Auctiva Series 1 – Account Set Up and New listing domonstration

Many years ago, when I first use eBay to sell my personal stuffs, I created each listing individually and the repeating process bugs me all the time. As soon as I treat my eBay selling as a business, I was actively looking for tools to help with efficiency. Eventually I found a good tool called Auctiva. From the definition from Wikipedia,

“Auctiva is an eBay auction management system, founded in 1998 by Jeff Schlicht”

Auctiva provides a user friendly interface to help build listing profiles and save them as template to make future listings fast and easy. In this article, I am going to demonstrate how Auctiva is working and I highly encourage you to learn and master this tool.

Originally I plan to put everything about Auctiva into one single post, however as my writing goes, I realized that this will result a super long post, so in order to keep a good size for each of the listing, I will instead start a series. In this first article of the series, I will talk about setting up Auctiva account and first part of new listing demonstration.

 

Set Up an Account

Comparing to eBay and PayPal, Auctiva account is much easier to set up. In addition, to help you to get started easily, Auctiva provides a trial version and makes the best customer experience. There are only 3 pieces of information needed to start a free trial account: User Name, Password and E-mail address. Even after the trial period is over, you can still keep the account free if you do not purchase a monthly plan. Please see all the free tools in the picture below while keeping a free account.

 AuctivaFreeTools

If you are an active eBay seller and constantly listing lots of items, you can choose a monthly plan from Auctiva (with details of pricing and contents of the package). Just for your reference, the current plan I am using is “Advanced plan.” costing $10 per month.

You might have known this already, but I just want to make sure if you like to select a plan or switch a plan once the account is set up, you can go to “Change Plan” in the “Account” section under “My Account” from the top menu once you log into your Auctiva account.

Again before I go into details of Auctiva, I want to make it very clear here that I am only going through the most important functions I use the most, but please play around with other functions because you might have good ideas of utilizing them and do not forget to come back and share your experiences of using Auctiva.

 

Create a new listing

Now let’s get into the part where you can put in your hard work. Remember you might need to work a little harder upfront (depending on how many individual products you want to list, just to give you an idea, I have about 200-300 listings for each of my product line), but later on you can enjoy the benefit of working whenever you need to mainly by answering questions, processing orders and manage the listings.

AuctivaCreateNewListing                                     

As the picture shows above, through the top menu, under “Listings”, you can choose to create a new listing. By click on the link, you will be directed to the page of “Create an eBay Listing”. If you have any experience with creating a listing inside your eBay account, you will notice that this “one page” platform is more user-friendly and saves you more clicks and time to have the listing alive without missing any necessary details.

When I say “one page”, it means all the details you need to enter before publishing the listing are only on single web page, so you do not need to click through different pages and wait for each page to load up. Less clicks = less hassle, and you can have all the information in a listing saved and published at once. Just for your reference, by the time I write this post, I experimented to create a new listing my eBay account and found out it actually took me to click through 5 different pages to eventually publish a listing.  

Now let me walk you through all the details on this one page platform to walk you through the process. If you have any questions, by all means, send me an email, or leave me a comment, I will do my best to help you with more details.

 

Basic Settings

 AuctivaCreate1

As showing in the picture above, the first 2 sections are basic setting for a listing.

– Create an eBay Listing:

  • Sale Type: There are two types of listings on eBay. Fixed Price is the one I use the most. If you are carrying popular products from big brand with high market recognition, Auction might be more ideal to you
  • eBay Site: Always choose United States if you can as it provides the most exposure to the audience.
  • Master Profile: This works as a plug-in that you can save prefilled information into different profiles and load them into future listing to save your time. I will get into more details in a later article of this series of this post. Please Stay tuned for now.

 

– Skip to a Section:

This is used to help you easily navigate to a different section of this one page platform, so you do not have to go through all the details every single time.

 

Item Details

As this section has lots of information, I divided it into three parts. Now let’s look at the first part:

AuctivaCreate2

 

– Load Profile: again I will go into more details to Profile in a separate article of this series and for now it just gives an option to load up some pre-filled information to save you time

– Title: I will say this is the most important part of you listing. Why? No matter how great your product is and how beautiful your listing is designed, if buyers can’t find your listing, you are pretty much just wasting your time by only enjoying with yourself. Therefore, as part of marketing strategy, title becomes extremely important when grabbing buyers’ attention. How to make an effect title? – to add most relevant keyword to the title. You don’t just brainstorm the keyword yourself, here are some helpful tips in one of previous post talking about how to use Terapeak to find the most relevant key words.

Please note that I do not encourage you to use “Subtitle”. Not just because it costs you money to add a sub title, based on my research, there is no significant advantage of using them.

– First Category: By clicking “Mange List”, a list of recent used categories will be opened up for you to choose from on the right hand side (where it’s showing blank right now). If this is a brand new product that has no relationship with your previous products, you can browse or search through all the categories available on eBay.

– Item Condition Note: Other than simply telling the buyers your product is new or used, you can add more details of your product to provide better customer experience and save you more trouble from possible argument later on.

– Second Category: The option is useful when you want to insert your listing to two different categories on eBay to increase the market exposure. Please be noticed that this does cost an extra fee though.

Now let’s look at the second part.

AuctivaCreate3

 

– First and Second Store Category: The reason eBay has category is to keep all the listings well organized, so same idea here, in order to help buyers with easy navigation, eBay Sore Category is necessary. In my last post about eBay Store, I talked about how to manage categories, and here we simply choose which category the listing belongs to. When new store categories are created in eBay account, they do not get updated in Auctiva account automatically. To synchronize the change, you need to manually go to top menu, “My Account” -> “Settings – eBay” ->”Update Store Categories from eBay”.

– Item Description: This is where you put in your own words. To keep it well organized, you can consider adding a template, which I will talk about later in this post. Good item description does not only contain text. Integrate photos and videos into the description can definitely help with more attractions.

In the last part,

– Auctiva Image Selection: Auctiva provides the service as an image host, so you can upload images up to size 2 GB (depending on which monthly plan you choose) and for each listing as per eBay’s standard, you can add up to 12 images.

– Price: Start Price and Reserve Price are prices used for Auction type of listings and they will be grayed out if fixed price listing is chosen. “Buy it Now Price” is how much you want to sell your product for.

By ticking “Accept offers from buyers”, you give the option to your buyers to negotiate the price, but in order to keep the offering price in control, I will suggest you to utilize auto decline offers and auto accept offers.

For each listing, you can list multiple items – please notice that this option is not available when you have feedback score less than 10.

Duration is how long you would like to list your product for. The ones I always use are 30 days and “good till cancelled”

If you do not want other people except for you and the buyer to know too much about the transaction, you can choose to set up listing as private. I sellers usually use it for expensive items such as jeweleries and cars. I have not used this before myself.

– Template: This is a format to organize the contents of your listing by separating them into different sections. I will get into more details in a later post.

Alright, I will end the first post of this series here and please let me know if you have any question and feel free to leave comments.


Find your niche product for a niche market

What is a niche market? The definition from Wikipedia says, “A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing”. A niche product is the specific product from the definition. To find a niche product, you need to find your target market first, study their needs and wants plus their spending habit. If your target market is too broad, it’s very easy to lose focus.

From my previous experiences, you can target a particular group of people and find a product to serve them. My favorite type of products is hobby related. People with same kind of hobby can be grouped together. No matter their gender, age or income. Hobby is a particular way to enjoy life because when you are enjoying your hobby, you can easily have a relief from the stress that bothers you all the time and shift you mind away from your busy life.When dealing with hobby, people are very emotional and willing to spend their hardly saved money, to you as a seller, this is a good starting point. You do need to spend some time to understand the hobby related products in order to talk in same language with you customers, but remember an expert really just means a person who understands a little more than a average person in a particular area. 

There is another type of products that are more ideal than hobby related products, which is addiction related, but so far I have not found any good ones on ebay. If you come across any, please let me know. 

If you find it’s hard to think of any product, try to search on ebay directly and browse its sub categories. Sometimes you might find something that worth giving it a try. For this approach, I call it top down approach, as you start from the top of the category and go all the way down. One thing to kind in mind is, in order to be more specific, it’s ideal if you go down to the 3rd layer of the category trees. For example, if you want to sell some products in “Cell Phone & Accessories”, you want to go from top down as far as “Cell Phone & Accessories” -> “Phone Cards and SIM Cards” ->”SIM card reader”, because in most of the cases, before you reach the 3rd layer, it’s still too broad. 

 


Market Research before you make money on Ebay

To find a good product is not very easy. With easy access to information today, good products are spread out very quickly. There are tons of giant online retailers out there and they keep adding new products into their product lines everyday, to directly compete with them is no difference to suicide, however don’t be disappointed. Niche products are found everyday and you don’t need to have the best price in order to have your products sold. To start a solid market research helps you on future growing and avoids overheated competition from the beginning. In today’s post, I will share an overview of market research to look for a good product to sell on ebay. 

 

From the graph on the left side , there are 4 important steps you need to go through to find a decent product. 

1. Have a product in mind. This is your niche and you need to know why you are selling this products and what kind of customers you will be dealing with the future. There are some debates out there talking about if you should sell something you have true passion or you should sell something you have absolutely no idea, or something in between. personally I have proved that any of these three types of product will work and to me there is no one better than others. However I want to share a few tips here.

a)   If you are selling something you really enjoy, do not fall into the trap of using your emotion to judge your customers. You need to understand every person has different opinion on the same product, so you don’t want to assume all your customers have same passion and same feeling of the product as you do. Depending too much on your own judgement, you will most likely overestimate the importance of your product and might end up overpricing them or easy to become very emotional when dealing with issues. 

b)   To sell something you do not have idea is more subjective, but what you want to focus is spending enough time on learning the product features and understand how it work. For example, when I first started one of my hot selling products, I had no idea how to answer the technique questions from the customers, luckily I have a very good support team backing me up from your supplier. After 3 months, I experienced enough questions and learned a lot about the product, I became an expert of the product and help lots of customer by providing answers in a very quick manner and win the customers by providing the best customer services.

c) The third category is easier to handle as it’s in between, but remember keep learning and improving efficiency if always the key. 

2. Once a product is decided, you need to run detailed research on ebay to check for existing competitions. If you come across a very good product, but can barely find someone else selling it on ebay, be careful,  check ebay’s policy and make sure that type of product is allowed on ebay as there are certain products are forbidden on ebay such as adult toys, tabacco and alcoholic beverages, just to name a few.  If everything looks fine, good luck. You must have found gold. Go right ahead to crush it! In most cases, the following are true: products with more competition leads lower profit margin and products with less competition results higher profit margin, but less volume. What is ideal?well, pretty much nothing. If a niche product is so popular and the existing competition is so low, more sellers will appear very soon.

3. I put supplier research to the 3rd step, but you can actually change the order of it with ebay competition research (step 2). Feel free to find suppliers before you do any ebay research as long as you have a product in mind. Suppliers can be found locally or from all over the world on the Internet. To find a good supplier is only the first half of the step, more importantly, you need to make sure that they can work with you. Unfortunately the fact is lots of suppliers do not even work with retailers directly. I will explain the reasons in more details  in my future posts.   

4. Price analysis is the last step before you start your listings. This step makes sure it’s reasonable to sell the product you chose. Even you are not running a physical store, there are bills you need to pay mainly with ebay and paypal. If you are other tools to help you with your efficiency, there is a good chance that you need to pay a little more. I tried hard to keep my expenses to very low, but I still have to pay a minimum of $75 for each of my ebay accounts without selling any product.

Congratulations If you have gone through the 4 steps above! Very likely you found a good product and ready to put in your hardwork upfront. If you get stuck in any of steps 2-4, do not worry, it’s still early to change your mind and start searching a new product all over again. 

In my nest few posts, I am going to explain step 1-4 in more details by providing tools and also explain how to use those tools. I will use YouTube video to help my demonstration and today I am proudly announce here, I just made my first your tube video on YouTude. Please use the following link to check it out and I hope you like my face!

 


Work effectively and efficiently

There is a good news. No matter how rich a person is or how smart a person is, he/she has exactly 24 hours, or 1440 minutes, or 86400 seconds everyday just like you do. Having said that, what is the reason you sometimes feel like other people are more successful than you are? In this post, I am going to take a detailed look at what’s behind the curtain and share some of my thoughts and experiences and hopefully to give you some hint. I am also going to share some tools I am currently using to improve my daily work.

As soon as you have goals set up and plans laid out , it’s time to look at your work flow to make sure you are working effectively and efficiently. Many people get confused on the terms, effective and efficient, there is very good article explaining the difference from Daily Blog TipsI am not going to ask you to choose one of effectiveness and efficiency, because in order to become successful, you need to have both.

I will start with a real life example to illustrate the difference. The way I handle my daily tasks is to write them down on paper (of course you can use your cell phone or computer to type them out and I have been using these devices lately as I go green – Save the trees!), to improve the effectiveness, I prioritize them in orders to ensure the more important tasks to be done first. To improve efficiency, I group tasks together. For example, if I need to go out for grocery shopping, I plan my little trip by thinking the driving routines, and group other tasks that can be done along the way to the grocery store. By doing so, I can effectively avoid delays and save time significantly.

The following are some useful tools I personally use to help me organize my tasks and improve effectiveness and efficiency:

For Mobile Devices (Smart phones or tablets):

– Taskos: An easy to use app. It supports voice search and you can also type in your tasks. It has 3 different categories for high, normal and low priorities. It also allow you to add categories (to group tasks together), set up a date (deadlines), share with other users (good for family use) and add more details (such as notices, addresses and phone numbers). Once the task is done, you can simple move one of your fingers horizontally across the screen (exactly like what you do on paper by using a pen) to cross it over. By shaking the phone, all the completed task will go away. Whenever I share my phone, I feel like I have done a lot!

– Calendar: A very nice app. Android phone users can synchronize the calendar in the phone to google calendar. If you have not tried google calendar before, but you are using google everyday, I encourage you to use it right away, trust me, you will never miss any of your appointments in the futures – as long as you have a gmail account, google calendar should have been available to you already. Apple users, apple has a very nice, clean and easy to use calendar app as well, use it today and get your life more organized.

–  Alarm: You might surprise when I bring this app up. Yes, it’s a very common one, but did you use it effectively? Use it as a reminder. I get my boy in bed exactly the same time every night. I can’t tell you enough how important this tool is.

– ebay and paypal: Of course as we are going to talk about how to earn income from ebay in future posts, do not forget to install this apps. They can help me access to your business operations instantly.

         

For Personal Computers:

– Evernote: available at http://evernote.com.Evernote helps me a lot on improving efficiency. This program is available on smart phones, tablets and computers.

1) The first beauty of it is the ability to synchronize all your devices together. It’s a very very handy tool. I went on a field trip to tour the city of Calgary in Alberta Canada and I worked on my phone by taking short notes during the trip. As soon as I am done, I synchronized all my notes with my other devices and worked on my laptop for more researches back home after the trip.

2) The way evernote designed was to help you create note books and in each book you can create different notes, so it’s easy to categorize your projects.

3)  The check box function in the notes can help you keep track of you goals and record the work process.

4) In addition, it allows you to share with other users. My business partners are using this tool to share the information and jobs.

5) evernote also provide a clip function that help you save webpages. If you are like me surfing on the Internet all day long, looking for good articles and would  like to keep them for future reference, you need to try this neat function.

I am using a free version of evernote and the paid version has more cool functions to use.

– Google drive: now google is implementing all the documents, presentations, spreadsheet into one tool called drive (It’s used to be called google doc). I will say evernote helps your the smaller tasks, this one takes care of your formal documents. If you have any experience with Microsoft Office, google drive is an online version of it. Of course it’s more user friendly and easy to share. Microsoft Office might have some very comprehensive functions, but who cares, I am running rocket science here. Google drive can save up to 5GB data as an online hard drive.