A business you can run from home and immediately turn a profit? Sounds like a dream come true! If you want to provide an income for your family, from the comfort of your home, ecommerce might be the right step for you. But how do you begin to learn the ropes of ecommerce? As someone with 18 years of experience in e-commerce, Kat Simpson believes that EBay is the perfect stepping stone for learning how to effectively sell online.
On the Podcast
02:07 – The Business of Beanie Babies
02:44 – A Business Model that Fits Your Schedule
03:25 – A Podcasting Interruption
04:38 – Is Just Listing Items Enough?
06:34 – Strategies to Get Found
08:08 – Finding Products to Sell
09:45 – The Benefits of Ebay
13:50 – Profit Margin
15:55 – Buy It Now
16:54 – Beyond EBay Marketing
21:00 – Earning Loyal Customers
22:50 – Kat's $6,000 Mistake
25:55 – EBay vs. Amazon
28:45 – Helping Moms Earn a Living from Home
29:45 – 3 Must-Haves for Business
32:20 – Kat's Adorable Grandma Moment
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear Kat’s episode
The Business of Beanie Babies
When Beanie Babies were all the rage, Kat saw an opportunity to make some money on the side for her family. Thus began her almost 20 years of ecommerce experience.
A Business Model that Fits your Schedule
EBay is a great platform for military spouses who have to pick up and move. Kat began selling second- hand items she had at home or picked up at yard sales. The advantage of EBay is that it’s super flexible. You can work on it for a bit, put it on pause, and come back to it when you are ready. That was just the type of business Kat needed for that time in her life.
A Podcasting Interruption
In real life, our podcast is full of interruptions since we always have kids at home when we record our episodes. Thankfully, Kat loves the interruption! She loves helping moms succeed in business in order to stay home with their kids if that's their desire. Kat loved being able to sell on EBay when her kids were little, because the flexibility was wonderful.
Is Just Listing Items Enough?
Kat started selling on EBay in 1997 and a lot of things have changed over the years. You used to be able to get sales by simply listing your items. Now, you can’t depend on EBay alone to bring you traffic. There are several reasons for this.
Google and EBay are not getting along
EBay has a new search engine that is not very “smart” which makes it more difficult for items to be found on EBay.
Strategies to Get Found
The best way to get found on EBay is to have a niche store where you can sell a large quantity of the same item and cater to a specific type of person. Determine your ideal customer and build your store around that customer. It is much easier to market a store that is cohesive and caters to the same type of customer. You can advertise and be present in the same places where your ideal customer hangs out online.
Finding Products to Sell
This is the number one question that people ask, but Kat says this is actually the least of your worries. Finding things to sell is easy. Kat buys a lot of wholesale and liquidations. Everyday wholesalers contact her wanting her to buy their items. The tricky part is determining which items will be profitable.
The Benefits of Ebay
Many people don't realize that Ebay has many great features that make it easy for a shop owner to get started online. For $15 a month you get a website on EBay with 300 pages and a suite of tools to help with marketing. Your EBay store has built in SEO options, and you can even change the SEO keywords for each page of your store. EBay provides a newsletter that you can use to market your products.
Kat encourages sellers to use all the free marketing tools EBay has to offer: the newsletter, flyers, about me page, links to social media profiles, and more. EBay also provides traffic reports, store reports, keyword reports, and more to help you make great business decisions.
Since EBay has a very confusing fee structure, it can be difficult to figure out if you are actually making a profit. The general rule of thumb is that you will pay 20-25% of the sales price to PayPal and EBay in fees. For more expensive items, the fee percentage will be less. Kat recommends that new sellers shop around their house first for items they can list on EBay. These are zero cost items that help you learn the photography process, the listing process, the selling process, and the shipping process, all without having tons of money at stake.
Next try other low cost items you find at thrift stores and garage sales. Kat recommends that you use these zero and low cost items to learn the ropes. Learn how to sell on EBay before you plunk down $500 to a wholesaler and large amounts of money are on the line.
Buy It Now
Kat recommends using the Buy It Now feature on EBay as opposed to the auction method. Combine the Buy It Now feature with the Best Offer feature so that people can offer you a price that you can choose to either accept or decline.
Beyond EBay Marketing
Kat recommends finding out where your customers are hanging out on social media and head there. You could spend hours on social media, so set a timer so you have a limit each day.
YouTube can be a powerful marketing tool for EBay. Use YouTube videos to show that your product works, to demonstrate its operation, or to show off product features. You can embed the video right into your product listing so every person who looks at your listing immediately sees the video explaining your product features and benefits. Kat had a vintage Biff the Bear video that she created in 2008 to show that the Bear still talked. That video has since gotten 50,000 views, and continues to drive traffic to her EBay store long after the actual bear was sold!
Earning Loyal Customers
People buy from sellers they know, like, and trust, so cultivate a relationship with your customers. Kat recommends packaging items to look like a gift and include a freebie in the package to wow them. Getting your customers on your email newsletter is critical. When you communicate with them via your newsletter, make sure it's not about you. It should be all about them!
Kat's $6,000 Mistake
When the Beanie Baby craze was in full swing, Kat was buying and selling Beanie Babies and couldn’t keep them in stock fast enough. She kept putting her money back into more Beanie Babies. What she didn’t realize is that she was dealing with a fad. When the fad died and Beanie Babies stopped selling, Kat was left with $6,000 in Beanie Baby inventory that she couldn’t unload. Her advice? Know when you are selling a fad, and get out.
New EBay sellers need to be careful and make sure they are actually making money. They see the money go into their account, but they forget about all the little expenses going out. In order to succeed, make sure you know the cost of everything so you can ensure that you're truly making money.
EBay vs. Amazon
There are a lot of advantages to selling on Amazon:
- Fulfillment by Amazon makes shipping easy
- Amazon has a much larger audience
- Amazon customers buy a lot more than EBay customers
- Sales are bigger on Amazon
- The Profit margin is bigger
- Customers require less maintenance on Amazon
However, E-bay still offers a few advantages, and it's a great place to learn e-commerce skills. Kat maintains accounts on both EBay and Amazon. EBay lets you build your own business, brand, and customer base. On Amazon you are nothing but an Amazon order filler. Amazon is not a customer acquisition channel. Most of the people who buy on Amazon, don’t even realize they are buying from a person. If you want to have your own long term business and brand, go with EBay. For fast cash without long-term goals, go with Amazon.
Helping Moms Earn a Living From Home
Kat feels called to help moms who want to support their families and stay home if they choose. Her site ThatKat.com has Webinars, a weekly radio show, sales tax help, and much more. Kat is clearly a seasoned, E-commerce expert and has lots of great advice to offer!
3 Must-Haves for Business
- Google. Kat loves Google. (Who doesn’t?) Google Drive and other tools allow Kat to work with her team seamlessly.
- Asana. Kat uses Asana for project management which allows you to organize a project into steps and assign people to each task. Asana is free!
- Virtual Assistants. Behind the scenes Kat has many people helping her with things like audio editing, social media, photography, and listings. She employs an executive VA and has a lot of resources on her website about hiring a Virtual Assistant.
Kat's Adorable Grandma Moment
Kat shares a bittersweet moment with her grandson who loves his Nona!