eBay Seller Education with Australia’s ‘Mr eBay’ Tim Davies

25th February 2016
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eBay is a major player in the online retail industry. In fact, 25% of Retail Global delegates sell their products exclusively through the site.

Tim Davies is an eBay Strategist at Zellis and is also the former eBay Manager of Seller Education. With his expertise and no-nonsense approach, he’s nicknamed ‘Mr eBay’ by industry professionals.

We asked industry authority Tim what it was that drives him to share his expertise with other retailers.

“It started a long time before I joined eBay. I was working for a guy doing capital raising for companies in the biotech industry. I learned a lot and started to build a good network.

I realised that if I could help people already in business leverage what they had to grow, it made me feel great about being able to contribute.”

Yet it was his next role at eBay that began the path to Tim’s career as it is today.

“I lost my job and ended up working through eBay. Out of the ten people who started at eBay when I did in early 2010, I was the person that stayed the longest. I was always passionate about empowering people to grow.”

After losing his job at eBay through redundancy, Tim wanted to stay in the same area. “It was just a case of changing the model and approach.”

How eBay has Changed

A misconception about eBay is that it’s a trash and treasure market, when in reality it’s a well-established retail marketplace. But when did that change?

“It happened progressively after eBay made a conscious choice to move that way” Tim explains. “The marketplace was going online and eBay realised that if they didn’t tap into that trend of online buyers, they were going to start missing out.

There’s only so many people that buy collectables or trash and treasure from. The vast majority of what’s spent online these days is on brand new retail goods.”

These evolutions haven’t been without friction for sellers, who could be intimidated by larger retailers.

“It was a natural progression,” Tim says, “but it’s created challenges for sellers to adjust their business to suit buyer expectations.”

The Bigger the Better?

With big retailers like Target setting up on eBay, users are curious to discover what happens behind the scenes. Tim shares his inside view.

“At a large organisation like that it’s not just one person making the decisions, there’s a massive team.

When I was doing the Target training there were about 20 people at the table. Questions were asked, they looked at each other and I could see that they suffered from something a lot of small eBay sellers don’t – they didn’t have agility. They didn’t have the ability to just make that decision – it had to go through committee after committee.”

However, Tim explains that bigger isn’t always better. In fact, larger businesses often have lower eBay feedback than individuals.

“If you compare with some of the smaller sellers that have been on eBay a long time, the feedback’s not as good because they’re a machine. No one person takes accountability for the business and this is an advantage that small businesses actually have if they stay close to the customers and close to what they’re doing.”

eBay states a major advantage to the smaller sellers is the volume of traffic the larger businesses bring to the site, creating a wider audience for smaller retailers to capitalise on. Tim weighs in:

“That’s certainly eBay’s argument and I think there’s some merit in that. The challenge is that eBay hasn’t released a lot of figures.

We do know the principle to be true, though. If you go shopping at a standalone store, you go and that’s it. But if you go to big shopping centres you’re not just going to go to one shop. That’s what eBay is trying to recreate online.”

eBay or your own website?

On whether eBay still able to provide a stepping stone into retail, Tim says: “That’s very much an individual question for a business. Don’t create your business around the solution. Create the solution, or find the solution to suit your business.

It’s very easy to build a business around the eBay solution thinking that’s how business is done. When in fact you should say ‘What do buyers want?’”

Getting set up on eBay is also an affordable choice, making it Tim’s recommendation for retailers on a budget. “There’s minimal costs of setting up. You’re not paying much to list products – in fact you don’t pay until you sell. The low barrier to entry is attractive.”

As for whether these smaller retailers should set up a site, stick to eBay or even simply continue as a brick and mortar store, Tim says “They’ve got to ask the questions. Where do their target buyers like to shop?”

He also supports the idea of omni-channel marketing. “Half of my customers might want to go on to eBay and others might want to come in the store. Why would I make that decision for them rather than give them the choice? 

What Retailers Need to Know

After deciding to set up an online component to a retail business, there’s more to consider than creating an eBay account and listing the products.

“It’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t know how eBay works,” Tim warns. As an example, he tells the story of a seller who skipped vital keywords.

“This seller probably invested half a million dollars in products, but in five months they’d sold nothing and their listings weren’t appearing in searches.

I took one look and said ‘I know exactly why you’re not selling – because you’re trying to sell a pair of jeans but you haven’t used the word jeans!”

What had happened was eBay was trying to help sellers get online but hadn’t explained how buyers actually shop.

“Another mistake,” he continues, “is to assume the buyer knows what the product is. We call the product by what we know it as without stopping to think about what other people will call it.”

The moral of the story? Always know your market.

Using analytical tools is another way to stay in the loop. But which ones are the best and how much can they really tell retailers? Tim’s tips:

  • eBay doesn’t generally release too much information. There’s a couple of hacks though – Google is a great proxy. Use Google AdWords to see which words are searched for.
  • eBay analytics have some traffic reports which will actually show you the top search terms from your listings that are driving sales – not just clicks.
  • Terapeak.com has an exclusive license to take data from eBay of completed listing and sold items. They can show you top search terms and also top titles which can be useful to look at.

Tracking the Trends

One of the best ways to keep up with these changes and trends is to attend events and conferences throughout the year.

“Go along to events and talk to people. Ask how they started,” Tim suggests, before sharing his recommendations.

“I’ve teamed up with a number of experts to form the Fuse Retail partnership. We ran our first workshop in October in Melbourne, and we’re in the process of planning one for Sydney in April.

Then of course the greatest event is Retail Global on the Gold Coast, it’s the one absolute best learning experience every year and one I’m always delighted to be involved with.”

Additionally, Tim shares a selection of online resources he considers valuable to retailers.

“eBay have announcements every six months of major changes. The other place to go is the eBay Seller Centre. It’s written in plain English specifically for sellers and there’s not much in there that’s irrelevant.”

Finally, he recommends the eBay Sellers Australia Facebook group – a closed group that has welcomed hundreds of retailers and provided valuable questions and answers.

Passion vs. Strategy

Would Tim ever consider building an empire of eBay stores?

“My passion is not to get rich by selling. At the end of the day we want to go to bed satisfied that we’ve contributed to the world, so I guess there’s a spiritual aspect to what drives me and so I get up raring to go looking for who I can help that day.”

Passion vs. strategy is a common question when just starting out. Tim says there’s no right or wrong, as long as you know your business.

“I think it can be both. I spoke to a video game seller who when asked ‘what is the secret to your success’ answered ‘we’re not gamers.’

What that meant was they were impartial, they could be analytical without getting caught up in it and imposing their own tastes on the product range.

If you start with an area you’re passionate about, you have some credibility when buyers ask questions. My eBay store was in photographic studio equipment and I’ve been taking photos for 25 – 30 years, so it was credible when I said ‘I’ve used those products; this is what I’ve found.’

What’s New in 2016?

As for this year’s Retail Global, Tim will be running the Silver Bullet Masterclass that was so well received last year.

“This year we’ll go through the latest changes on eBay, what’s happening with buyer attitudes and really get into the psychology of how buyers buy on eBay, how to be found, how to convert well and how to keep them coming back for future purchases.

The Masterclass isn’t just for people that have been on eBay a while – people who are fairly new on eBay will still gain an enormous amount out of it.”

 

To keep up with Tim on social media, follow him on Twitter @ebay_academy or add him on Facebook: timdaviesebay. Alternatively, visit zellis.com.au to learn more about how Tim helps retailers achieve eBay success.