Spotlight on Beachboundhawaii
When Kathleen first started selling on eBay, she was caught up in a perfect storm: she lost her position as vice president of a private bank due to a merger. Her husband was in the process of closing their last video store location as a result of aggressive competition from Blockbuster. She found herself with ample spare time and more video store inventory than she knew what to do with. Around the same time, Kathleen learned that a friend of hers was attending swap meets, finding things to flip on eBay and making a surprising level of income while from working from home. Kathleen decided to give eBay a try herself and that was the start of a bold new career direction.
Repeating Kathleen's early success on eBay would be tough in today's market. She liquidated the leftover inventory from their video store over a period of years when selling movies and music on eBay was probably at its best. She kept the momentum going by introducing video games, collectibles and vintage items to her inventory. Kathleen didn't necessarily plan to make eBay a full-time commitment, but the more her success on the platform grew, the less she felt inclined to re-enter the job market. Her decision to remain self-employed finally came down to personal fulfillment: "On the one hand I felt like I should finish my CPA and go back to work but it just didn't appeal to me like selling online." She says, "What I do now is so rewarding. I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur. It feels empowering to invest in myself."
With a renewed sense of confidence Kathleen expanded her business, tapping into new shopper demand by opening an Amazon seller account. One year later, she attended eBay Live in Boston, a massive networking event for eBay sellers. During the conference she stopped by one of the trade booths and discovered a relatively new software solution called Terapeak. To put this into context, eBay research wasn't easy to conduct back then and Amazon research was pretty much nonexistent. Kathleen was using a variety of sourcing approaches and she needed an easier method to validate her inventory selections. Terapeak turned out to be the research solution she had been waiting for.
I love being able to represent eBay activity in a visual way. The color coded categories in the Heat Map allow me to quickly assess which parts of the marketplace are HOT. Digging right into the performance metrics for products and competitors gives me all the detail I need to make smart selling decisions. I don’t list anything without researching it in Terapeak first!
Kathleen shares one of the highlights of her hunt, "I learned to act fast when I find a good flipping opportunity. A good example of this was the time I listed "The Polar Express". I checked pricing and noticed that the full screen version of the movie was selling for quite a bit more than the widescreen version. I listed my copy for $25 and it sold in minutes. That’s when I knew I was onto something. My husband and I drove around to some of the local retailers and bought up as many copies as we could find. We sold $15,000 worth of one title just like that."
When the going gets tough, having access to market intelligence makes all the difference for sellers like Kathleen. She cites an example from economic downturn in 2007: "Up until the recession, we were selling quite a lot of designer purses. As sales declined in that niche, we did some research in Terapeak and found that purchase behavior was shifting towards used condition items. Funny enough, we packed away lots of second hand inventory in previous years because it was slow to sell. We started digging it out and listing it again. The surge in interest in vintage bags helped us maintain sales levels during that period of time."
"Recognize that there is a natural business cycle to every opportunity and that at some point it will decline and you'll need to switch gears to keep going.”
Kathleen was eventually recruited by the eBay Seller Outreach team as a Business Consultant & ultimately Directing and Managing the program in partnership with eBay. Over her five years with the program, she helped tens of thousands of seasoned business sellers develop discipline and consistent business process and ultimately become Top Rated Sellers.
Kathleen currently offers consultation service through eBay and her website. She explains her coaching style: “I tell sellers who are new to the marketplace to expect change to be the constant. Their livelihood might depend on selling online and I want them to be equipped to make smart decisions about sourcing and listing ideology. Terapeak is a part of that preparation--The power of research is tremendous."
Reflecting on the challenges of today's market, Kathleen volunteers this advice, "E-commerce is very dynamic and it is crucial to stay abreast of changes in policy and trends on each platform. Domestic competition is fiercer and there is more international competition now than when I first started selling on eBay." Pausing, she adds, "I actually love competition. It opens my eyes to alternative approaches and missed opportunities. Competition helps me stay on top of my game."
Kathleen is more motivated than ever by her online selling pursuits. When asked about her goals for the immediate future, Kathleen says she has her work cut out for her clearing out storage space at home. She jokes that her husband is a "collector with hoarder tendencies" and he is always on the prowl for thing to resell. Their three car garage is full of antiques from a shop they owned decades ago. Kathleen runs through a mental checklist: "I just opened an Etsy store. I would like to triple our presence on eBay and utilize FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) more. I plan to use Terapeak to optimize pricing and keywords on some stale inventory over the summer so I can better position our business for when sales pick up during the Fall. Our inventory is expanding with a mix of high end and lower priced items to bring a healthy variety to the traffic through our store."
Visit the Beachboundhawaii store on eBay.
Learn more about Kathleen’s consultation service for online sellers at www.coachinguonline.com