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Online Pro Shop overcomes local handicaps on eBay
Leigh Bader (3ballsgolf) got his start on eBay in 1998. He owned a retail golf store and thought eBay might be a good way to sell the used equipment he received as trade-ins.

He started by posting a few golf clubs, and within eight weeks he'd emptied out the store's entire stock of used equipment. Leigh saw a huge opportunity, but needed more used equipment to sell than he received in trade. He created a valuation guide and approached retail stores in New England, offering to buy used clubs. These also sold quickly, and he couldn't supply the demand.

Then in 2000 Leigh hooked up with Alex Choi, a graduate of the School of Entrepreneurship at Babson College and employee of Titlest and FootJoy. Leigh and Alex put their heads together to find a way to scale their business on eBay. 3ballsgolf worked with the PGA to create a trade-in network with 6,000 locations. With this new infrastructure, 3ballsgolf had a ready supply of used merchandise. They also contacted manufacturers and secured a supply of new and old stock, samples, and demos they could sell on eBay.
"Our eBay Store has built our brand, rounded out our product offering, and helped us increase our add-on sales, upselling, and cross-selling."
When eBay Stores was launched, 3bal lsgolf was among the first to sign up. The Store offered a natural way for Leigh and Alex to brand their business and gave them features that helped boost sales even further. They chose the Anchor level for the most prominent placement and highest visibility on eBay. They take advantage of the features that come with an Anchor Store, from Custom Pages to advanced Store Traffic Reports. 3ballsgolf created "specialty shops" of promotional merchandise with Custom Pages, such as their Stuff in the Ruff and Dollar Store pages. Their Custom Pages are very productive, and offer an easy way for customers to zero in on the items they want. Promotion Boxes at the top of their home page call attention to new arrivals, popular sellers, and special deals. Leigh and Alex view their Traffic Reports every day, tracking page and listing views, unique visitors, and bids. They constantly evaluate this data to inform their strategy. They use Email Marketing to increase exposure to items in their Store, from one-dollar to no-reserve Auction-style to Fixed Price listings. "We see a spike in sales every time we send out our newsletter, usually once or twice a month," says Leigh.

The power of the eBay Marketplace has allowed 3ballsgolf to create a thriving nationwide business without investing much capital. "Our brick-and-mortar golf shop is the second-largest in the country," says Alex. "But even so, our eBay sales bring in more sales and profits. eBay is our primary online sales channel-it has the traffic and brings us the customers.

"Our eBay Store has built our brand, rounded out our product offering, and helped us increase our add-on sales, upselling, and cross-selling. When we first started on eBay we made two postings a day and our goal was to sell 50 to 60 items a month. Now with our Anchor Store, we do 9,000 to 10,000 postings a month. Our sales have gone up an average of 30% per year since we opened our eBay Store."

Leigh is convinced eBay is the best way to sell online. "eBay is like getting retail space in a nationwide shopping mall, but at a very reasonable price. You can get customers without having to do any advertising, because the traffic is already there. Sure, we could spend a fortune building our own Web site and then advertise trying to get people to visit, but it just doesn't make sense compared to the relatively low cost of doing business on the busy eBay Marketplace. On eBay we get a very fast turnaround, often selling items in five days, before we even have to pay the invoices for those items. Brick-and-mortar has a very slow turnaround in comparison. For speed and margin at the point of sale, eBay delivers the best value out there."

Tips for Success
  • Look at other eBay Stores. "Navigate through eBay Stores and adopt the features you like into your own."
  • Work harder. "To increase your sales, invest time and effort in any aspect of your business that can be improved, whether it is customer service, sourcing new inventory, or increasing marketing efforts."
  • Use Store Categories and Subcategories. "Think through how customers navigate your Store, and make it as effortless as possible."
  • Be creative. "Custom Pages and Promotion Boxes can be used in many ways-for example, we've turned some of our Custom Pages into 'specialty shops,' such as our Dollar Store, which are very productive."
  • Promote your Store in Auction-style listings. "Use the Listing Frame or create your own. Think of these listings as ads for your Store, as well as ads for the product being sold."
  • Vary your email content. "Keep the content fresh and newsworthy. We advertise promotions such as free shipping, send reminders about our Dollar Store offerings, and announce new hot items."
  • Understand your Traffic Reports. "Spend some time every day analyzing your Traffic Reports. It's a very powerful tool packed with valuable information, and a great measure of how different aspects of your business are doing. Pay special attention to the top five or ten things you are most concerned about."