It all started with a broken laser pointer. That was the first item ever sold on AuctionWeb, an online marketplace launched by programmer Pierre Omidyar in 1995. In the 23 years since then, AuctionWeb has evolved considerably—it's grown into a multibillion-dollar public company under a new name, eBay—but you can still find listings for broken laser pointers, if you're into that sort of thing. Indeed, one of the reasons shoppers still flock to the site is because there's no product too niche, too trivial, or too worn down to be sold on eBay.

This isn't to suggest that your eBay inventory management system needs to resemble the backroom at a Goodwill. You don't have to specialize in secondhand goods, ephemera, or rare collectibles to be a successful seller on eBay. Thanks to a concerted effort on eBay's part to compete with Amazon, it's easier than ever to sell products—used and new products—on the global marketplace. And if your e-commerce business is already active on Amazon, Walmart,, or another major online retail destination, you can expand into eBay with minimal effort. The key is a smart approach to eBay inventory management.

To understand the vast opportunity available to eBay sellers in 2018, let's look at some of the ways the company has changed in the past few years, and how far it's come from those early days.

How the eBay of 2018 Differs from the eBay of 1995–2016


As its original name suggests, eBay was founded as an online auction site: users would place bids on products and hope no one else came along to submit a better offer. That started to change in the year 2000 with the introduction of the "Buy It Now" feature, which allowed merchants to sell their items at fixed prices. This gave shoppers the option to purchase what they wanted, when they wanted it—without the need to obsessively check auctions and compete for highest bidder status.

These days, sales through the Buy It Now button account for approximately 80% of all sales on eBay, and most items are bought new. Nonetheless, sellers who aren't active on the platform still largely associate it with auctions. This leads many to mistakenly believe that eBay shoppers possess a flea market mentality and are only interested in snagging (or haggling for) deals at the lowest possible prices.

eBay has taken a number of steps in the past couple years to shed its image as an auction destination. The site's homepage now shows personalized recommendations as categories rather than individual products, and the word "used" is nowhere in sight. The eBay search function increasingly taps into structured data to group equivalent products under a single listing rather than giving shoppers hundreds of identical-looking results.

In terms of inventory management marketplace reach, eBay sellers also have a broader range of options than ever before. You can create your own branded eBay store, offer guaranteed delivery times, and even have eBay take care of shipping. The company has also revamped its APIs and continually strives to provide sellers with more and more analytics and tools aimed at growing sellers' businesses.

Overall, the eBay of today resembles another leading marketplace: Amazon. Not surprising given eBay's desire to poach some of its biggest competitor's market share.

Benefits of Using eBay Inventory Management Software


eBay may be making life easier for sellers, but inventory management still poses challenges for e-commerce businesses regardless of their level of experience with the platform. It takes a great deal of time to add and update listings, change prices, fulfill orders, and keep stock levels consistent—especially if you're selling the same products on multiple channels simultaneously, as many online retailers do.

How should a seller effectively expand onto eBay and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the marketplace without overcomplicating their operations? How can an e-commerce business that sells on more than one channel manage it all without losing time, money, and sleep?

The answer is multichannel inventory management software. There are a number of solutions out there, and sellers thinking about expanding to eBay should assess their options, as some tools are optimized for the marketplace, and others are not. The right software solution should present the following benefits, and include the following features:

  • Don't waste time manually lowering or raising your prices every week, day, or hour. Software with dynamic repricing features can monitor your listings and automatically adjust prices up or down in accordance with your strategy.
  • Considering the effort it takes to re-list an item on eBay and populate all that data again, make sure your inventory management solution provides automatic product relisting.
  • On eBay, competition is fierce. Don't get blindsided: your chosen solution should include competition targeting options that let you keep an eye on others in your niche through UPCs, MPNs, EANs, or other industry-specific product identifiers.
  • Currently sell on more than one channel, or plan to expand in the near future? Your software should encourage rather than limit your growth. Look for a cloud-based, multichannel toolset that simplifies inventory management across channels.
  • Finally, if you're active on Amazon, assess whether your the inventory management solution you use for eBay allows you to complete eBay orders using your Fulfillment-by-Amazon (FBA) inventory.

More Considerations for Sellers Looking to Expand onto eBay 


In addition to inventory management solutions, sellers who are thinking about bringing their businesses onto eBay should consider a few more things:

  1. Product descriptions. eBay gives you a lot of room to work with when writing product descriptions, so make good use of it. Successful eBay sellers understand the power of words to optimize their search rankings (in eBay and Google) and draw customers in.
  2. The eBay "Buy Box." Just like on Amazon, eBay merchants selling the same product now compete for the Buy Box—i.e. position as the default seller for a given listing. For better or worse, many of the same tactics that work for winning the Buy Box on Amazon also apply to eBay.
  3. Pricing and product strategy. Will you be offering new products, preowned products, or a mixture of both? Will you run auctions or stick with Buy It Now? Are you open to giving shoppers the option of making an offer? The answers differ for each seller. Some effective eBay users stick with a rigid strategy while others take a more eclectic approach. If you're new to eBay, you may want to experiment a little and see what works for you.
  4. Fulfillment strategy. Consider whether your business would benefit from opting in to eBay's guaranteed delivery program. The company offers two options: The Handling Time Option, in which you take care of handling but not shipping, may be best for smaller sellers who ship from a single location; while the Door-to-Door Option is better for sellers who operate multiple shipping locations and who can ensure on-time delivery. Both options increase your chances of winning the Buy Box—not to mention increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty—but have certain requirements.

Expanding into a new channel may seem daunting, but with the right tools, any e-commerce business can successfully grow on eBay. We know because we've done it ourselves. At SellerActive, our industry-leading eBay inventory management solution is backed by a team of experienced e-commerce professionals. To schedule a free consultation with us and experience a live demo of our software, click below.

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