Do you sell "actively" on eBay? When creating a new listing on eBay for a product you're planning to ship internationally, the first thing you should ask yourself is: "Should I list this passively or actively?"
What's the difference? In short, by listing the item actively, you'll achieve more sales.
Let's take a step back for a moment and examine how both selling actively and passively work, and why active selling leads to greater sales. This article will explain the main differences between being a passive seller and an active seller and why more online retailers are choosing to take the active route.
Consider the following U.S. e-commerce statistics that illustrate the size of the international market that goes untapped by many eBay sellers:
According to digital research firm comScore, U.S. retail e-commerce sales reached $186.2 billion in 2013, an increase of 15 percent over 2012 — the strongest annual growth rate since before the recession. Furthermore, according to a recent Forrester Research report, U.S. retail e-commerce sales will yield $414 billion and account for 11 percent of total U.S. retail sales by 2018.
A lot of these transactions will be taking place on eBay. The online retailer's U.S. website currently attracts 59 million unique visitors each month.
But did you know eBay's U.K. site attracts 17 million unique visitors each month? Or that its German site attracts 21.4 million? Or that its Italian site attracts 10 million? eBay operates 22 international marketplaces worldwide, which means U.S. eBay sellers have a real opportunity for growth.
While traditional retail channels continue to stagnate or decline, eBay remains one of the most popular shopping destinations for consumers. So what do you need to do to reach these millions of new potential buyers? It's simple: become an active seller on eBay.
The Passive Seller
Before we discuss what it means to be an active seller on eBay, let's address what it means to be a passive seller.
When selling passively, foreign buyers can bid on your merchandise, but you're not actively targeting them. The passive approach has some advantages, most notably its simplicity. This kind of format may suit online sellers which only want to sell internationally from time to time and don't mind missing out on the untapped potential of cross-border selling. For the majority of serious sellers, however, this passive approach to international selling isn't the way to go.
When selling passively on eBay, only a small percentage of international buyers actually manage to find your products. The reason behind this is twofold. First, international buyers search for items using keywords in their native languages. For instance, let's say you're selling jackets. A French buyer looking for jackets would search using the keyword "vestes" (the French word for jackets), and therefore your item wouldn't appear in the search results. Second, even if an international buyer does search on his/her local eBay site using a keyword which appears in the title of your listing, most of the time your listing would appear below local sellers - i.e., at the bottom of the search results.
Furthermore, when buyers filter their search by category, the chances of your items appearing become even more remote. This is because the category structures vary from one eBay site to another, which means that in many cases your item won't even be in the correct category. (eBay studies have shown that more than 40 percent of searches are refined by category.)
In summary, most people who use a passive approach to selling internationally via eBay exploit less than 10 percent of their full international potential.
Active and Happy
Selling actively on eBay means offering international shipping options on your U.S. listings for the countries to which you're willing to ship to. Since sellers today are frequently faced with cutting costs, increasing revenue and freeing up more time to devote to their businesses, they're realizing it's important for them to become active international sellers.
When I talk about selling actively on eBay, I mean placing localized listings directly on each international eBay site. A localized listing is a listing that's adapted for the specific country in which it's to be listed. For example, the listing contains the correct title keywords in the correct language, with the correct currency, postage information and category structure.
With this approach, foreign shoppers can find your items on their local eBay site when they search in their native language, even if they filter their results by category. For example, French shoppers searching for jackets on the French eBay site using the French language can find your products since your keywords would be localized and thus contain the top-performing French title keywords. In this case French shoppers could search for "vestes." In addition, since items are listed in the correct currency and category, there's a greater chance of converting a shopper to a customer.
Another benefit of active international selling on eBay is that items are listed directly on each international eBay site, so they appear higher up the search results alongside local sellers. This results in far greater visibility for your brand and products, and far greater sales.
The Challenges of Active Selling
While the advantages of selling actively on eBay have been detailed above, there are some disadvantages to the active approach to selling internationally. For one, publishing the same items on multiple international eBay sites means that you'll incur additional eBay insertion fees. However, this extra cost can be factored into the price of the item and, as eBay selling fees differ from eBay site to eBay site, you may even end up increasing your overall margin.
Other difficulties include the localization process itself. For it to work, you have to write titles in various languages using the correct keywords, calculating the correct currency conversions, finding the right categories and dealing with customers in foreign languages. In addition, selling on multiple sites makes inventory management more difficult since you have to synchronize stock levels between each of your foreign listings. For example, if your stock level decreases or you change the description or price of an item, then these changes need to be made across all of the individual eBay sites where that item appears.
In addition to the listing itself, you need to know the selling regulations for each eBay site to avoid listing items that may be prohibited in that particular country.
After working with hundreds of eBay sellers, from individual traders to large retailers, I've observed how much more effective the active approach is vs. the passive approach.
I've seen companies that have made the transition from passive selling to active selling increase their international sales tenfold, with the best results achieved by sellers who list all their top-selling items on the main eBay sites - Germany, France, U.S., U.K., Australia, Spain and Italy, and to a smaller extent Canada, Belgium and Austria.
However, it's difficult to manage the localization process and control stock levels across multiple foreign eBay sites. Even if you're using a third-party tool to publish and synchronize your listings, you still have to extract your listings, localize them, publish them, keep them fully updated, and redo the whole process for each new listing and eBay site.
That's why companies such as WebInterpret have emerged in recent years with the expertise and software needed to be able to manage the whole process from beginning to end, enabling eBay sellers to market their products worldwide without all the hassle.