easier to make sales! 

Furthermore, there are no listing fees or success fees on your own website. This means that all your profits are yours to keep! 

Owning your own store used to be reserved for only those who had thousands of dollars to spend, or those who had the technical skills to build their own website. Now, however, there are excellent store options such as SaleHoo Stores which make it fast and easy to start your own store and plans start from less than $1 per day, less than what you pay in fees for a single sale on eBay! Learn more about SaleHoo Stores here

Other Decisions Beginners Need to Make: 

What payment options will you offer? PayPal is almost an essential because so many buyers trust and use it often. Plus, it integrates seamlessly with popular selling platforms such as eBay, Amazon, and SaleHoo Stores.  However, PayPal account holds can be a serious issue for sellers. 

What kind of marketing will you do? Unfortunately, the days of just throwing some listings online and waiting for the sales to roll in are over. Nowadays, it is crucial that you work to get your products in front of other sellers. 

What kind of suppliers will you use? Drop shippers, wholesalers. liquidators and manufacturers all have their benefits, but which is right for you? 


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Comments (5)

  Already a member? Login to comment
Lucy Tolson on 0:47 1 Dec
Very good info - Well worth the read for the beginner!
Alice Delore on 19:49 5 Dec
Thanks lucyt :)

I see you are a new member, so welcome to SaleHoo! If you haven't already, stop by the forum and say hi. If you have any questions, it's a great place to get help :)

Lace Llanora on 4:04 7 Dec
Definitely use social media for marketing, there are a number of Facebook groups now that online sellers can join. This is not only for selling but to connect with other sellers and exchange tips or advice. Very much like joining a community! :)
gail dodd on 9:30 8 Dec
Hi i am also new to SaleHoo since august 2012 and still have no idea how to get started or what to sell, I have all this information a click away and still no idea how to put it all together.
Irene Vallejo on 4:52 10 Dec
Hi gaild1986, Send us your questions at and we will do our best to assist you! :)


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