More than 34% of consumers who plan to buy a car in the next six months will search for a vehicle on eBay Motors, which is ranked by Nielsen/NetRatings as the No. 1 automotive website with more than 14 million unique visitors.
In October 2011, more than 2,600 cars were sold a week through eBay Motors’ mobile apps alone, and Yahoo estimates that “eBay Motors … is on pace to reach $18 billion in sales this year.” This is why the site should be part of your remarketing strategy.
EBay Motors is neither a classified ad site such as AutoTrader.com or Craigslist, nor is it an auction like Adesa or Manheim. Instead, the site includes both services: A vehicle can be in auction 24 hours a day for up to 10 days — not like the 60 seconds of fame at Manheim. Or, as with classified ads, you can set a fixed-sale price with “Buy It Now” or set up a “Best Offer” sale.
The site describes itself as a “marketplace,” and can be considered as one of the first social networks. On Facebook, everyone is a member and connections are made between friends and acquaintances. On eBay, everyone is a member and buyers connect with sellers. On both networks your reputation is a valuable asset — people can like or dislike you. The most successful eBay Motors users sell hundreds of cars there every year.
But, just like Facebook, presenting yourself and building your brand correctly on the website requires effort. With the proper entrance, presentation and follow-up, eBay Motors provides a valuable avenue to remarket your fleet vehicles.
Become a Member
First, you need to establish an identity by registering as an eBay member. Pick an ID that brands you. Are you going to buy a car from Dude666 or ClassicCarsofClovis? The more professional you appear, the better chance you have at making a sale.
Remember, eBay is a cheap form of advertising. Nielsen/NetRatings say the average eBay Motors visitor spends more than 44 minutes a month on the site — and these are people looking to buy something. So you are not only selling your vehicles, you are marketing yourself.
Next, create a sellers account; this helps to verify your identity and how you’re going to pay your seller’s fees. You should also set up a PayPal account, which will make it possible to take deposits when you sell on eBay Motors. Go to PayPal.com and follow the instructions.
To be successful, you first have to establish a reputation. You could just start listing cars, but you probably wouldn’t have much luck — unless the cars are rare or very cheap.
Your reputation is established by feedback. You will receive feedback when you successfully complete a sale or purchase. Building this feedback can be a kind of “Catch 22.” If you do not receive positive feedback, other users may decide to not buy from you — or maybe even sell to you. Today, an increasing number of sellers will not accept bids from buyers who have a feedback rating of less than “10” or any negative feedback from members.
Before you start selling vehicles, start small and use your own social network. Buy things — they do not have to be expensive. Use sellers with a high feedback rating and pay for items immediately. Leave feedback as soon as you receive the item.[PAGEBREAK]
Sell small things such as toys and automobile memorabilia. Parts and accessories is a huge section on eBay Motors. Do you have a set of tires sitting in the back you are never going to use? Sell them. This will help you to establish your reputation. Ask your friends and family to bid on your auctions, and even buy from you. Be sure to have them leave feedback.
EBay is a self-policing environment. Note how successful sellers run their business. How do they treat their customers? Take a look at the feedback people leave on different auctions. You’ll find that prompt payment and customer service are prized. Copy successful seller’s and buyer’s behavior and model your feedback after them.
Product Selection and Pricing Strategies
So, you have established a reputation on eBay Motors. What sells? Well, anything can sell if presented and priced right.
There is a thriving market for high-end and specialty cars. Hobbyists scour eBay Motors for cars to restore or collect. Low-priced cars sell well — whether or not they’re running — making it a great channel for opportunity sales. For example, in 2008, when gas prices were high, one of our rental customers sold their used Priuses on eBay and made a killing. Eckhaus Fleet bought some well-equipped SUVs from one of our customers during the same time and sold them all on eBay for a substantial profit when gas prices dipped.
Texas Direct, one of the most successful dealers on eBay Motors, says, “The vehicles we retail on eBay are usually late model — 2002 and newer — and have good miles and may still be under a factory warranty.”
EBay Motors is a retail channel, and there are natural sales opportunities built on social behavior. February to April is tax-refund season, and parents buy cars for their grads in May and June. Even Christmas-time registers a spike on eBay. Why not put a red bow on the old Mustang and list it as the perfect Christmas gift?
Once you’ve decided which car you are going to list on eBay Motors, go to the site and look at your competition. How are they presenting the car? What do they think is important? One thing you will notice is that most of the listings provide a lot of information about the vehicle they are selling.
The eBay Motors audience is worldwide. Customers are making a decision to buy a vehicle based solely on the lister’s reputation, the information and the photos. There is no test drive.
You will also notice that a lot of dealers are selling vehicles, but remember that this is a retail marketplace. In order to be successful, you need to provide a professional look and information that your potential customers expect; it is not like sending an email to wholesalers with a list like, “10 2010 Ford Fusion SE Miles 32 to 37K $12,500.”
Preparing the Vehicle
While eBay has checklists to help you sell and buy vehicles (see sidebar on the last page), as you gain more experience you should develop your own expanded checklist. If eBay becomes a standard tool for your remarketing strategy, you should gather the information when the car arrives new at your location. You have the window sticker with all the options. Later, you will not be out on the lot checking to see if the car was one of the ones that came with alloys and heated seats.
After you have gathered all the descriptive information, vehicle identification number (VIN), year, make, model, options, warranty, mileage, etc., it is time to take pictures — this is one of the most important steps. Your first four pictures are free with each listing, but you need more to sell successfully on eBay Motors. The Picture Pack is $2 and includes up to 24 “supersize” photos, and it’s a necessity. EBay recommends using a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels.[PAGEBREAK]
Pose the car in front of a plain background. Having other cars or a busy background detracts from your vehicle. I’ve seen listings in which customers ask questions about other cars in the photos rather than the car being sold.
The car should fill the frame of the picture. At Eckhaus Fleet, we like to walk the car with our pictures. Start at the front and have your pictures follow your inspection of the exterior. Follow that with pictures of the driver’s side interior of the door, driver’s seat, dash, odometer, VIN, console, front passenger seat and passenger side door.
Do the same with the back seat. Take a picture of the trunk and the engine compartment, and one of the wheels to show any detail and condition of the wheels. If there is any damage or wear, take photos of it and disclose it in your listing.
Any surprises for the buyer will hurt your feedback.
Developing your Listing
Once you have gathered the data and pictures, it’s time to build your ad.
1. Form the listing: Go to eBay Motors and select “Sell” to start filling out the requested information. One of the most important fields is “Descriptive Listing Title,” which serves as the heading of your listing and will be searchable on eBay.
The more descriptive and specific your keywords, the more likely your listing will be found by buyers. Put series or package information (GT Premium, Eddie Bauer, etc.), special options (leather), and anything that might draw buyers (“one owner,” “low mileage,” etc).
2. Vehicle history: EBay presently provides free vehicle-history reports from Experian AutoCheck. Make sure you have a clean vehicle history because it will be available for all to see. If there have been problems, explain what they are in the description section.
3. Vehicle condition: EBay provides a section where you can add condition information, extra features, history, and shipping and payment terms. You can enter them in standard text or HTML. As you list more cars on eBay Motors, you will want to develop a standardized HTML template to help develop your own “brand.”
4. Advertising opportunity: Include your company’s contact information. This is essentially a free spot to advertise your business, so use it as an opportunity for free promotions. Offer buyers a discount on a service or product if they mention that they saw you on eBay.
5. Payment and fees: Clearly state your payment terms, sales tax, fees and who pays for shipping. It is standard practice for the buyer to pay for shipping, but you need to state that. Some buyers will want to fly in and pick up the vehicle.
Make sure you check with your tax adviser on the requirements for your state, and be aware of sales tax implications. If you don’t collect the proper taxes from the buyers, it can cost you, so you should know any requirements your state has concerning vehicle sales to out-of-state buyers. In California, for example, sellers have to collect state sales tax unless their customer has arranged for a common carrier to ship the vehicle out of state. When the buyer registers and pays the sales tax in their state, they can then apply to get the tax back from California.
As well, make sure you know and meet all of your state’s requirements. If you are not a registered dealer, you might be limited in the number of vehicles you can sell on a retail market like eBay.
6. Pricing: You need to select a vehicle pricing. According to eBay, most vehicles sell for between the trade-in value and retail price. EBay provides Kelley Blue Book as a pricing guide. You can look at other listings for the same make and model to get an idea of what others are charing for the vehicle. If they have not been selling, they are probably priced too high. You know your cost and what you want to make, so the decision is yours.[PAGEBREAK]
7. Sale type: You can make it a fixed-price sale; an auction with no reserve — highest bidder wins; a reserve auction, in which the bidders must meet the reserve; or a reserve auction with a “Buy It Now” price. Eckhaus Fleet usually conducts a reserve auction with a “Buy It Now” price, making for a quick sale if someone really wants the vehicle.
8. Sale duration: Select your auction duration: three, five, seven or 10 days. The seven-day auction is recommended because it always includes a weekend, which is when people have the most time to browse for cars. Many eBay sellers have the best success rate with auctions that end at 6 p.m. on a Sunday.
9. Upload photos: Upload the photos that you have already gathered. Again, be sure to include photos of scratches, dents, etc.
10. Payment and shipping: When payment is due, you can choose acceptable payments such as cashier’s check — certified from a U.S. or Canadian bank — a money order; or a loan check — only accepted by licensed vehicle dealers. If you’re meeting in person, you can accept cash or a personal check. There is also an “other” option.
For certain payment types, we recommend getting at least a $500 deposit. You will need a PayPal account to accept a deposit. Make sure the payment has cleared before you release the car.
After you’ve completed all 10 steps, eBay will prompt you to check your listing one last time before you post it. Once your listing is active, you need to be part of the selling process. If you have a list of email addresses for people who once said they were interested in buying a car, send them the link to the auction. Let your friends and family know; maybe they know someone looking for a car.
If a potential buyer asks a question, answer it as soon as possible. Quick answers to buyers’ questions are an important part of the virtual selling process. Remember that every question is important. Be polite even if you think the question is stupid. Your listing might be unclear, or maybe the customer just didn’t see the words “automatic transmission” any of the five times it appeared in the listing. Communicating with the buyer is one of the most important steps.
After completion of the sale, arrange for payment, finalize the shipping details and follow up with the buyer.
EBay is a unique sales channel that requires effort, but hundreds of thousands of sellers use it every year. Evaluate the site, and decide whether it should be part of your remarketing strategy.
Eckhaus Fleet is one of the largest independent fleet suppliers in the U.S. and an active seller on eBay Motors. Prior to joining Eckhaus Fleet, Tim Yopp managed a tech team that put more than 2,000 cars a day on eBay Motors for the largest online dealer at the time.
● eBay’s Tutorial: