Up-Selling your eBay Auctions -
Sell to your existing clientele


Up-selling your eBay auctions – sell to your existing clientele

By Michelle Jansen
12 August 2004

A lot of people have written about this topic but not many people have gotten into the “nitty gritty”. “Up-selling” means encouraging your customers to buy more from you at the time of the original sale in order to save on shipping or buy compatible items. Eg. A customer who buys a skirt may wish to purchase a top that matches. Or they may purchase some earrings and would consider a matching necklace and/or bracelet. eBay’s cross-promotional tools help this. What about getting smart with your existing customer base the next time around? After all, you might not have any compatible products the first time but you can get smart the next time and make sure you are marketing items of direct interest to your old customers. How then do you know what your customers want and encourage them back to your new listings?

eBay itself offers a neat little search tool of which most people are unaware. And if you combine this with an opt-in mailing list you develop through feedback from past customers you have a sure way of increasing profits. I’ll illustrate this using the example of selling music CD’s but you could use it for practically anything you sell.

There are essentially three main steps:

1) Develop your opt-in mailing list
2) Build a web page of search links (with totals) to your matching auctions
3) Email your mailing list when you list new items

I’ll go through each of these briefly.

Step One - Develop your opt-in mailing list

We all know that spam is not tolerated so your list has to be 100% opt-in and allow anyone to remove themselves at any time. We also know that auction buyers will buy from the same seller regularly if they are offered good products, attractive prices and excellent customer service. You are building rapport with your customers and most importantly, trust. I’m going to assume that as a serious seller, this is exactly how you operate.

When you contact your music CD winning bidders, there is no harm saying to them somewhere near the foot of their winning bidder email:

“I have started a free service for all my existing customers. All I ask is that they tell me their music interests (Eg. singer, type of music, that type of thing) and I will email them with matches whenever I have a new listing day. My customers are enjoying this service because they can see quickly at a glance just what I have listed that is of interest.”

My husband does this and gets an excellent response rate.

You can use any sort of email or list management software. At the moment, he is using his plain old email program making sure that people’s email addresses are only put in the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field.

Step Two - Build a web page of search links to your matching auctions

The trick to this is to build a web page which only has matching links to your auctions. And this is where eBay’s magic search tool comes into use. (These steps are specifically written for the US eBay database but there should be similar functionality in other eBay databases.) Follow these steps closely:

  1. Go to www.eBay.com and click on the “Search” button (The rest of the instructions assume your default view of eBay's new search facility has the "Find Items" option selected in the choices to the left of your screen.)
  2. Scroll down and make sure you have the full set of search options displayed.  If you don't, you will have a link at the foot of those options stating "More Search Options".  Click on that link.
  3. In the “Enter keyword or item number” box insert the customer’s “wants”. For example, they might say they are interested in “Billy Joel” or you might be organising by type of music so you insert “Jazz”. Obviously, the sky is the limit here. Once you understand the theory, you’ll start to see how you can use it well in your environment. (I usually make sure the Search title and descriptions box is ticked… you decide).
  4. Further down, in the “From specific sellers” box, make sure "Include" is selected and insert your seller-id in the blank box to the right. 
  5. Click the “Search” button (bottom of the page) and copy the web address of the resulting search page. This page shows all your "current" auctions which have “Billy Joel” in them.
  6. In your web page building program (whatever you use personally to build web pages… I like MS FrontPage) insert an entry for say “Billy Joel” and then behind that, put a hyperlink being the web address copied in the previous point.
  7. Now what is critical is that you have another column next to the “wants” search words with the number of matches. Eg. Your search results will tell you how many matches there are. So using the above example, next to “Billy Joel”, you need to add say the number 3 if you have three auctions for “Billy Joel” CD’s. Once you’ve built your page and you list a pile of new CD’s, you need to work through your web page searches and update the number of matches.

The last point above is the critical part to the process. A page with merely a list of “searches” is not going to enthuse your buyers. In fact, they’ll get annoyed. But if they can see at a glance, that you have three CD’s of “Billy Joel” items, ten CD’s of “U2”, etc. it takes a lot of the hard work out of their searching. The likelihood is they’ll bid on more than one item to combine auction wins. The catch though is that you have to maintain the search web page by updating it after each major listing day. So you need to bring up your web page in the browser, bring up your web page editing software with a copy of that web page in it, and then, after clicking on each link in your browser, update the totals in your editing software. At the end, “beam” up your updated web page to your hosting provider. Check that it is correct.

Step Three - Email your mailing list when you list new items

Once you’ve gone through a major new listing exercise, and updated your searches web page, email your list saying you’ve got this great web page set up (give them the web address) with special links to their interests including total matches. All they have to do is visit the page, scroll down to their interest (sorted alphabetically) and click on the link. Up will pop an eBay search page showing just their matching interests from you as the seller. Always give them a way to be removed from your list.

We’ve started using this technique for my husband’s auctions and he is thrilled at the response and has been getting excellent feedback from his customers. Originally he was individually emailing people matches to their interests but this got impossible to manage as his list grew. The only downside is that occasionally, you’ll find you won’t have any matches to some search interests. Yes it takes a bit of time to set up the initial search page but once that is done, updating the totals is easy. Every now and then, you’ll add a new search from a new “wish list” of one of your customers. I guess some smart bunny will decide to write a bit of software to handle all of this. Let me know if you do as I want a slice of the profits! :-) 

Super Tip 1: If you want to be extra clever and earn yourself a bit of extra money, why not join ebay.com's affiliate program and create affiliate links for each of the special search results pages you created in Step Two. For everyone who bids or buys, you’ll get whatever eBay’s current payout is (right now ten cents).

Super Tip 2: Assuming you do Super Tip 1, if you write a bit of content about CD’s around your special search page and get it linked from a few well ranked websites, then you may actually snare some non eBayers (with an interest in music) who join eBay by following one of your links above (and/or you could include a bit of text for “newbies” on your page with a special “join eBay” link). Currently eBay pay $10.00 for each new and active eBay user you generate.

Copyright © 2004 Michelle Jansen
Author: eBay PowerSeller Tips and Tricks
Mathematician, Computer Boffin, E-Commerce Consultant and Full-time Mum

The author permits other publishers to publish this article in full so long as the author's name and website link (which can be replaced with an affiliate URL for her eBook) and the above copyright notice are clearly stipulated. 



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