I haven't really taken the time to analyze the data yet, as I have a tendency to just want to move forward with listing material. One thing I have to explain here before I continue is that the process of setting up an online store is a LOT different from setting up a bricks and mortar store. How? Well the biggest difference is the amount of time it takes to "stock the shelves" so to speak. With a bricks and mortar store I could have had my stock all set up and ready to sell in 1-2 months. However, because everything has to be scanned, entered into E-bay, and catalogued, this process will take at least 18 months, if not twice that long. I'm starting to realize that 18 months may be what I need to get Canada alone set up to talk less of Nigeria and the rest of British West Africa. Of course, because I realize the importance of marketing on a daily basis, I have spent a lot of time developing my blogs and posting content as I go along since that is the most efficient way for me to document and share my knowledge. However, this fact about the time required to "set-up shop" has impacted the order in which I have chosen to list material. I had a hunch when I set out to establish this business, just based on 5 years of casual operations on e-bay that the average sale would be around $20, so I knew that the fastest selling material would be items in the under $20 price range. In other words most of the modern material.
If I had been focused on hitting high sales from the beginning, it would have made sense for me to list the cheapest material first. However, I didn't do that. Why? Well three reasons:
1. If I listed this material first and it sold too quickly, I would have to spend a significant chunk of my time buying and replenishing inventory that had sold and would not have much time to deploy my more expensive stamps.
2. Listing the expensive and rare material first is critical to projecting the right image: that of a serious player who can supply every collector need. Even if sales of this material are low because it is long-tail merchandise, having the exposure on e-bay and Google is critical to building the brand. This is especially so because it is generally the more expensive stamps that will be the subject of most specific Google searches.
3. Having the material listed for a while gives me a chance to see what the market conditions are for it. I am not following a low price strategy, due to the fact that it is difficult and time consuming to replenish this kind of inventory. Charging a higher price allows me to keep a larger amount of it in stock and then I can tinker with the pricing and see what the impact is on sales.
Thus my focus has not been on having high sales. Rather, my focus over these first 18 months has been to try to get the store set up as efficiently as possible, while doing everything I can to develop our brand. So to that end, I have done very focused listing, where I gather together all the material I have on a particular issue and list everything I have en-masse. I have now covered all the material from 1851 to the end of 1926 and the Queen Elizabeth definitives covering the period 1952 to 1962. Steph will soon be listing all the post 1952 material en-masse. My next major block of material to list is the rest of King George V and all of George VI. This material is still relatively expensive, but there are lots of $20 and below items as well. So if my hunch holds true about the average sale being $20, then sales should increase quite a bit as this material is listed. Plus the advantage of doing it this way is that most of this material is easy to replace, so if it does sell quickly, then with the the early stuff under control and out of the way, I can replenish the modern material without cutting too deeply into my listing time.
So the question is, how have the numbers actually played out over the past 8 months? I decided to crunch some numbers and look at:
- Total sales dollars for the month
- Total number of items sold for the month
- Average sale dolars
- Total number of new customers that month
- The total number of new customers who went on to become repeat customers
- The percentage of repeat customers