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Friday, December 21, 2018

Zero to 750 K per year in eCommerce sales in six years (our specialist Hydraulic Online Stores)

The title 3 years ago used to read "0 to 300 k in three years, Our online store".  
We are currently (Dec 2018) at $750 K in sales per year and are planning to exceed $ one million by the end of this year Dec 2019.  

So what has changed in the last 2-1/2  years. 

1. We invested in and launched our own web store. Our Own Hydraulic.Online
 We have promoted this store with a little bit of consistent SEO and by also sending a small card with any eBay sale we directly dispatch from our Service Sales center inviting our eBay customers to save 5 % by visiting and purchasing from our new online store. 40% of all our online sales now come from this web store.

In the last few weeks (As at Feb 2019) I have gone back and started to update our blogs with new fresh pictures, more detailed and clarified content and the odd video. I have also added links to our website and web stores. So watch this space for the next update on our sales performance.

2. Amazon Australia.
Amazon is a completely different and more sophisticated online platform to eBay, Amazon is a very customer (buyer) focused almost to the detriment and expense of the seller. 

Amazon has the lions share of the online market in the USA and that is where we are going to focus some of our efforts this year. 

Here in Australia, Amazon is just 1 year old, we are slowly making some progress with a few key imported products but as the platform is still new in Australia and does not have all the product categories as the US site has, it has affected our niche of specialty industrial products that currently have to be listed under the "home improvements" category. 

Less Than 1% of our online sales come from this platform, and at the moment it is a loss for our business, but watch this space we are learning about key words, pay per click and early adopter programs most of which are not yet available in Amazon Australia.

2. Sales from our eBay store continue to increase for the following reasons.

  • We have created relationships with wholesales and importers who will drop ship for us. 
  • Drop ship means you promote other companies products on your website and if they sell, you send an order to your supplier and or wholesaler and they ship the product to your customer on your behalf. Around 30% of our total online sales are drop shipped. 
  • Bulk buying, as we have grown we have been able to negotiate better prices buy purchasing some of the best selling items in larger quantities, these savings are passed on to the customer making you more competitive but Warning make sure your profit margins are maintained.
  • When our sales $ volume increased to a certain size we were allocated an eBay concierge, this is a representative employed by eBay who calls us once a month and discusses our performance, makes recommendations based on market trends and also on what our competitors are doing. Some of their recommendations are  
  • New products and a larger range of sizes and quantity variations.  
  • Importing our own products directly from manufacturers or overseas wholesalers. This will gave the best margins but at the cost of having to invest up front for the products. 
  • Check out our stores here 

Below is the details of our original blog written a couple of years ago.  
Ebay, I suppose most of you have heard the name,  most of you have purchased and or sold 
something through eBay with great, average  or perhaps disappointing results. If you feel ebay is not for you because you feel or have heard that it has a reputation for cheap poor quality products I urge you to think again and take another careful look. 

So why do we use eBay ? There are three hundred thousand reasons why we use eBay, the most important reason is "global reach"  and more importantly for us Australia wide reach. I am not writing to tell you what to sell, I am writing to tell you HOW we at Mobile Hose Fixers & Hydraulics Gold Coast sell specifically through our eBay store and by using the rules below you most probably could do it as well.

Just in case you are still wondering  "What is ebay?"
Wikipedia the online encyclopedia says
"eBay Inc. is an American multinational corporation and e-commerce company, providing consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales services via the Internet".

First a little history.
My wife and I were using eBay even before we purchased our own businesses some 10 years ago. We used to get up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and drive to all the "promising" garage sales advertised in the local newspaper.  

I still remember my two most profitable garage sale purchases.
1. A large Kleenmaid clothes dryer that I purchased for $80, I spent 4 hours cleaning it up inside and out and replacing a small ball bearing supporting the drum and then listed it on ebay...it sold for $320 one week later.
2. A mint condition hard cover book on Thomas the Tank Engine (the complete collection of stories) which I still kind of regret selling , I did triple my money but I could of made a lot more now if I had held on to it.

  My wife even had a small part time eBay business mainly buying small antiques from ebay in the United States then reselling them here in Australia,  she made enough to pay for the family groceries every week.
Anyway with the purchase of our own businesses eBay was forgotten up until about 5 years ago when I thought "I wonder if I can sell some of the products that I sell over the counter and out of the service trucks on ebay?" but that's all I did, .... think about it, and then I didn't do anything about it for another 2 years.

In 2013 I listed my first small  $8 item related to my current business on ebay and within about a week it sold , motivated by the sale I listed some similar items and within 2 weeks most of those had also sold.
Initially the items I listed and sold were not items I sold a lot of through the business but  products I thought might be useful to people who would be interested in doing the job themselves,  people who were possibly skilled, interested and motivated enough to want to do the work themselves but who may have had difficulty sourcing or selecting the correct parts.  And that's how it started, the ebay DIY (Do It Yourself) hydraulics theme.

I did my homework and in most cases followed eBay's online tutorials and or advice they sent me via email as we grew,  Over the past couple of years we have generated and list of rules and proceedures for listing, displaying, describing and photographing the products we sell. Below are some of the rules that in my opinion are the basics but also the most important ones.
1. Photographs
Multiple, clear, well illuminated, high resolution (1 megabit) digital photographs with plain uncluttered backgrounds.
High resolution because eBay has a zoom function on pictures which lets prospective buyers really see the detail of the product they are interested in purchasing. Pictures of your product from different angles also allows the buyer to better visualise how your item is put together and how it will look or fit into or onto their machine.
Some of our product photos have been viewed so may times through eBay and its promotion of our product that they even show up on google images.
2. Lots of Written Detail
A very detailed, well written and laid out description of the product, its uses and function.
Describe what your product does,
how and where it is used and by whom.
Where it is made, if it is made in Turkey,  China, Germany, Italy or the USA, say so, you should have confidence in your products, 
Sales training Specialist Victor Antonio says it perfectly "be a Product of the Product".
All our products new and or re-manufactured are tried and tested and come with a 30 day money back guarantee and so should all the products you list.
If new, all products by Australian Law must come with a  12 month warranty.
What materials is the product made from?
It's size and weight?
Its design limitations such as pressure, flow and temperature.
The details you write to describe and explain your product and or show through photos will not only indicate that you know your product well (which you should) but the buyer will also percieve that you are an expert on this item.
Remember the more details you put the less questions you will have and more informed and confident your buyer will be.
3. Answer all Questions
Included a contact phone number and or an email address in all your listings and be prepared to answer all inquiries promptly with enthusiasm, respect and politeness at any time of the day.  We have made many great repeat customers this way who now contact us direct with all their hydraulic requirements.
4. Packing and Postage
Ensure that you pack and address all your products neatly and professionally and most importantly post the item or items as quickly as possible.
Ensure that you don't profit from the postage. However do allow a reasonable amount for your time and expenses to wrap and prepare a postage label and for the run to the local post office or freight company.
Try and negotiate with freight and courier companies for bulk deals.
If you offer Australia wide postage like we do, shop around for the best freight deal. With time you will come to know which carriers are good for what areas.  Always keep looking for better freight deals.
If you experience any kind of dispatch delay or out of stock error or you have realised you just made a mistake let the customer know straight away in writing and always offer a 100% refund as a first option followed by your preferred option which is to ask the buyer to wait until you have rectified the mistake or problem. It is our experience that if you offer a 100% refund first and keep the buyer informed with regular updates generally more than 99% of buyers are happy to wait till you sort the problem out.
5. Pricing 
Pricing will vary with the type of overheads you may have.
For us pricing is a based on a standard % mark up and on tiered scale based on our purchase price. The higher the purchase price the less the margin %.
However our online business has and does generate enough funds to pay wages to two full time employees as well as cover overheads and fixed expenses and so should yours.
The Selling price of your item is not always the deciding factor on whether a buyer will purchase from you, your "feedback" score is generally far more important. 
6. Feedback
Feedback is a score that your buyers give you based on how they felt the transaction went and how satisfied with the product they received.
Your customers are asked by eBay to judge the service you provided as well as the product you supplied and then give you Positive, Neutral or Negative feedback.
A 5 star grading system is also used by eBay and it asks the buyer to rate the following .
How accurate was the description of the product in the listing compared to what they actually received.
How good was the communication by the seller during the transaction.
How quickly was the item posted.
And how reasonable were the postage charges.

Ebay analyses these scores and makes them visible for everyone to see.
If you follow the rules eBay will also reward you and promote you and will also display little icons that lets all prospective buyers know what kind of seller you are.
Two years ago eBay's awarded us "Top Rated Seller"  status, which recognises sellers who have a proven track record of excellent customer service and sales.
Last year we were awarded "Power Seller" status.  Power Sellers are among the most successful sellers on eBay in product sales and customer satisfaction.
What are the requirements? To qualify for the Power Seller program, sellers need to consistently sell a significant volume of items, keep their account in good standing and provide a high level of service to their buyers. Membership is free and can only be awarded if you qualify and maintain those standards.

7. Conclusion
So what are you waiting for? Everyone has at least one keen interest and or in depth knowledge on a product or process and how to use it and even who to purchase it from. Do some homework or research on eBay and find out who is currently selling where are they located and for how much are they selling it.
Or You may have a garage, basement, barn, attic, house, bedroom, display cabinet or wardrobe, full of items you purchased but never used, or replaced before its useful life was over.
My favorite saying is from Nike Sports wear "Just do it" ....... eBay it!