Changing Lives in Cheshire is a registered charity in the UK. I spoke with Chris Roots, their volunteer eBay Coordinator about the charity and how they incorporate eBay into their operations.
About Changing Lives in Cheshire
Could you give a brief overview of your business?
Changing Lives in Cheshire (CLiC) is a social enterprise committed to delivering real environmental, social and community impact and making a difference to the people of Cheshire. We provide creative solutions to social and environmental issues. Structured as a charitable company, we aim to be financially sustainable through enterprise but our social impacts (the way we help change people’s lives) are at the core of why we do what we do.
Our Core Business:
- Reuse and recycling of waste to help to protect the environment
- Providing employment, training and development opportunities for local people
- Enabling people on a low income to get access to good quality items for the home at low cost
What kind of items do you primarily sell on eBay?
On our eBay store, we sell a mixture of refurbished large electrical appliances, (e.g. refrigeration units, washing machines, TVs), and home furniture, and small household objects. Most of the items we sell are electrical appliances though.
What portion of your business does eBay sales account for?
The eBay store compliments CLiC’s warehouse store, which mainly helps the local area and community. Our eBay activities help us to generate new business by bringing in new customers locally and from further afield.
Could you take us through the steps you go through to sell an item on eBay?
At CLiC there are dedicated electrical and furniture workshops and staff, which test, clean and repair the items we receive either through public donations or by commercial partners.
Items that are selected for the eBay store are usual ones that we have an excess of, (e.g. washing machine, refrigeration units), or high value items which we know will sell better online, as well as items that we have had on the shop floor for at less a month or two. We also sell items online which our regular shop floor customers would usually not be interested in, e.g. chest and large commercial freezers.
Once items have been selected, the eBay staff do a detail visual check the items and will make notes regarding stock numbers, make and model, features, size and condition (any cracks, marks, scratches, dents, missing parts or damage), and will take photos. Once that has been gathered, they will research the item as much as they can online, finding spec lists, manuals, or finding information on the antique items/furniture which we may have sometimes. Photos are always cropped square to fully fit the eBay layout using a free and open-source graphics editor.
We use eBay’s own Turbo Lister program to manage and upload our listings. We have created a bespoke HTML template to give a professional look for each listing. In this HTML template, we will add the photos and features, as well as a detail description of the item; using the information gathered from the visual inspection and the information found online. Plus we have a template for each type of item we sell e.g. sofas, dining tables, TVs, fridge freezers, etc., so we don’t have to keep selecting the right item category or changing the payment policy for different items. It all done ready for us.
We usual operate a ‘Cash on Collection’ policy, but if they are local, then we can offer delivery to them for an extra charge, or for small light-weight item, we sometime organise a courier.
Are there any common issues you have to deal with, or things you are wary of?
Unfortunately, we always get a few people every month, who do not pay nor contact us once an item sells. So we have to wait a couple of weeks before we can open unpaid cases and wait 5 days or so before that gets closed by eBay, before we can relist the item again.
We do try hard to give as much information we can to our customers about the items, and to make sure we are factually right at all times. However, factually mistakes are made or sometime the true damage of an item can be missed, but this is on the very rare occasion. We try to not make assumptions, as that will always lead to mistakes, and will vigorously check stuff several times. Plus we always check listings after they have been uploaded, and correct everything that is not right straight away.
What advice would you give to new sellers?
They need to get their marketing and business heads on straight away, and quickly realise they are in competition with everyone on eBay; from house wives to the big retailers.
You need to stand out of the crowd. Why should people buy from you? What is going to make you different from the rest? How are you going to make yourself be more professional than someone who just writes a one line description with no useful information whatsoever? How are you going to achieve the maximum profit for your item?
If you give customers detail useful information about your items you sell, they are more likely to buy from you, than someone with the same item that tells them next to nothing about it, because they can then make a inform choice. Remember, there is no guarantee that your items will ever sell, so make sure you create the best listing you can. You are, in sense, creating an advert. What make yours different?
Also, do your research and develop a marketing strategy. There is plenty of help out there about quick, cheap and effective marketing techniques; you don’t need a business or marketing degree to know how to do this.
How do you promote your listings outside of eBay?
We use the Auction Nudge widget on a dedicated page on the CLiC website and we will sometimes promote items on CLiC’s Facebook page. Also, if a customer comes into the store and ask for a certain item which we don’t have at that time, then we will tell them about the eBay store and ask them to check it regularly.
Have you noticed any changes in the eBay ecosystem over time? Was this for the better?
Getting anything done on eBay is long-winded and laborious, even when using the Turbo Lister program and having your own HTML templates. Also the website interface is messy and it is hard to find what you need at the best of times. Unfortunately the interface and layout only gets worst with every update. Also eBay’s own Turbo Lister is based off and is still suing Internet Explorer 6 code! It needs a thorougher updating, as it slow and unreliable, but still better than the other free programs that are available.
The process of creating listings has gotten longer over the years and things are now more complex with its annoying rules, due to over the top security and out dated policies.
For example, if a bid is placed on an item or if an auction enters its last 12 hours, you can’t change the images or correct any mistakes. If a potential buyer messages asking for some more photos, or if the wrong photos or info have been uploaded, there is no way you can change this. You have to send the photos or info through the messaging system to the buyer instead.
Another real annoyance is not being able to include our main e-mail address on our store or listing page. Nor can we include it when replying to potential buyers messages. Something a customers need to send courier information to us. Instead we have to ask them to phone us or go to our website, (again you are not allowed to include an URL in messages) to get our main e-mail address.
A huge thanks to the CLiC team for sharing their experiences of eBay. You can find the CLiC website at clic-changinglives.org.uk.