I have been interviewed by the leading eBay forum AuctionCUT about the eBay Trading Assistant program.
What opportunities does the eBay TA program offer for eBay sellers?
eBay’s Trading Assistant (TA) program enables sellers to use their knowledge of eBay to profit from selling items on behalf of people and businesses who do not have the time, resources or inclination. Typically TAs work for a commission of 30-50% the final value of the item. What attracts sellers to become TAs is the low (perceived) set up costs and the idea of taking no inventory risk.
There are really two types of TA, those who do it on a casual basis for extra income, and business who run an eBay drop-off shop. Drop shops can be either stand alone or through a franchised operation like Auctioning4u.
What are the biggest problems involved in acting as a TA?
For what on the outside seems such a simple idea there are a number of significant problems for a TA which increase exponentially with the volume of stock.
- Processing. Unlike typical online sellers, every item for a TA is different, leading to a time consuming listing process. If you are running a volume TA business, it becomes a huge challenge to track items through collection, photographing, customer service and finally dispatch to the winning bidder.
- Selecting items. Due to the time it takes to list an item, being a TA only works if you deal with high value items. Most unwanted items are of low value and their owners frequently have unrealistic expectations about their worth. It is therefore important to be strict and select items carefully. On the consumer side Auctioning4u we only sell items which are worth £30 and above although we sell lower value items for business if there are larger quantities.
- Listing. The enormous variety of items which can be brought to TAs makes it difficult to have the necessary expertise in-house.
- Getting volume of items. Whilst eBay has been around for more than 10 years, the concept of a TA is still quite new. Many TAs find it difficult to find time to market their business as well as process the items they receive.
- VeRO. As a TA you are more vulnerable to eBay’s VeRO programme and other eBay policy violations as you will be selling a greater variety of items than most sellers.
At Auctioning4u we get over these issues with a centralised and highly automated operation benefiting from economies of scale. Without that scale the TA business cannot be profitable. We believe we are the only TA that makes a positive Gross Margin on items we sell.
Is there any specialist software aimed at TAs for managing their business?
At Auctioning4u we use our own in-house solution as there is no off the shelf package which meets the needs of a high volume TA business. However there are some off the shelf packages for PowerSellers which are used by some TAs, the best place to find information is http://www.auctionsoftwarereview.com.
For sellers who wanted to try out their luck as a TA which advertising methods would you recommend?
Trevor: The methods used by TAs are the same as for any small business. I would recommend the following for starters:
- Entry in the eBay TA directory
- Offline directories such as the Yellow Pages
- Online directories such as Kelly search
- Leafleting in your target area
- Online advertising such as Google Adwords
What kind of relationship does eBay have with their registered TAs?
Trevor: eBay is very stringent about treating sellers of all shapes and sizes equally. As a TA you cannot expect any special treatment from eBay. The limit of eBay’s involvement with TAs is giving them an entry in the TA directory.
Any other advice you can offer to AuctionCUT members regarding the TA program?
Don’t do it. There are much easier ways of making money than as an independent TA. In our view stand alone drop shops do not work, as shown by the recent collapse of the iSold It network in the UK. Our system works on a centralised model based on territories. The processing is done centrally leaving the franchisee with time to market and build their business. For further information of how difficult the business is check out http://www.amitheonlyone.org – a site created by a former owner of a TA.