eBay Inventory Management: Best Practices

These days it seems everybody is taking advantage of eBay’s easy-to-access marketplace in order to sell anything from the latest iPhone to their imaginary friend.

And although, at first glance, it also seems simple enough to just whip up a standard classified ad for your old junk, things are a little different when you shift from being a casual seller to a genuine online retailer who happens to use eBay as their channel of commerce.

eBay product boxes
photo credit: Matt Cornock

You’ll find it comes quite a shock when you have an inventory – especially one that’s a vast and varied catalogue of different goods – rather than one or two items you’re hoping to make a quick buck from. So what are the “best practices” that seasoned eBay-ers adhere to when managing their unfeasibly large and complicated inventories?

Organize and categorize your merchandise

eBay inventory management starts with the simple process of keeping things organized. If you have a large inventory, this task can seem intimidating, but if you don’t have some kind of method to the madness, your ebay store will begin to look like a jumble sale. Your item descriptions should be clear, concise and unique to avoid fruitless searching for products; begin by having a categorization system and keep it largely the same for all your stock.

For example, if you mostly sell clothes use the order PRODUCT NAME > COLOUR > SIZE > PRICE, but stick to the formula if you also sell bags, eg. PRODUCT NAME > COLOUR > PRICE. Keep this up and your inventory should be a beautifully organized catalogue of products that’s easy to navigate and keep track of.

Be super clear about shipping policies

If you want to avoid angry customers, make sure you’re crystal clear about whatever delivery rates and services you offer (economy, next day signed for, destinations you ship to etc). You need to be totally specific about these policies, so not to cause confusion; you don’t want your customers shying away from your store over fears of hidden shipping costs, or worse – enraged customers sending furious emails about hidden delivery charges, or items not arriving in time.

And while we’re at it, you might want to think about incorporating postage and packaging into the price of your products so customers don’t grimace at the thought of – gasp – actually paying for delivery.

Shopping on eBay

Relationships matter

With your suppliers and with your customers, of course. These are people who you will depend on, and who will depend on you, respectively, so you want them on your side. Need an extra order of those highly coveted Breaking Bad t-shirts that are so in demand at the moment? Being on good – preferably great – terms with your supplier might just help speed up the process.

Your order of those much sought after t-shirts being delayed? Keeping your customers in your corner might help secure their loyalty and avoid negative reviews on your store. Issue a grovelling apology and warning in advance (and maybe throw in a freebie for good measure), and assure them they will get their order, and your customers might come back, despite your original setback.

Where’s the money?

If you find that some of your products sell better than others, you’re going to want to pump your resources into stocking those items, and think about getting rid of anything that’s stagnating or not really making you any money.

And don’t stop there – research the latest trends and fashions, exploit them, even if they’re not in your niche. Once you’ve identified your most popular items, make sure they’re always in stock and ready to be shipped at a moment’s notice.

Automate by using tracking software

You can save yourself a lot of time and extra work simply by using an inventory tracking software. This type of software can help tremendously, not just by saving you time by automating your stock management, but also by providing you with in-depth reports on what’s selling and what isn’t – pretty handy for identifying which stock to keep replenished and which stock to get rid of. These reports can also benefit your sales forecasts and planning for the future.