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Buying and selling goods online can be an exciting and profitable experience. I remember being a newbie on the used clothing app Poshmark down to the day I downloaded the app and fiddled around to post my first listings. The notifications soon started about being followed and my listings shared. I had no idea what that meant!
But a very exciting thing happened. I sold an old small Coach wristlet the minute after I listed it. Whoops! I had priced it too low. Despite my mistake, that early success was essential because it motivated me to keep selling. I've learned a lot about buying and selling online since then. Here are some tips I've learned along the way to help you get started. While the tips mostly apply to clothes, they’re helpful for selling other things too.
By the way, I've created an additional handout on 5 things to do before you start selling online. Click on the button below to grab a copy!
1) Post good photos and descriptions
Quality photos and a great description are the number one way to market an item. A good cover photo will show the clothing item styled, modeled, or laid out or hung nicely. If styling, make sure the item being sold stands out. Too many other eye-catching colors or other items in the same photo distracts from what you're selling. Poshmark allows eight photos per listing and Mercari allows four, while eBay allows up to 12 for free.
Even if you don't think you need that many, try to give potential buyers as many views of the item as possible. A typical post will show the item's front, back, brand and size tag, and any details or flaws. Often you'll need more than four photos to showcase an item. You can use a photo app (I use Photo Express Pro) to add more photos to a listing.
Once your photos are up, describe, describe, describe! Describe anything special, flaws, fabric content, fit, measurements, how to style it, etc. The more you describe, the more confident a buyer will feel about what she's getting...and will help you win a case if there is a dispute.
I realize it takes time and effort to do a quality job listing things. There are ways to make it easier. On eBay, some people use a listing template and fill in the information for each item. You can also cut and paste any repetitive information like your refund policy so you don’t have think of it off the top of your head and type it out every time. Some people style clothes on a mannequin and shoot photos one day, then spend another day sitting at the computer listing the items. Figure out how to put together the best listing you can, even if not perfect, considering how much time and effort you have to list items.
2) Sell quality products
It's easy to list anything and everything in your closet and around the house, but your best chance of selling things is to list quality items. These are things that you would buy and use that are still in decent condition. That's not to say that everything has to be name brand or in pristine shape. But if something has seen better days, put it in the donation or recycle pile.
If selling something in less than good condition, describe it very clearly and price it accordingly so that buyers know what they are getting. By selling only items in good condition, you're more likely to have satisfied buyers and receive good reviews.
3) Price items strategically
Pricing items can be tricky but doesn't have to be. Research each item by searching Google, eBay, and other relevant sites using the brand name with the style name or number if present. This sometimes provides a retail price or the prices of other people's listings whether the item is sold or still for sale. Then consider the item's condition and the cost of additional shipping fees.
Once you have a competitive price in mind, consider pricing higher (maybe 20% or so) than the amount you hope to receive. This way you can accept reasonable offers or drop the price later and still be comfortable with the sale price. You may find yourself getting lucky as sometimes people buy an item outright at its first listed price.
Poshmark tip: PM sometimes provides randomized discounted shipping anywhere from about $5.95 to free for one hour after you lower the price of an item by 10% or more and the price is at least $10. A few times a year Poshmark hosts closet clear-outs and discounts shipping on all items meeting the above criteria. I usually wait for those times to lower the price of my items.
If you discount your items at other times, aim for peak Poshmark hours on Monday through Friday during the day when people in all US time zones are awake and would be online. This way more people will be able to take advantage of any shipping discounts.
4) Accept, counter, and decline offers
On sites like Poshmark and eBay, users are able to make official offers on items. (This feature must be enabled on an eBay listing to accept offers.) This is a great way to negotiate with a potential buyer and offers are binding if accepted. I'll accept an offer right away if I'm comfortable with the amount I will receive. Sometimes the offer is within a few dollars or about 75% of the listed price, which I find reasonable. I'll also accept an offer if the item has been up for sale for more than 3-6 months and/or I don't think a better offer will come along.
Consider the season as well. Swimwear can sell any time of the year but is most likely to sell in the spring or summer. If summer is ending soon, I'll accept an offer on swimwear rather than have the product sit around for another year.
If you've been selling online for some time, you've likely received lowball offers at some point. A lowball offer is one that is far, often 50% of more, from your listed price. You'll find differing opinions on how to handle lowball offers and offers in general. I typically counter them with what I think is a reasonable lower price or sometimes decline them outright. If they really bother you, you can state that you price on an item is firm on sites where offers are allowed or disable the offer feature on eBay. But try think of offers as a chance to start a negotiation with a potential buyer because sometimes lowball offers do end in a sale.
5) Individualize your profile & packaging
On some sites like Poshmark and Mercari, you can write a profile and even add photos of yourself to promote your closet or store. I recommend writing something that will help you stand out like unique details about yourself, how your products will help a buyer, or additional details such as that you’re willing to bundle items and combine shipping.
Once you make a sale, wrap the item up so that it’s neatly packaged and presentable. Add a thank you note, even if it's a sticker or a Post-It note. This personalizes the sale and reminds the buyer you're a human on the other side of the transaction.
One final tip regarding Poshmark: Whenever people ask how to boost their sales, the top tip besides having good pictures is to be active on Poshmark. The easiest way to do this is by sharing. Share all your items and other people's items to your followers and at every relevant party. It takes a lot of time to share, but I have found that it pays off when used in combination with other tips here. I limit myself to sharing for about 10-15 minutes at a time during downtime such as during a commute or when waiting for food to heat up. Commenting on other sellers’ closets and items helps too. Some sellers join share groups or share to other social media as well.
Selling online can take up a lot of time if you let it. I ask myself from time to time if it's worth spending X amount of time to sell X number of products for X amount of profit? The answer has always been “yes” because the work is fun for me. Once you become familiar with the routine of selling and use of the above tips, I hope you find it enjoyable and worthwhile too.
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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 $10 when you sign up with the code JENMHM. The amount may vary by promotion. Thank you for supporting From Pennies to Plenty.
What tips and strategies do you follow for success with online selling?