22 Things to Do When Your Items Aren’t Selling
Just about everyone who has sold online has faced the dreaded sales slump. You know what I mean. No “cha-ching” notification of a sale or offer from eBay. No email from Poshmark saying, “Good news! Your item was purchased.” In fact, an item hasn’t left your hands in days.
You wonder what’s going on. Does the platform have a glitch and my listings aren’t showing up? Are everyone else’s sales slow too? What can I do to get back on track? I want to make sales!
I completely understand how you feel. This summer was slow for me. Instead of running my mind in circles wondering why I was in a slump, I decided to write some tips on what to do when your items aren’t selling. Even if you’re not facing a sales slump yourself, these tips might help make your sales even better.
By the way, if you're interested in signing up to buy or sell on my favorite apps, here are some referral codes. On Poshmark, you can get $5 when you sign up with the code SFGIRL2015. On Mercari, you can get $2 when you sign up with the code JENMHM. Thank you for supporting From Pennies to Plenty.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I may receive compensation when you click on a product link or purchase an item linked on this site. Click here for details. Thank you for supporting From Pennies to Plenty.
Here are 22 things to do when your items just aren’t selling.
1) Wait it out
There’s a season for everything. That’s true for selling online too. General trends point to summer as a common time for a slowdown in sales. People go on vacation and spend time off the internet enjoying summer activities or time with the children. Sales pick up again in the fall as people gear up for the holidays. Patience can do wonders for waiting out a slow period.
2) Review your prices
One of the biggest reason for slow sales is that items are priced too high. How do you know if your prices are too high? Check other listings of the same item, particularly sold listings. You’ll see that sold listings are often sold for much less than available listings because prices are inflated at the start. It’s okay to keep your prices higher than average if you want. You never know when someone will buy it at your listed price. Just know that it means you’ll be less likely or take longer to make sales.
How you should price also depends on the platform. On Poshmark, prices are inflated initially. I’ve heard it recommended that you should list items at 30% above what you want to get to allow for offers. I’ll admit that the first time I went on Poshmark, I was surprised at how much things cost. It was definitely more than my local thrift or curated second-hand store given PM’s previous image of being a place for second-hand goods. So you’ll often find that prices are much higher to start and when sold on Poshmark versus eBay.
On eBay, you’ll see a recommend price when you put up each of your listings. They’re not always good recommendations, but they’re based on the prices of previously sold items. For eBay auctions, if you start an auction at a high price, you may be less likely to get bids. People are more willing to bid if the start price is low enough that it’s clearly under the value of the item. If you’re concerned about losing money on an item, you can set a reserve price so that the sale goes through only if it meets your minimum price. This is a good way to test what you would get for the item.
No matter what platform you’re on, if lowering your prices to the average sold prices will cause you losses, then consider how much you’re spending to obtain the item. It’s likely too much.
The Lululemon tank above retails for $64. The listing on the left is for $50. I looked at the last 10 sold listings for this item (used) and the average was $24.90.
3) Review what you’re selling
Are you selling something that’s in demand? Then, are you selling on the right platform? Poshmark users are mostly women. I would venture to say most of the women on there are looking for fashionable, in-season clothing and accessories. You’ll find a wider variety of users on eBay because eBay sells all sorts of items, even antiques and cars. If you sell handmade items, Etsy may be your marketplace. Sell your items on the platform with the most potential buyers.
As for the products themselves, consider if it’s worth it to sell what you have or to move on to selling another item. I find selling thrifted clothes to be good for light profits, but it would be difficult to replace my day job doing it. Clothes are not the most optimal item to resell if you want to make big money. If you can identify other things that may sell well and can get your hands on them (e.g., high-end sneakers and onion goggles), it may be worth doing that.
If you plan to stick with what you have (I’m sticking with clothing), check that your items are in good condition. Buyers are more likely to buy things that are in good condition or new instead of things with half a life left in them.
4) Use the eBay Best Offer feature
On eBay, enabling the “Best Offer” feature opens up more opportunity for you to make sales. People who wouldn’t buy your item at the full listed price may make an offer they’re comfortable with. Sometimes that offer is reasonable too. They may just want a few dollars off to cover shipping. I know a lot of sellers don’t enable feature because it leads to lowball offers. If you can get past that, you’ll have more potential buyers coming to you.
5) Make an offer to potential buyers
Poshmark has a feature that allows potential buyers to bundle items. When you see that someone has bundled a few of your items, leave a warm comment suggesting that he or she make an offer. You can make an offer to the person to get the negotiation started. However, I think of this like salary negotiations. I prefer to have the potential buyer make the first offer so that I can gauge what they want to pay and counteroffer that. If I make the first offer and it’s lower than what the potential buyer was actually thinking, I’m going to lose out on potential profit.
6) Schedule auction end times
On eBay, you can list auction items with set end times. Schedule your items to end on Sunday evenings. This is when people are home and have access to the internet. Avoid ending auctions on holiday weekends or during the middle of the night.
7) Change your cover photos
One of the easiest ways to shake things up is to change the cover photo of your items. That could mean switching around the photos you already have, finding a stock photo of the item, or modeling the item. You could also redo clothes in a flat lay or on a dress form or accessorize them differently. For non-clothes items, you may want to remove the background so that only the item remains on a white background.
Make sure to have a photo of the actual item you’re selling, especially if it’s used. Stock photos are nice to see, but people really want to see what they going to receive in the mail. This is necessary for pricier, high-end items, and items with no returns allowed.
I’m working on changing up my listings too. I have limited skills in photography and styling in general, so this area is a struggle for me. I’m debating buying a dress form, but I really don’t want one in the house. Am I the only one who watched the movie Mannequin as a child? It did a number on me.
By the way, this handout on 5 things to do before you start selling online has tips on exactly how to save time and energy when starting out. Be sure to click on the button below to grab a copy!
8) Review your titles
In addition to pictures, titles are important because they lead a potential buyer to click on your listing to learn more. Titles directly affect the visibility of your listings in eBay search results. That’s why they need to be detailed and descriptive including
The item’s brand
The item’s style name (if it has one)
It’s usually possible to fit all that in the 80 characters that eBay gives you. Poshmark limits titles to 50 characters, so you likely won’t be able to fit all that information. At least write the brand and style name if you know it.
9) Update item descriptions
Review your item descriptions and see if you can improve them at all. Perhaps you can add more detail about the condition. Add additional measurements or state the fabric content if you missed those. Think about how your items are described on retail sites and try to replicate that. If you have space in the listing, share how you would style it. Let people know that you’re open to offers if you are.
eBay gives plenty of space for descriptions. You can mention that you have over 1000 satisfied buyers and that you offer returns (eBay only) or satisfaction guaranteed. Buyers will then feel more comfortable purchasing from you.
10) Turn on your notifications
Double check that your notifications are turned on. Last month, I missed a few questions from people because I didn’t receive or didn’t see the notifications to my phone. Once I realized that was happening, I checked that my notifications were in order and opened the apps regularly to ensure I wasn’t missing anything.
I sometimes come across listings with unanswered questions on Poshmark. A potential buyer won’t buy if there are unanswered questions. They’ll think the seller has disappeared, the item is no longer available, or that they may never receive package if they do buy. Notifications to your phone or email let you know a question or offer has come in and respond in a timely manner.
11) Make a new listing
You might worry that making a new listing for your item will cause you to lose your “likes” and your “watching” count, but if those people didn’t buy at your current or even sale price, then those numbers don’t mean anything.
When you make a new listing on Poshmark, your item is featured at the top of that brand’s listings. Your item will be featured in the feed of Poshers who follow that brand.
I’ve also read that on eBay, creating a new listing versus relisting an old one affects its ranking in the listings. I’m not 100% sure about that. Still, you have nothing to lose if the item is not selling at the price you want.
12) List more items
If you’re a smaller seller, you’re less likely to sell and make big profits unless you lower prices below market value or you have something high in demand. That’s why Poshmark recommends having at least 10 items in your closet. There are PM sellers who sell tens or hundreds of items each week. How? They have lots of listings, I’m taking over 1000 listings in their closets or shops. If you want to make more frequent sales, then you need to have more items for people to buy, given all else equal.
Take advantage of listing promotions. eBay provides 50 free listings a month and often has promotions allowing more listings for free. Mercari has had a few promotions where listing certain items on certain days (e.g., sweaters between Monday and Wednesday) means they’ll offer 10% off the price of the item.
13) Try new platforms
There are so many platforms out there. I use Poshmark, eBay, and Mercari. There are many others out there such as Tradesy, The RealReal, Etsy, local Facebook Groups, Craigslist, and Nextdoor. Each has different user demographics and may appeal more to you based on what you’re selling. Consider who’s likely to buy your goods and choose accordingly. You may even find some platforms are easier or more fun to use.
14) Establish yourself on a platform
No matter where you sell, it’s important to give buyers confidence in your ability to follow through providing a great product. A good profile is a strong component of that. Some platforms allow for adding a photo or logo, so try adding one if it’s an option. Also write something in your profile or on your About page. It could be something more personal or a general comment such as that you do same-day shipping. This lets people know that you’re established on the platform and serious about doing business.
If you’re new to eBay, people are going to be less likely to buy from you because you just joined and have zero feedback. Try buying a few things first or simultaneous to your selling so that you can build positive feedback.
15) Review shipping costs
You have the most control over shipping costs on eBay, where it can be calculated down to the ounce. You have every shipping option available to you on eBay so you can charge any amount you want. In the past, I’ve balked at purchasing some items because I knew the shipping costs were too high for the item. Other times I’ve believed a seller to be losing out on profits by listing shipping costs too low.
There’s an ongoing debate over offering free shipping or charging it separately on eBay. Some people gravitate towards buying items with free shipping because all costs are included so it feels like they’re getting a good deal. I like to keep shipping separate so that buyers know exactly how much they’re paying for each the item and for shipping. The buyer also knows that I’m not overcharging for either part.
One other thing to consider on eBay is whether a Flat Rate box would be cheaper than paying for something by weight. Flat Rate may work well depending on the size and weight of the item and how far it is to the item’s destination. I almost always prefer to ship by weight.
On Poshmark, shipping costs are almost always $6.79. That can be a big deterrent for sales, particularly for low-priced or low-value items. I’ve seen some sellers offer free shipping by discounting the price of an item by $6 or so when someone comments that they want to buy the item.
16) Optimize your listings for mobile devices
This isn’t an issue on Poshmark and Mercari because those platforms were built for mobile first. This can be a problem on eBay because some sellers use templates with formatting and fonts that are really hard to read. Spacing and easy-to-read fonts are helpful. No matter which platform you use, photos need to be close and clear because cell phone screens are small.
17) Make your listings available to international buyers
This tip is specific to eBay. eBay has a global shipping program that takes the work out of shipping internationally. You send a sold item to a designated shipping center in the US. eBay staff then handle it from there. It’s so easy. To enable this, make sure the box allowing for international buyers is checked when you list items. Poshmark and Mercari sell and ship within the US only.
18) Aim for top seller status
No matter which platform you use, aim for top seller status. It takes some work to achieve this. eBay requires sellers meet certain standards. You have to have next day shipping or better and under a certain percentage of seller errors or buyer complaints. You have to accept returns as well.
The benefits are good though. Top seller status on eBay means that you pay less commission on sales. The status gives you a Top Rated Plus seal next to all your listings. On Poshmark, Suggested User status results in your items being featured more.
19) Promote yourself & your items
Promoting yourself and your listings where and when you can. In my case, I have this blog to promote my Poshmark closet. I don’t know that my blog has directly helped my sales. Nonetheless, you can promote yourself and your listings on social media. PM says that promoting on social media such as Pinterest does increase sales. Some other examples:
Post a picture of yourself nicely packaging an item for shipping on Instagram
Tweet about a sale you’re holding
Offer discounts to your social media followers
20) Join share groups
Recently I’ve joined Facebook groups for Poshmark sharing and tips. I like sharing through the Facebook groups because I know that all shares are reciprocated, whereas they might not be if I share from the feed. It’s hard to if the sharing has directly affected my sales because I have no way of tracking things. You can also join share groups directly on Poshmark.
21) Ask for a closet critique
It can be hard to open yourself up to criticism, even if it’s constructive. Think of this as being in the best interest of your business. You can ask people on Facebook groups or other users on platforms if they would be willing to look at your listings and provide some feedback. I would recommend getting a few critiques and looking for common recommendations between them. You don’t have to agree with everything or do everything that’s suggested. This might help you to see that one thing you’re missing that makes a big difference to your sales.
22) Put your items on sale
If you have listings sitting for months and you just want to clear them out, try putting the items on sale or discounting them significantly. You may make pennies or even lose money, but you recoup what you can and get rid of the item. I’ve taken losses for sure. It’s part of learning to sell. If it doesn’t even sell after that, I donate it and move on.
I like to compare my experience selling online to being on a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s fast and exciting, while other times it’s slow moving and I’m just waiting for the good parts. Although it’s important to accept that sales will vary from time to time, it never hurts to try to improve them in whatever way you can. I’m in the process of implementing a few of the above strategies right now. My sales have picked up, so I’m happy about that.
Now I’d love to hear from you!
What are some of the ways that you beat sales slumps? Have you tried any of the above strategies and did they work for you? What other strategies would you recommend?