Skip McGrath Follow Skip on Facebook
Follow Skip on Twitter
Sell Used Books Online for Profit

Top five reasons eBay sellers fail.The Top Five Reasons eBay Sellers Fail

By: Skip McGrath

Before I get into specific tips, let me say that the top reason eBay (or Amazon) sellers fail is they give up too soon. When you start selling online (no matter which venue you choose), you will run into a lot of roadblocks and frustrations -and you will make a lot of mistakes and missteps. You should expect that. If you want to succeed, it is critical that you keep pushing ahead no matter what happens.

Building an eBay business is, in many ways, quite similar to building any business. To be successful, everything must work together: Marketing, Sales, Quality, Pricing, and Customer Service. Selling on eBay, however, has a few unique features that differ from other businesses.

On eBay, your customer service reputation (Feedback and DSR Rating) is out in the open for everyone to see.

Imagine, if every store in the shopping mall had a sign outside where customers wrote comments about their products and service. Would you stop to read the comments before entering the store? After giving up to soon, Negative feedback and/or poor DSR scores, are the number one reason eBay sellers fail.

I have found however, that a negative feedback rating usually has its roots in other problems.

After "Giving up too soon," here are the top five reasons that eBay sellers fail:

1. Poor Feedback & DSR Rating

New eBay sellers typically underrate the importance of quickly building a great feedback rating. I am amazed when I click on an auction description and see a seller with a feedback rating under "10." How could this person know anything about selling on eBay? Savvy eBay buyers are cautious of sellers with a feedback rating under 25.

Admittedly, getting your first twenty-five feedback comments as a seller can be a long process. Don't forget: Although eBay shows the different feedback comments between buyer and seller, feedback as a buyer counts as well-and it is this total score buyers see when they look at your listing. Before you rush into selling on eBay, you should get some experience buying. There is nothing better than putting yourself in your customer's shoes. Doing this, will also build up your total feedback score.

Once you have 10 feedbacks as a seller, eBay will start rating you with their DSR - Detailed Seller Ratings. that is the Star system (from 1 to 5 stars). This is just as -if not more important, as your feedback rating. High DSR scores (plus a few other factors) can earn you fee discounts up to 10%.

I n my opinion, you should not start to sell on eBay, until you have completed a dozen or more purchases, paid for them promptly and received good feedback from your sellers.

Don't be afraid to ask the seller to post feedback in your payment email. Sellers like to be paid quickly. Sending payment by credit card or PayPal will build your feedback rating quickly as well.

When starting your eBay business, you should bend over backwards to provide exceptional service. Remember, you are fishing for compliments.

When you have a positive feedback rating over 100, bidders will look at your rating number, and then, make a decision on whether or not they want your product. If your feedback rating is less than a 100, people tend to actually look back through your comments and read them. There is a big difference between "Nice transaction -- good seller," and "FIVE ***** SELLER, EXCELLENT PRODUCT- FAST SHIPPING" Whether you are a new seller, or a veteran eBayer, building excellent feedback comments should be a major daily goal.

Poor communications between buyer and seller is the leading cause of negative feedback and low DSR scores. Make sure your first email to the successful bidder is clear, and complete. You should not only be polite, but also be effusive in your congratulations. Remember:

Some people shop on eBay for bargains, but most people shop on eBay for fun. Make the transaction a fun experience. Be personal. Don't sound like a bureaucrat or a big corporation. Make the buyer feel good and close the sale by complimenting them on the great deal they made.

Make sure your payment instructions are clear and your shipping methods and charges are clearly spelled out (this should have been in your auction, but many people can't remember). As the seller, you have the most to lose by negative feedback. It is only a question of time until you run into a difficult or irrational buyer. He or she may be rude, or unresponsive, or both.

Once your feedback rating is secure in the high hundreds, you can afford to take a tough line and weather the occasional negative feedback that can follow. But while you are building your feedback rating, sometimes you just have to swallow hard and be extra diplomatic. I always give people the benefit of the doubt and try and work something out. I would rather lose a sale than risk negative feedback from an irresponsible person. If a buyer won't complete the transaction, its better to report them to eBay, than to get into a feedback war. Once eBay determines they are a non-paying bidder, they will not be able to leave feedback against you.

How to ask for feedback:

As a buyer, send the seller a message like this with (or shortly after) your payment.

Dear (seller's name and/or user ID)

I have just sent payment, and left positive feedback for my purchase of (name what you bought). Since I paid quickly, and left you positive feedback, would you mind posting feedback for me?

Signed (your name AND User ID)

As a seller, your message should be something like this:

Dear (Buyer's name and/or user ID)

First of all, thank you for your business and prompt payment. I have just posted positive feedback for your transaction.

As the seller of (name of what they bought), I would like to let you know that we stand behind our product and service. If there is anything whatsoever wrong with your purchase, please reach out to me and give me a chance to fix it.

I would appreciate you taking a moment to post feedback for this transaction. I am a small seller -and good feedback is critical to my business. Thank you.

Signed (your name AND User ID)

To summarize, make your communications fast, friendly and complete and your DSR and feedback ratings will soar!

2. Dismissing Competition Can Kill You

Product selection is one of the keys to success for the small or new eBay seller. Almost every new seller wants to sell the latest, hottest consumer product. This is a huge mistake.

The simple truth is, unless you have thousands of dollars to invest in inventory you cannot buy these products in sufficient quantities, and at prices, that will let you make money. The big sellers have the power to cut their prices and make up the difference in volume. There is just no way to compete until and unless you become a huge seller who can also spend millions of dollars at a time to buy inventory to sell.

The secret for the little guy is: Find a niche product with less competition. Typically, the big guys leave these specialized niches alone. This allows you to charge higher prices and make better margins.

3. Weak Titles and Poor Auction Descriptions Lose Sales

There are over five million new listings launched on eBay every day -and up to twenty million listings on the platform any day you look. Your title must stand out above the competition to attract bidders. An ideal title should contain two key elements: Keywords that are searchable, and trigger words designed to attract attention.

Over 80% of bidders, find the item they are looking for by using the "Search" feature. Unless you use the key words bidders are typing in the search bar, you will miss many bids.

For example, if someone collects Ferrari Formula 1 model cars, they will search "Ferrari" rather than "Formula 1" or "model cars." A search of Ferrari turns up 41 items, while "Formula 1" turns up a few thousand items.

A search of "Blue & White" will turn up thousands of listing in the pottery section, but a search for "Liberty Blue" (a specific type of blue & white pottery) turns up only a few hundred items. If the person is looking for Liberty Blue dinnerware, then your listing will come up.

Your headline should also include "emotional" words designed to trigger a bidder's attention. These words include:

  • new
  • rare
  • unique
  • sexy
  • secret
  • super-value
  • and more

You should not call something new or rare if it is not. But, there are other adjectives that work well in headlines. Besides the emotional words you can use words such as exquisite, charming, mint, perfect condition, clean, New With Tags, etc. Just make sure you are accurate.

Once you catch the bidder's attention with a great title, you need to sell them with your item description. Too many bidders simply describe the item they are selling. eBay is all about selling. Anyone can win by lowering prices, but that leads to lower margins and profits.

By selling a bidder/buyer you can win with higher prices.

Yes, it's important to completely and accurately describe the item -You should always do that. But, too many sellers leave it at that. Take the time to romance your item. Sell the benefits.

Before writing the auction description, ask yourself: "Why would someone want to own the item you are selling." If you are selling something you use, say so. Tell the potential bidder why you owned the item, how you used it, what benefits it brought you. Sell not just the features, but also the benefits and the romance.

Here is an example:

This Sterling Silver bracelet is five inches long, set with zirconium stones that look just like diamonds.

Now let's add some romance:

This charming Sterling Silver Bracelet is set with five glimmering zirconium stones, that sparkle like diamonds. The silver is finished to a high polish. The silver is so bright, it looks like white gold. Whenever I wear this bracelet my friends ask: "Wow, are those real diamonds? Where did you get that bracelet?

Excellent product photos are also critical to your success. We will cover those next.

If you are selling an antique, collectible or any used item, be sure and describe any damage or flaws. The fastest way to build negative feedback is over-describing an item, or over-promise performance.

4. Poor Images Can Turn Off Sellers

The saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" is never more true than on eBay.

Not having a photo of your item, will greatly reduce bids, and lead to unprofitable or unsuccessful auctions. Not only must you have a photograph of what you are selling, the photo should be accurate and revealing.

It is not necessary to be a professional photographer. eBay bidders understand that most sellers are taking snapshots of the products they sell. But, your photo should be clear, and show the product as completely as possible. Here are some tips for taking good photos that sell:

  • If the size of an object is not obvious, use a reference such as a ruler or a coin.
  • Show any flaws or defects. Point them out in the caption (and description).
  • Don't use a flash. It causes reflections. Take your photos in open shade or using indirect window light.
  • Do not use "stock" photos. Bidders want to see a picture of the item they are buying, not a website image or scanned photo from a brochure.
  • Use a tripod to make sure your shot is sharp.
  • eBay requires that your images be at least 600 pixels on one side. This is too allow bidders and buyers to zoom the photo. Really large photos (over 2000 pixels on the longest side, may not load.

Except for flat items such as prints, stamps, cards and so on, scanners often produce an inadequate image for most items. A better solution is a copy stand. Just Google that term and you will find plenty for sale at low cost.

Be sure you have good images.

Copy stand

5. Not understanding your numbers true costs is a path to disaster

It is very easy for a new seller to get caught up in the excitement of selling and not pay attention to all the costs involved. Before deciding whether to sell an item on eBay, and what to sell it for you need to understand all the costs involved.

First of all, there is the eBay listing fee. There is also a selling (final value fee) that is determined by eBay. This includes extras like free shipping, expedited shipping and gift wrap. The final value fee is based on the total the buyer pays. There is also a fee to accept and process a PayPal or credit card sale.

If you use an auction management service such as Auctiva or Vendio then you have their fees. Don't forget the cost of the shipping materials.

If you are selling items you purchased wholesale, were there shipping charges to get the products to you? Are you paying any storage fees? Did you pay sales tax on the item? Are you paying a part-time worker to do your shipping? All of these go into your true product cost. What are the monthly expenses to run your business (rent, ISP fees, equipment rental, telephone, etc)?

Most businesses fail because they are under financed. But, almost as many fail because they do not understand their true costs.

A program such as Quicken could help you understand your costs, but it is pretty basic. Their upgraded program, Quick Books, will allow you to track every expense, down to the penny, and allocate the costs and expenses to different categories This way you will fully understand where every penny is going, and if it was well spent.

For More Tips on how to be a successful eBay seller, check out:
The Complete eBay Marketing System

Learn to sell on eBay


The Online Seller's News is the Oldest & Largest Newsletter for eBay, Amazon & Online Sellers. Get News, Tips, Tricks and learn online selling strategies from the pros. FREE - New Wholesale Sources in every issue.

No SPAM - We will not rent, sell or trade your private information


First Name:

Last Name:

Own Your eBay Traffic

Skip McGrath on Facebook Skip McGrath on TwitterFollow

© 1999- Harry McGrath, Inc., DBA Skip McGrath, Auction Seller's Resource and Vision-One Marketing. All Rights Reserved.

eBay Tools and Resources | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Guest Contributions | Shipping & Return Policies
Home | Newsletters | eBay Training | Free Articles | Tools & Resources | Web Wholesale Search | Testimonials | Blog

Please Note:  Some of the products and services mentioned in this website, in articles, banner ads and newsletters and blog posts are for products and services for which I earn a referral fee or commission. We always evaluate anything we recommend very carefully and each year we turn down literally dozens of opportunities to recommend products or services where we can earn a commission. Even though we earn a fee on some of our recommendations, we only recommend products and services that we feel will deliver good value and with rare exceptions, they all come with a money back guarantee.