My EBay Sales Are Dying…Help Me!

Why Have My EBay Sales Dropped Off?

In the eBay forums to which I belong there has always been a great deal of moaning about eBay, not all of it unjustified, and eBay, the hand that feeds you, comes in for a lot of stick.

When sales are poor eBay itself is an easy target and many people complain that “eBay has lost its way” or that the site is “glitchy” or find a host of other reasons to blame eBay rather than look at what they are doing as a seller.

EBay thrives on success – your success and that of the millions of sellers they host. EBay gives you plenty of guidance and help and frequent indications of what will help you to succeed, including regular emails and videos. They are well worth reading and watching.

No business can afford to stand still and what you were doing yesterday may bot be good enough or the correct thing today. EBay is evolving and so must we as sellers too. We must keep up with eBay.

EBay is a genie that can grant you endless wishes but only as long as you keep him busy. He has a pet called Cassini, the search engine, which has a voracious appetite. If you are serious about selling on eBay you have to keep the genie busy and constantly feed Cassini.

Furthermore, you have to keep the genie entertained with the right kind of activity and feed Cassini his favourite foods. If your eBay sales have dropped off it is probably because you have neglected or misunderstood the genie and his pet.

Although eBay makes plenty of money from insertion fees and store subscriptions by far the biggest chunk of revenue comes from final value fees.

There are so many sellers and so many items on eBay that they have to have ways of deciding which sellers and which items should get the most exposure and, therefore, give them the most likelihood of sales.

In this article, which assumes that you are a business seller, we look at how you can work on being as close to the front of the line as possible. We will consider the kind of activity that eBay likes and the sort of nourishment Cassini responds to.

You also need to bear in mind that there are seasonal fluctuations in the market generally. So as well as looking after the genie and his pet you need to know the fluctuations and attributes of your niche.

What Kind of Activity Does eBay Like

You can get plenty of clues as to what eBay responds to by the messages, either direct or indirect, that it sends you. You can also get some really solid indications if you call and speak to a rep, who will look at your account and then actually tell you what you should be doing. It’s a good idea to listen.

There are broadly four areas to consider:

  • Selling activities – activities which are directly aimed at achieving sales, such as listing, reviewing, revising.
  • Policies – those behaviours that eBay requires of you. Failure to comply with these may lead to your items being removed and/or result in your items being relegated and might, and in some circumstances definitely will, result in a suspension of your account. These are pretty clear and are readily available at the eBay policies page.
  • Guidance and best practice – this is often less explicit but you will get some indications from by visiting your “seller hub” and take a look at any alerts that are there.
  • Other things that eBay wants you to do – these are usually things that increase sales for eBay and therefore for you. If you ignore these things your sales will definitely suffer accordingly.

    I am going to concentrate on activities that fall into these last two categories because it is these areas that cause sellers more trouble just because they are not specifically stated as “policies”.

    Selling on eBay is a great deal to do with exposure – you want your stuff to be exposed to the widest possible audience and then for as many of those people to be inclined to buy from you as possible.

    Buyers have a choice – make sure your give them as many reasons to buy from you as possible.

Twelve Reasons Why You Are Not Selling Enough.

1. You Are Not Listing Enough.

  • Cassini thrives on listings. Without listings eBay makes no money. Do lots of listing.
  • Buyers love choice. Give your buyers lots to choose from. Make your store interesting – fill it with interesting stuff and lots of it.
  • List regularly and often. Better to list five items every day than fifty items once a week. Cassini does not like gaps; it needs food every day and not just now and then.
  • Use “List Similar“. When you don’t have the time or enough stuff to list you can take a look at your older listings and “end” then “List Similar” NOT “Relist”.

2. You Are Not Listing The Right Stuff

  • List what people want. Everything will sell in time (at the right price) so you can either have many items that sell now and then or fewer that sell quickly.
  • Research what sells. At the very least you can see whether your stuff has been selling by using the “Sold Items” filter under “show only” in the search sidebar. If there is plenty of your kind of stuff there sold recently then you can be fairly confident that there is some demand for what you have. There will be a further article on what free research tools you can use.

3. Your Prices Are Wrong.

  • Your prices are too high. This is an obvious aspect to check. When you research to see what you should be setting your prices at don’t just look at items for sale – remember that those are the ones that haven’t sold. Use the “Sold Items” filter as above to see what prices your kind of stuff is actually selling for. You don’t have to be the lowest as long as you can demonstrate high levels of integrity through your seller status and your feedback. But you do have to be in the right ball-park or buyers will go elsewhere.
  • Your prices are too low. Although people don’t want to pay more than they need to buyers can be suspicious if something seems to be too cheap. It poses questions, such as: “What’s wrong with it?” “Is this a fake?” and so on.
  • Your auction starting price is too high. Some sellers make a mistake by starting their auctions at the priee they wouldn’t mind selling at. However, this is a real turn-off for buyers who may not even bother to bid. It is human nature, apparently, to want to get a bargain so you have to tempt sellers with the prospect that they might just win the auction with a really low bid. I know it is counter-intuitive but far more auctions starting at a very low point (usually 99p) end up exceeding expectations than the reverse. Once you have a buyer’s attention and their first bid they are far more likely to bid MORE than what they originally intended than if you start high and they decline to bid at all.

4. Old Listings With Many Views and/or Watchers But Few/No Sales Are Dragging You Down

EBay loves success and rewards it with a boost in visibility. If your items gets lots of attention but no or few sales over a period of time that tells EBay that something is right and something is wrong. Right is that your item is getting noticed, so there must be something in the title attracting people. But if people are not buying once they get to your item there are a few things that could be wrong:

  • Your price is too high. Do some research and see what similar items are being sold for. You don’t have to be the cheapest but you need to be in the ball-park.
  •  Your description is not right. If your description does not tell your buyer everything they need to know, including any faults or blemishes this may put them off buying from you, especially if there are others to choose from on eBay. Make sure you include all the details. Put yourself in the position of the buyer and think what you would want to know if you were searching for the right item.
  • Your photographs are inadequate. EBay recommends you have at least two images of each item. Your first image should show clearly what you are selling so that as soon as the buyer sees it they can say to themselves: “Yes, that’s what I want.” Other photos should be from different angles, inside or close-up as appropriate. If your item has faults you should use photos to clearly show what the faults are. Poor photos or two few will not give the buyer the information that they need.
  • The item is getting stale. Sometimes, notably in a niche where the audience is limited as in collectables, for example, it can be simply that your item has been on there too long and although you have had lots of traffic it is just not the right one for those visitors. In this case you might just need to “end” and then “sell similar”. NOTE: Do NOT “relist” as this will have no effect except give a new item id. – your item will drag all that heavy history around with it again. “Sell similar” is, in effect, a totally new item. Cassini regards it as nourishing food and will love your activity, especially if you do this with a number of items.

5. You Have Too Many "Defects"

  • Late deliveries – these are in the area of “guidance” and “best practice” in as much as late deliveries will not get you banned (unless you are very persistent) but get more than one or two and your “seller standard” will slip. If that happens your exposure will reduce an fewer buyers will see your stuff less often. Late delivery may also result in negative feedback and whilst that will not affect your sellers standard it may put people off from buying from you.
  • Cases found against you – if you get more than a small handful of cases or “requests” that eBay has to step in to resolve and that are found against you this will definitely affect your “metrics“. For specifics see the following points below.
  • Item not as described – Make sure you describe your item in detail. Include every fault, flaw and blemish. Failure to do this will result in return requests being opened and too many will result in your being relegated in the searches – even if you resolve them.
  • Item not received – although there are a few scammers out there, especially in certain categories, my experience is that people are generally decent and honest. If someone says they haven’t received an item you have to take responsibility for that. It is your job to make sure that the item is actually delivered. Your responsibility does not end when it has left your possession. Too many of these will not only result in negative feedback but also in a relegation in searches and loss of visibility.

6. You Have Too Much Negative Feedback

Whilst negative feedback is not (yet) taken into account when rating your items it may well put buyers off. If you put yourself in the position of the buyer it might be easier to assess how your sales might be impacted by too much negative feedback. There is not a great deal of research on this directly but there is an interesting paper published on on the subject and you can read it here.

You have to consider what signals the buyer receives when reading a raft of negative feedback about you as a seller.

Consider carefully how you respond to negative or neutral feedback as well. What you say and how you say it, in private messages and in a public response to feedback, can have a big effect on how buyers see you.

My article “How To Deal With Negative, Neutral or Strange Feedback” will guide you on how to respond to negative or neutral feedback. A later article will tell you how to get your feedback scores up again.

7. You Haven't Up-dated Your Returns Policy

Debate on this subject rages in the eBay sellers’ forums but research shows beyond doubt that buyers prefer to shop with a seller that offers free returns within (at least) thirty days. Now whether you choose to believe this or not you must take into account that eBay suggests that you do so. And anything that eBay suggests you do you can be sure will affect your visibility in the searches.

Here is just one piece of research from the highly respected online journal Ecommerce news:

8. You are not using your "Send Offers"

This is one of those activities that does not fall under the heading of “Policies” but is something that eBay really wants you to use. Anything that is likely to increase sales for eBay usually falls into th this area and I strongly suggest that you do use your “Send Offers”.

If you don’t know what I am talking about go to your seller hub and then click on “Listings”. Above the listings you will see a number of “filters”, once of which is “send offers”. Click on this and you will be presented with listings that eBay has selected for you. These are listing that either have offers or that a buyer or buyers have looked at. You can now decide whether to send offers to these people with a minimum 5% off). You can select in bulk or individually.

I always use my full quota unless I see listings there that need refreshing (too many watchers/views with no sales). But I often use only the minimum 5% level.

Bear in mind that eBay WANTS yo uto send offers and doing something that eBay wants you to do can only help your visibility while failing to do so will certainly bring you down the searches.

9. You Are Not Using "Or Best Offer".

EBay loves “or best offer” for the simple reason that it increases sales. It will increase your sales too, even if you only accept offers tat are slightly below your asking price. Just the fact of giving the option will help push you up the searches because Cassini favours such listings.

You can decided whether to accept offers or not but in lean times this can really give a boost to your sales. I have often been sent offer by a buyer and I have declined the firt two only to get a third from the same buyer at a very small amount below asking price. Sometimes the buyer just wants to feel they have achieved a better price and by accepting you both win.

You can add “best offer” to all your listings in bulk using the bulk editor. Please do it… it really does make a difference.

10. You Are Not Using Promoted Listings.

I know this is a real pain. You are paying your fees, giving great customer service, getting your descriptions and photos perfect, you have 30 day free returns, using “best offer” and doing everything else you possibly can to keep up the searches and you are paying eBay well for the use of their platform but… they want MORE.

“Promoted Listings” appear in the searches with a label that says “sponsored” and in every case will appear at the top of the searches. The more “sponsored” listings that there are the further down the searches your stuff will go unless you are also using “promoted listings”.

Furthermore, the higher % you put on your item as a “promoted listing” the further up the searches you will appear.

If you are in a crowded marketplace you will need to give more to be higher up. But if you are one of only a few sellers in your niche AND you have 100% positive feedback and are a “premium” seller you need only add the minimum 1%.

This is worth doing even if you are the only one selling what you are selling because somehow eBay still manages to penalise you with reduced visibility if you don’t.

11. You Have Not Up-dated Your Shipping Policies.

EBay loves shipping which is “free” and even more so if it is fast.

Same-day dispatch. You may notice a difference if you set your dispatch time to “same day”. When a buyer has made a decision on what to buy they often want it “now”. In an extreme example, given the choice to buy a widget for £7 but to wait three weeks for it to arrive from China OR to pay £9.50 and to have it NOW, buyers will often choose the latter.

You can choose your cut-off time for “same day” dispatch to suit you. I set mine to 11.00am because that usually allow me enough time to send stuff out if I have to go to an auction, for example. This avoids getting a defect if you have set the dispatch time to same day with a 3.00pm cut-off and something comes up preventing you from sending that day.

Free Shipping. I have seen raging debates about “free” shipping but there is no doubt that this has a big effect on sales – not just on eBay but universally.

All relevant research (there’s plenty out there) strongly suggests that “free” shipping is a motivator for buyers’ choice.

Lots of sellers say they have tried it and it didn’t make any difference but you can’t trust this kind of anecdotal evidence because it is very far from a scientific survey.

Even using your own basic intuition it is easy to see that there is at least a psychological factor here. Even though we all know that there is no such thing as “free” shipping, customers like to think they are getting it free (I have had direct feedback from customers stating their appreciation) but it also simplifies their purchase. They don’t have to do the maths,

If you don’t offer free shipping there will be someone out there who is.

Fast shipping. EBay has a preference for sellers who offer an express shipping service as an option. So in your shipping options just include one which provides a next-day service for an additional cost. Even if you make this cost punitive it will help.

Adding “free shipping” and offering an express service as an option will earn you a “fast and free” badge next to your listing and will help push you up the searches.

Click-and-collect. To me this is a no-brainer as I am selling mostly small items and this cost me nothing at all.

All you have to do is to add click-and-collect to your shipping policies and give people just one more reason to buy from you.

Some buyers like this because they can’t be at home to receive items and it’s more convenient for them to pick their purchases up from Argos, for example, on the way home from work or at the weekend.

There are limitations on size, though, so if you have larger items check it out before you offer it.

12. You Haven't Used Sales or Promotions

EBay provides a number of different ways you can market and promote your items, in addition to “promoted listings”, which can be found in the “Marketing” tab in your Seller Hub.

I can’t state often enough how much eBay likes any activity that leads to increased sales. Using a sale or other promotion will surely lead to more sales for you and, therefore, more fees for eBay. EBay LOVES sales and promotions.

I have found that over time multi-buy promotions have worked really well for me. I am in a niche where people often buy more than one item and the multi-buy discounts encourage them to buy them from me and all at the same time.

An occasional mark-down sale will be just the kind of activity to bring in more cash for you and for eBay and it’s a great way to clear out slow-moving stuff.

Promoted Listings” has become very important on eBay, especially if you are in a very competitive sector. How this works is that you agree to pay eBay an additional % fee (only payable if the item sells and the buyer found it through being promoted in this way) in return for them pushing your item(s) up the searches. Imagine you are selling animal print phone cases – there will be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of similar items or exactly the same. Who’s is going to get to the top of the searches, assuming everything such as titles, photos and descriptions are the same? Yes, you got it, the item that has been “promoted” will be further up the searches. The catch here is that if there are others also promoting the same item then you will have to pay a higher % to scramble to the top. Frankly, this is one reason I don’t sell in a very competitive niche – eBay want more and more just to give you the exposure. But I guess they have to have ways of deciding which items to feature first – and if it makes the extra money….

In all promotions you can choose to include your entire inventory, to select by category or by individual items and there are conditions that you can apply.

Coupons are a great way to encourage buyers to come back to you and are a recent innovation by eBay. Your coupon is personal to that one buyer and you can set the parameters. Worth a look, for sure.


Although eBay may suffer the occasional glitch it is almost always within your power to increase your sales.

EBay loves success and rewards success with a hike in exposure.

EBay loves activity, especially that kind of activity which is likely, in their experience, to lead to more sales.

EBay make it quite clear what they want you to do and if you choose not to follow their advice you cannot expect to be rewarded.

You always have a choice and you can choose to complain or to act. Which will it be?

Buyers always have a choice. Help them choose you.

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