When you run an online retail business (or any type of business) you have a list of things that you know you should be doing every day to run the day to day operations.
Specifically in eBay sales, the daily task list looks something like this (in no particular order):
- Answer customer queries
- Ship products
- Source new products
- Upload new listings to eBay
- Update existing listing on eBay
- Handle accounting tasks
- Talk to potential suppliers
- Deal with existing suppliers
- Handle Paypal issues
- Help your employees with their tasks
- Read relevant information about the industry (eBay announcements, blogs, influencers, etc.)
I’m sure that I missed a few things that some of you may be doing as every business has its own nuances and unique daily activities.
The point is that as a business owner, I always had so much on my plate that I was always feeling a lot of pressure just to complete all my daily tasks, let alone work on growing my business.
Only when I hired more employees to take away some of the pressure, could I spend some of the time on thinking about ways to expand the business.
Side note: I don’t remember where I heard this but the following sentence stuck with me and has been a beacon to how I view the entire cycle of doing business: A business which is not growing, is effectively dying.
Back to my story: There are many ways to expand the business and we shared them in previous posts: Finding new suppliers, perfecting our eBay listings, optimizing eBay SEO and using various eBay hacks to increase sales.
The rationality in irrational economic decisions (that will help you sell more)
Today I would like to share a scientifically proven approach which I learned from the renowned Dan Ariely, currently a Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University who previously taught for 10 years at MIT (often cited as one of the world’s most prestigious universities).
Moreover, Ariely’s TED talks have been watched more than 10 million times and he is the author of 4 books, all of which became New York Times best sellers.
I will share his insights about the value of FREE and how you can leverage that to boost your eBay sales.
This is an extract from his book called “Predictably Irrational”:
“Let me tell you a story that describes the real influence of FREE on our behavior. A few years ago, Amazon.com started offering free shipping of orders over a certain amount. Someone who purchased a single book for $16.95 might pay an additional $3.95 for shipping, for instance. But if the customer bought another book, for a total of $31.90, they would get their shipping FREE. Some of the purchasers probably didn’t want the second book (and I am talking here from personal experience) but the FREE shipping was so tempting that to get it, they were willing to pay the cost of the extra book. The people at Amazon were very happy with this offer, but they noticed that in one place—France—there was no increase in sales. Is the French consumer more rational than the rest of us? Unlikely.
Rather, it turned out, the French customers were reacting to a different deal.
Here’s what happened. Instead of offering FREE shipping on orders over a certain amount, the French division priced the shipping for those orders at one franc. Just one franc— about 20 cents. This doesn’t seem very different from FREE but it was. In fact, when Amazon changed the promotion in France to include free shipping, France joined all the other countries in a dramatic sales increase. In other words, whereas shipping for one franc—a real bargain—was virtually ignored by the French, FREE shipping caused an enthusiastic response.”
Dan Arieli continues to describe the thought process that leads buyers to make those decisions:
“When choosing between two products, then, we often overreact to the free one. We might opt for a FREE checking account (with no benefits attached) rather than one that costs five dollars a month. But if the five-dollar checking account includes free traveler’s checks, online billing, etc., and the FREE one doesn’t, we may end up spending more for this package of services with the FREE account than with the five-dollar account. Similarly, we might choose a mortgage with no closing costs, but with interest rates and fees that are off the wall; and we might get a product we don’t really want simply because it comes with a free gift.”
Here Ariely explains how you can apply this to grow your eBay sales:
“So you can maintain the status quo with a 20-cent fee (as in the case of Amazon’s shipping in France), or you can start a stampede by offering something FREE.
Think how powerful that idea is! Zero is not just another discount. Zero is a different place. The difference between two cents and one cent is small. But the difference between one cent and zero is huge!
If you are in business, and understand that, you can do some marvelous things. Want to draw a crowd? Make something FREE!
Want to sell more products? Make part of the purchase FREE!”
The approach that will make you stand out in a competitive landscape
The notion that FREE draws more buyers is something we all know for a long time now, Dan Ariely provided a scientific proof to it with his behavioral experiments (He did many of those and published them in his books, I shared only one small piece).
When I look back at how we grew our retail business, I remember a lot of obvious things that we did (negotiate better prices, find more suppliers, list on multiple channels, offer excellent customer support etc.) but I remember mostly the unusual approaches we’ve taken which proved to be much more successful than the predictable and obvious business practices.
The upside of doing something differently in my eyes is much bigger than implementing known business tactics to increase sales, it’s almost as if you are guaranteed to increase your sales but with a very limited upside.
Businesses that want to grow faster than others often use tactics that may seem risky but as Dan Ariely showed, they can be way more beneficial in monetary terms.
To summarize this with one more example from Ariely’s book:
“America Online (AOL) had a similar experience several years ago when it switched from pay-per-hour service to a monthly payment schedule (in which you could log in as many hours as you wanted for a fixed $19.95 per month). In preparation for the new price structure, AOL geared up for what it estimated would be a small increase in demand. What did it get? An overnight increase from 140,000 to 236,000 customers logging into the system, and a doubling
of the average time online.”
I’d love to hear about some of the unusual eBay sales tactics you implemented and proved to be successful for your business. In fact, I’d love to share some of the better case studies in one of our next posts and help you increase your exposure by doing that, as we did with the eBay Sellers who went from zero to $250K in just three months.