How to create eBay Variation listings

Bay variation listings allow multiple versions of a product to be sold from a single listing.  For example, a shoe might come in numerous sizes or colours. 

An example eBay listing variated on colour and size.

Instead of creating a separate listing for each option, all variations can be sold from a single listing.  This has two advantages:

  • Customers can find all the options they want from one listing
  • A single listing can build more listing history and perform better in best match

On the downside, variations are more time consuming to list and cause problems with 3rd party listing tools.

Variations are only available for fixed price items.

eBay Sell Your Item/Quick Listing Form

The quick listing tool is the form within eBay that is used to create listings one by one. 

Features of an eBay listing

  • Title. A descriptive title helps buyers find your item. State exactly what your item is. Include words that buyers might use to search for your item.  Max 80 characters
  • Subtitle.  Subtitles appear in eBay search results in list view and can increase buyer interest by providing more descriptive info.
  • Custom label. Create a custom label to enter the information you want to track, such as your own SKU number.
  • Category.  Each listing must have at least one category.  A second category can be added this may incur a charge
  • EAN.  Buyers often search using product identifiers, so eBay recommends product identifiers to make sure your listings have maximum visibility in buyer search results.
  • Condition. Select the condition of the item you’re listing.
  • Photos. Add up to 12 photos. eBay does not allow photos with extra borders, text or artwork.
  • Item specifics. Provide info about the item you are selling, such as brand, size type, size, colour and style. These details help buyers find your item when they filter their searches and appear at the top of your listing description in a consistent format.
  • Description. Describe the item you are selling and provide complete and accurate details. Use a clear and concise format to ensure your description is mobile-friendly.  Description can be entered using the WYSIWYG editor or HTML
  • Format.  Select auction or fixed price items
  • Duration. Select how long you wish your listing to run.  Auction items are 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days.  Fixed price items can only be Good til cancelled, meaning they automatically renew every 30 days until they sell or are ended.  Listing can start immediate or scheduled for a later time
  • Price.  See below
  • Business policies.  See below
  • Package weight and dimensions.  Size and weight of an item.  They are used for calculating international postage when you use postage tables that price per kg.
  • Items location.  The geographical location of the item.  Used mostly for local pickup only items.

Listing pricing

Auction listings

Auction prices have three components:

  • Starting price.  The price at which the auction starts
  • Reserve price.  The price below which the auction will not sell
  • Buy it now (BIN) price.   The Buy It Now price is available until someone bids on the item or until the reserve price is met.  Until this point, the item can be bought immediately at the BIN price
  • Best offer.  Best offer enables buyers to make an offer for the product for immediate purchase. According to eBay, adding best offer increase sell-through by 3 to 7 percent.

A classic auction strategy is to start the bidding at £0.99 with no reserve price.  Often a low starting price will encourage bidding and result in a higher winning bid.

Fixed Price

Fixed price items only have a buy it now price.  Sellers can also the best offer option.

eBay Listing Types – Auction & Fixed Price

What can be sold on eBay

With 15000 categories, most legal things can be sold on eBay. 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/prohibited-restricted-items/prohibited-restricted-items?id=4207

Sellers should avoid the following:

  • Product requiring a licence e.g. alcohol, tobacco
  • Recalled items
  • Restricted

Some brands (e.g. high end fashion brands) do not like products sold on eBay.  eBay has a programme called VERO that enables them to remove listing, which they feel infringe their intellectual property right. This programme is abused by rights owners who use it to get legitimate listing removed.

Details on Vero programme:  https://www.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/listing-policies/selling-policies/intellectual-property-vero-program?id=4349

Once a listing is removed due to a VERO complaint, it is very difficult to appeal.  Brand often employ agencies to manage the process, and from experience, these agencies are unresponsive.

If an account has too many infringements against it, it can be restricted or closed permanently.

eBay listing types

eBay began as an auction platform, but nowadays, most products sell at a fixed price. 

Auction Listings

When you list an item for sale in an eBay auction, you choose a starting price, and interested buyers place bids. When the auction ends, you sell to the highest bidder.

Fixed Price listings

With a fixed price Buy It Now listing, a buyer knows the exact price they need to pay for your item, and can complete their purchase immediately. There is no bidding on fixed price listings.

Fixed price listings are set to Good ‘Til Cancelled duration. This means your item will be relisted on eBay every month until it sells or you end it.

When to use different listing  types

Fixed price and auction listing are good for different types of product. 

Auctions

Auctions are good for unique items where the price is hard to know in advance (e.g. collectables, antiques, second-hand items).  With these items,

Auction benefits

  • Potential for higher prices by a competitive auction
  • Market determines the price
  • Better sell-through rate with a low starting bid
  • Sense of urgency.  Scarcity and limit duration of auction encourage buying activity
  •  

Auction drawbacks

  • Difficult to automate. Auctions must be started manually.
  • If an auction does not sell it must be manually relisted
  • Buyers may pay several days after auction end

Fixed Price benefits

  • More automation. Fixed price listings are like inventory at a regular retail store.
  • Everything is for sale at any time.
  • With Good ’til cancelled duration,  items renew automatically every 30 days.
  • Listings can be edited in bulk
  • Immediate payment
  • Markdown manager.  This feature gives sellers the ability to run sales.

Fixed Price disadvantages

  • No Sense of Urgency. Buyers may bookmark or watch a listing and never return. With auctions, buyers get a sense of urgency that they must bid or buy the item now.
  • Fees. Fixed Price and GTC listings incur charges each month if they renew. These fees can add up over time.

How to find great products to sell on eBay, Amazon and your own website.

Search Queries

By looking for popular and trending keyword searches, you can establish market trends and popular products. There are some are free products that provide keyword volumes:

  • Google trends. Show trending searches across the world.
  • Google keyword planner provides search term volume for Google ads customers.
  • Amazon search volume. Sonar is a free Amazon keyword research tool from Sellics.

Browse Popular Products on Online Marketplaces

Published market research from companies such as Mintel is costly. However, online marketplaces, such as Amazon, publish lists of best-selling items which can be used to get inspiration for stock to buy. Sources of information include:

  • Amazon best sellers (UK and US)
  • Amazon sales rank. Amazon product pages, state a ‘Best Sellers Rank’ showing how popular an item is in its category.
  • Google Shopping. Google’s Best Sellers report given a list of popular products and brands on their Google shopping ads programme.

Other Sources of Product Data

  • Media. Look for what products are being advertised on major websites and in print media.
  • Competition. What is promoted on the websites of major retailers?
  • High street stores. Take a trip to a local store to see their inventory in the flesh.

Different types of product

There are several types of products for merchants to choose from:

Inventions

If you have an excellent idea for a product that you think taps into an unfulfilled demand, great!  However, bear in mind that developing a product from scratch is very time consuming, expensive and risky.  Perhaps you are the first person to notice this market opportunity, or perhaps there is no demand…

Handmade

Marketplaces like eBay and Etsy make it easy for makers to create and sell their handmade products.  Amazon has also jumped on the bandwagon with its Handmade category.

Making your product products is excellent if you want to run a part-time business or love working with your hands.  It can however, be challenging to scale.

Branded products

Branded products are products made by product manufacturers, which they sell wholesale. These companies will typically sell wholesale to retailers, who will then sell these to consumers. Increasingly brands are selling directly, but most major brands still depend on their retailers.

These are products bought off-the-shelf, so they are easy to source. If the brand is well known, your business will pick up on the demand they generate through their marketing activities. Many products are available from ‘wholesalers’ who will sell a range of product which can be bought together, allowing small qualities of any individual product to be bought.

However, for any barcoded product, it is unlikely you will be the only seller unless you have managed to enter an exclusive arrangement with the manufacturer. Margins are therefore likely to be low as sellers compete for business on price.

Private label

A private label product is typically sourced from a manufacturer and then sold under the retailer’s brand for exclusive sale. Retailers can then make changes to the product, such as colour or size, to develop their own, unique brand identity and fit their specific niche. Private label products are usually less expensive than national brands, and if marketed correctly, they have the potential to bring in a large profit.

White labelling

A white label product is a product that a manufacturer creates for sale by many retailers. Each retailer is allowed to resell the generic white label product under its name and branding. With white label manufacturing, the retailer can charge a premium on the product by attaching their existing brand because of their position in the marketplace.

White vs. Private labelling

With white labeling, a generic white label product is created by a manufacturer for multiple resellers. For example, a white label manufacturer would sell a generic soap to 10 different retailers. Each retailer is free to rebrand the soap as their own, but they are all essentially selling the same soap without modifications. This is why the many store branded products sometimes look identical.

White labeling is a fast way to get to the market, but your products will be very similar to those of other retailers. With nothing but the label differentiating your products, you’ll need to shift your focus to differentiating your brand.

With private labeling, however, the product is created for exclusive sale by a single reseller. In the soap example, the private label retailer would have the option to modify it to fit their selling requirements and brand. The modified soap is exclusive to that particular retailer, and sometimes can even be customised with the retailer’s logo or branding colors, unlike generic white label products.

With either eCommerce business model, you will not have to go through the trials and tribulations of manufacturing a product. Without the investment in product design and creation, you’ll save both time and money. In turn, you can focus on marketing and branding the product to your target audience without stretching yourself too thin.

Attributes of successful white/own label products

To be successful, products should have the following attributes:

  • Existing demand.  It is difficult to create a new market, so aim to find opportunities in existing markets.
  • Low competition.  Look for popular niches which are not saturated.
  • Good margins

In addition, the following attributes are desirable in :

  • Small and lightweight.  These will be easier to store and ship to the end customer or to a fulfilment house
  • Low seasonality.  If your product can be sold year-round, then sales potential will be higher.
  • Simple and durable.  Complex, fragile product will generate more customer service issues and returns.

Researching products

Researching products on Amazon

  1. Researching popular niches and products.  Find niches which contain popular product and successful sellers
  2. Analyse competition within niches.  Can your product compete in this niche?
  3. Analyse listing optimisation within niches.  Can you create better product listing which outperforms the competition
  4. Identify suppliers from supplier directories.

Product

eBay and Amazon sales are a great place to analyse actual sales trends in near real time.  There are several cheap or free software products which can be used in your research

  • Terapeak.  This is eBay’s marketplace research tool which is available to all eBay sellers
  • Jungle Scout
  • Helium 10
  • Bqool

Find a popular niche

When researching products, look for a  product or niche on where the top 10 sellers have at least 2,000 sales per month. It is important to find a popular niche with plenty of sales activity and customers looking to make a purchase.

Analyse competition

Once you have found popular niches, the next step is to gauge the level of competition within those niches.  Questions to ask are:

  • How many reviews do competing product have.  If there are some products with thousands of reviews, then it will no be easy to compete.
  • How many competing products are there?  If there are a lot of very similar products, it will be challenging to differentiate.

An ideal situation would be a niche with two more sellers selling 200+ items per month with a Amazon review rating of 3.7 or worse.  People are still purchasing many these units even though they get rated very poorly on Amazon, which is an excellent indicator that you can make improvements on this product and sell a lot better than these other competitors.

Analyse listing optimisation

Look at the quality of the listing within the niches you have identified.  If the top-performing products have poor quality listings, then it may be possible to create a higher quality listing that outperforms them.  Look at the following attributes of each listing:

  • Descriptions.  Are the listing poorly written and missing relevant, high volume search terms
  • Images.  Are the images used of a poor quality
  • Attributes.  Have search attributes been complete

Finding suppliers

Once you have identified your target products, you will need to find suppliers.  These suppliers will almost certainly be overseas.  Here is a list of the most popular manufacturer directories:

Tips for dealing with suppliers

  • Request a product sample to verify quality
  • Verify that it was delivered quickly and in good condition
  • Request total manufacturing costs and whether there are any hidden fees
  • Review how they handle product defects and damaged goods

Margins

Before sourcing products, investigate the price you can sell products using the research tools mentioned above and work out your profitability. Margins vary widely by sector. Marks-up in the fashion sector tend to be higher, but this needs to considered against the high return rate and the short shelf life of products.

Factor in the following costs into an online sale:

  • Product cost. The cost price of the purchased product. Volume discounts may be available. Always ask!
  • Warehousing. Oversized items will be more expensive to store as they take up more room.
  • Delivery. If you are selling physical goods, there will inevitably be a delivery cost whether you deliver yourself or dropship.
  • Tax. As Mark Twain said, ‘in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes’. In most countries, there will be sales tax which ranges from 10-25%.
  • Payment. Online payment services such as PayPal charge between 1 and 4% for accepting payment.
  • Marketing. Marketing can either be a fixed commission (e.g., Amazon, eBay) or variable (e.g., Google Ads charged by click).

Branding for your eCommerce Business

Whether you are selling your own label or branded products, you will need a business identity. While many online businesses, especially marketplace sellers, will trade under a generic name (e.g., XYZ trading), it is best to invest in developing a brand that identifies your business and helps build customer loyalty.

Whilst a brand is usually considered to be formed of a name and a visual identity (i.e., a logo), it also more broadly refers to the experience a customer has when dealing with a business as a shopper, customer or social media follower.

Why Do I Need a Brand?

Branding is a factor for consumers when they make a purchase decision. 60% of shoppers actively buy from brands they know, and 21% purchase products because they like the brand (Source: Nielsen).

Strong brand identity also acts as a unifying factor across all the channels through which a customer could interact with your company online. The same customer might buy from your company through Amazon, eBay or your website, depending on their customer journey. Here is an example of a company using the same identity across multiple platforms:

Branded eBay profile

Developing Your Brand

Good branding will lead to awareness, recognition, trust, and revenue. If your brand does not connect with your audience, it will not achieve these goals. Before developing your brand, ask the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your product niche?
  • What makes you unique?

There are probably a lots competitors in your industry and niche. Think about what makes you different. What values, benefits, and qualities make your company unique? How do your products or services improve lives and contribute to success?

Choosing a Name and URL

When launching an online business, it will be necessary to select a URL for your website and usernames for marketplaces and Social Media accounts.

When choosing a name, select a different name from other companies in your space, which will help with your findability online. With the proliferation of online businesses, this is becoming more difficult but keep trying until you succeed. Here are some general pointers for selecting a name and a URL for your business:

  • Keep it short. Long and complicated names are easy to forget. Choose something which rolls off the tongue.
  • Easy to interpret. Ideally, someone can look at your name or URL and quickly guess what your company does.
  • Target broad keywords. Including keywords in your domain can help with your natural search engine performance, but do not keyword stuff.
  • Make the URL and name easy to say and remember. Avoid any difficult to say words and foreign words. Avoid number and punctuation like dashes.

In terms of your domain name, .com is preferable for commercial sites as this is seen as broadly territory neutral, which will help if you are offering your products overseas.

Create Your Visual Identify

It is best to employ a professional graphic designer to develop a professional-looking logo and visual identity. Take some time to build a set of brand guidelines (or a brand style guide) to govern your visual assets’ composition and use. This will ensure your branding is applied accurately and consistently.

Sites like Upwork are a good place to hire designers at reasonable rates.

Put Your Branding to Work

Aim for consistent implementation of your brand across your business, including all customer touchpoints. This should include:

  • Your website
  • Marketplace accounts
  • Social Media accounts
  • Marketing communications, e.g., email, flyers
  • Customer service communication, e.g., support emails
  • Packaging and package inserts