You’ve been a customer, now it’s time to turn the tables and become a seller. Use your experience as a customer to write great descriptions, take great photos and be a great salesperson! Here are some tips to get you started on listing your collectible on an online marketplace.
Choosing a Marketplace
Different sites cater to different needs. A few of the different sites I’ve tried are eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, and Craigslist. For me, they just didn’t fit my needs, but remember, I am a professional web designer. An online marketplace will remove the time consuming site maintenance so you can concentrate on selling. If you’re unsure on top prices or want to sell quickly, consider eBay. For a set prices, consider a site like Etsy. For local only purchases, then a site like Craigslist is your best bet. Try a few items out on your top three and see how things go. Start small and learn how things work. Once you find your marketplace, you can scale up the number of listed items. Warning! Don’t over-do it and suddenly have 100 items to ship in one day!
Create a Listing
Your first task is to identify what the item is. Most items have some sort of markings to tell you who made it. Most collectors identify items by the company that made them. This can give you further clues as to when it was made and how valuable it is. Warning! The dates on your Peanuts items may not be true indicators of the age of a piece. For more information, read Peanuts Collecting 101 – Dating an Item
Depending on your online marketplace, you might easily get lost in a sea of Snoopy items. It’s not just a “Snoopy bank”. Instead, give it a descriptive title like “Snoopy on his Doghouse Peanuts Bank by Determined Productions, 1969”. Why does it matter? If a customer is looking for a Snoopy bank, it might take too much time or willpower to go through ten pages of listings. If the customer is looking for something specific, such as Determined Productions Banks, you want the customer to find your listing easily.
Once you’ve gained the customer’s attention, you will want to tell all the specifics of a piece. Keep your content easy to read, to the point, spell-checked, and not in all caps. Write a longer description of the specifics of a piece such as date, edition number, materials, size, etc. Tell any relevant history you might have. Finally, include any condition issues such as damage, flaws and missing pieces.
Are you getting lots of questions on your piece? Use your customer feedback to enhance your description. Anticipate what people need to know.
Price & Condition
Grab your camera! A picture speaks a thousand words about you as a seller and about the piece. If your cell phone camera doesn’t take good photos, invest in a decent digital camera, especially if you’re going to be selling a lot of items. A $100 investment will pay off in the long run.
Think about how you shop online. What grabs your attention? Dark shots? Fuzzy images? NO! Crisp, clean, well-lit shots. Customers won’t be expecting masterpieces of composition and perfect tonality. The photos will be the replacement for being able to pick up and feel the item. Keep that in mind when taking your shots. Use basic backgrounds, such as white tag board, that will complement the item.
Learn Your Camera
Next, learn how to use your camera. It’s time to pick up the manual or download one off the internet. The most important button you want to find – the macro shot. The button usually looks like a flower. In the macro mode, you’ll be able to take close-up shots. If your item is small, if your item has condition issues, if your item has a label – you’ll need this! I use it for most of my shots because it scales back the flash to compensate for how close you are to the object. Practice makes perfect! Load your test shots into your computer and take a look. See what’s working and what isn’t.
Give it your best shot
Once you have a feel for the camera, it’s time to take your final shots. Yes, multiple shots! Digital film has no limitations, make use of that. Use the highest resolution, so you can crop later and still have a nice sized image. Take multiple shots trying out different angles. Take shots of any flaws, interesting features, etc. You have the collectible out, might as well get in all the shots you could ever need. It saves time in the long run!
Finally, once you have the photos on the computer, pick your best ones for use on your listing. If your listing isn’t selling, switch up the main image. Try a close-up or detail shot to attract your customers. Remember your item is listed with lots of other items, what can you do to make it stand out from the crowd?
Taking it to the next level? Etsy.com has some great product photography to browse and tutorials to use. There are a lot of free online image editing sites out there for basic image editing such as color-correcting, cropping and adding copy. I use PicMonkey (affiliate link). Use these tools to enhance the selling points, not to touch up those flaws.
If you’re selling online, you’ll have to jump through the hoops of shipping. Always get delivery confirmation. Always buy insurance on large orders and fragile items. You could skip these, but the savings isn’t worth it when you have an unhappy customer. Learn the standards for your shipper to make sure you can claim on insurance and what that process is BEFORE you run into that situation. Decide if you will ship International, which does take some extra steps and costs a lot more for the customer which varies by shipping destination.
Personally, I use USPS Priority because they have free boxes and free carrier pickup. Buying the postage online saves me a little bit on each package and has more than paid for my ten-pound postage scale. Plus, they’re the only shipper I’ve worked with that has paid out on insurance claims.
My site uses Paypal, Amazon Pay and Stripe for all transactions and I’ve never had any problems. For a small transaction fee, I can accept credit card payments without dealing with customer’s privileged information. If you’re going through a larger marketplace website, they may only take payments through certain gateways, such as Paypal or Google Checkout. With checks and money orders, be sure to wait for it to clear before sending the item to a customer and make sure the customer is aware of this waiting period ahead of time. For cash transactions, be sure to get payment up front and in person.
POLICIES & CUSTOMER SERVICE
You can set up a shop without having any policies. However, when something happens, like a customer wants to make a return, it’s hard to say no when you weren’t up front about it. Once you decide on a marketplace, check out other shop owner’s policies. Shipping prices, turn-around time, international shipping, returns, guarantees and payment types are some of the major considerations. When a Customer is aware of your policies up front, the Customer can decide if they want to make a purchase from you. By making a purchase, the Customer will be agreeing to these terms. Your policies should be easily available to your customers.
The time will come when you need to handle some Customer Service. Packages can be lost, items broken, or just an unhappy customer has a concern. If the problem is your fault or the shippers, be sure to take care of it right away. If the problem seems to be on the customer end, be gracious, be calm, take 10 to breath and make sure you’re staying professional. Keep records of your exact listing copy and photos on hand to fully explain the situation to your customer, your payment company or your online marketplace if a problem arises. If your payment is stopped or held in question, you’ll want to make sure you’re seen as a professional who is fairly representing your merchandise.
Online VS. Offline Selling
The biggest plus for Online selling is being able to reach the people who are looking for your product. The downside is the online world will never compare to the offline world of being able to pick up an item and examine it from all angles. Offline selling involves setting up a booth at an antique mall, flea market or collectibles show. These methods aren’t free, but you can deal directly with the customer and the customer knows what they are getting. Auction houses can sell your items quickly, but it may not be the best venue for most Peanuts Collectibles to realize their full value. Whether you’re pricing your goods for an antique booth or setting up an online listing, either way you have to factor the time, effort and expenses going into selling your Peanuts collectible.