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More Drop Shipping Tips for eBay Sellers

Best practices that separate drop shipping failures from drop shipping pros


More Drop Shipping Tips for eBay Sellers

Maybe your suppliers have lots of inventory and ship quickly, or maybe they don't. Have you tested them to see? What other things could you be doing to ensure a seamless experience for your buyers?

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Drop shipping certainly isn't the easiest way to make money on eBay, but there are many successful sellers that do it. Though success in drop shipping depends in part on factors like finding good sources, maximizing margins in a cutthroat game, and doing lots of great market research, it also depends on employing a few simple customer service strategies that can mean the difference between a drop shipping disaster and a drop shipping success.

Here are a few simple tips that have nothing to do with market research, supplier directories, bulk item listing, or other common tasks associated with drop shipping that can help you to keep your business from falling prey to many of the most common drop shipping problems.

  • Test your suppliers and products. This is probably the simplest, most obvious, and least employed technique for making drop shipping more successful than it otherwise would be. How can you sell an item and adequately set buyer expectations in your description when you haven't even seen the item yourself or dealt with the distributor or fulfillment partner as a customer? You don't want to set expectations for Tiffany-level quality in your item description if what they'll get is more similar to an item found at Wal-mart. There's nothing wrong with the latter, of course—unless someone is actively expecting the former. The same thing goes for fulfillment and customer service quality. It's good to know how promptly a fulfillment partner ships items, how well they package them, and other things related to successful transaction completion. So pretend you're a customer or use a family member to test out every item that you sell and every fulfillment partner that you use before you foist these on buyers of your own. Immediately drop any partner that doesn't satisfy you when you make your test purchase, and continue to do this over time as buyers report to you (or to eBay via feedback) their own experiences with each item/partner.
  • Be honest about shipping and fulfillment times. After you've tested suppliers yourself, you'll be able to provide an honest estimate of shipping and handling times to your customers. Don't do this in a backhanded way, even if these times are very long relative to industry norms. Most buyers are willing to forgive almost any delay or inconvenience so long as they have agreed to these from the start. So be conservative, not a risk taker, in any information that you supply in your listing or item description about how long it will take for an item to arrive. Do your best to highlight or prominently feature the wait, particularly if it's somewhat long, so the buyers are sure to see them before they bid or buy.
  • Double down on customer service and solicit buyer contact. As a seller that uses drop shippers, you are essentially a mediator between your buyer and supplier. You are the first point of contact and the only one that will be able to help them to resolve any issues that they have. Drop shippers in particular are notorious for having poor or no customer service infrastructure, which means that if you dropped the ball this area as well, or send your buyers to your fulfillment partners for customer service, they're bound to end up frustrated and dissatisfied (something that will no doubt show up in your feedback and detailed seller ratings, and which may even go on to affect your seller performance and search placement). So respond to all inquiries quickly and professionally and be careful also to feature an explicit request for customers to contact you immediately if they have any reservations about their transaction or need any kind of help at all. Your ability to get buyers to contact you when they're dissatisfied and to satisfy them once they have contacted you is one key to success with a drop shipping business.
  • Be (sort of) honest about your drop shipping business. While you don't want to use the actual term "drop shipping" in your listings on eBay, it is often a good idea to tell your buyers that you'll be using fulfillment partners, shipping partners, a series of warehouses around the country, or other things that indicate that your entire operation is not headquartered in your house or your own office and involves a certain amount of logistical management. When paired with the customer service practices above, such as encouragement for shoppers to contact you at the first hint of trouble, explaining to buyers in your item descriptions that "we have fulfillment partners around the country, and while problems are rare, we want to know about them immediately so that we can correct them and ensure that you have a positive buying experience," helps to manage buyer expectations and smooth out bumps when things do go wrong.
  • Consider maintaining minimal inventory and cash reserves. Don't try to run a drop shipping business so close to the wire that any failure on the part of one of your partners means negative feedback, credit card disputes and chargebacks, or worse for your own business. You want to be able to "fire" poor partners, not be set on fire by them. Consider keeping cash reserves on hand and an item or two of inventory for each kind of item that you sell so that if and when things go wrong in ways that can't quickly be resolved by fulfillment partners, you can step in and make things right, rapidly and in a way that will appear seamless to your buyers, ultimately earning (rather than losing) their praise in feedback. Run your drop shipping business like a high-quality organization, not a fly-by-night one, and you'll have a high-quality organization, not a fly-by-night one.

Too many eBay sellers that are just starting out with drop shipping assume that it's a business that runs itself behind the scenes. What these tips demonstrate is that a selling business that uses drop shipping is not an automatic business, but rather a customer service oriented business in which you connect buyers to suppliers and are constantly aware of how well your buyers' needs are being met.

If you're able to do these things well, and manage margins, control fees, and do the research needed to decide what to sell, you can make your drop shipping business and eBay success despite the long odds against these kinds of business models in many cases.

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