In the buying and selling for profit business, you are constantly balancing the time and money equation. It can be challenging, since input doesn’t always match output. Just because you spent three hours sourcing doesn’t mean you necessarily have valuable merchandise to show for it. Sometimes, you may spend no time at all and find yourself with a gold mine.
Admittedly, simply stumbling upon high-grossing product is rare—and it’s definitely not something you can count on. So instead, your goal is to develop a system that’s efficient at every stage of the process: sourcing, listing, and selling. Everyone has tricks for greasing the wheel at each stage. Maybe you have a go-to arbitrage location that always has quality merchandise, so you don’t have to waste time driving to multiple places. Maybe you have a killer organizational system so you never waste time sorting through your merchandise.
But at a certain point, you’ll need to take it to the next level. It’s important to remember that in the name of saving time (and making money) in the long run, sometimes you have to invest up front. Here are some tools that you should spend on now in order to save in the future: a scanner, inventory tracking and management tools, packaging repair materials, shipping materials, and a customer feedback manager.
- Scanner. If it’s early in your career of buying and selling for profit, you may not be moving a lot of product yet. However, you’ll soon find—if you haven’t already—that typing in barcodes to search for and list products can get tedious, fast. A scanner is a great tool to invest in no matter what stage your business is in. Having a scanner can save you lots of time, both at the retail arbitrage stage and when listing products for sale on Amazon, eBay, or another online selling platform. Many resellers will download apps, like Profit Bandit (Amazon) or TeraPeak (Amazon/eBay) to source. These are a great option, because you won’t have to purchase a separate device to begin using your scanner. Most of these apps are available for both iOS and Android, and cost a monthly fee that typically falls in the $10 to $50 range. You can also invest in a small scanner that will connect with reseller apps via bluetooth. While a more expensive option, tools like ScanFob are popular because they scan faster, and are able to link with a range of apps that give you more information about products. It’s also important to note that these apps rely on access to data or wifi in order to work effectively. If you do a lot of your arbitrage at a large warehouse or even in a low service area, you may not be able to access the Internet. For this reason, many resellers choose to invest in actual scanners that allow you to scan in “offline mode” and transfer to your computer via USB.
- Inventory Tracking and Management Tools. Going hand in hand with the scanner is an inventory management system that you can purchase to keep track of the merchandise you are buying and selling for profit. Services like Inventory Lab (Amazon) are great for keeping track of the merchandise you purchased and listed, and will also keep a running count of the profit you can expect once those listings turn over. Some services are even more robust, like ChannelAdvisor (Amazon, eBay, Google, and others), which offers inventory management as well as digital marketing and order fulfillment. If you’re an eBay seller, you may eventually want to invest in a service that allows you to automate the auction process, like Vendio. These types of services are typically offered at a monthly rate, and tend to vary in cost based on how robust the service offering is. Don’t be afraid to try a few before you settle on what works best for your business—many offer free trials. And, as your business grows, you should reassess whether the service you’re using currently is still appropriate for the level of inventory you’re managing. For more options to choose from, check out Skip McGrath’s list of tools for Amazon, eBay, and more.
- Packaging Repair Materials. You’re in the business of buying and selling for profit, which means the product you’re moving often has slightly damaged packaging. While you know the product is in perfectly good condition, part of building that “trust” mentioned earlier is sending them goods that look like they just came off the shelf. There are a few helpful tools that every reseller should have in order to do just that. A label remover, like Scotty Peeler, will peel off extraneous stickers without leaving a trace. Glue—not tape—is important for resealing open boxes or even making small repairs (for the cleanest look, try acid-free glue). You can also use an iron to reshape warped boxes. If your product presentation matches the quality of the product itself, you’ll be able to list it and sell it at a higher price.
- Shipping Materials. Whether you’re using a fulfillment service or you’re handling shipping and customer service yourself, it’s essential to set up a shipping system to save time. While this is a significant investment outright, you’ll save yourself the time—and stress. There are a number of different printing and label options, and what suits your needs will likely vary. Make sure that when you’re researching to read reviews, look for keywords that indicate whether the item is being used for purposes similar to yours. At a bare minimum, make sure you have a printer, shipping and item labels, a scanner, plenty of boxes and tape, and a shipping scale. You’ll also need packing materials like paper or peanuts. Smaller items might require a polybag—make sure you purchase them with their choking hazard label. Check out this video for a look at how it all comes together.
- Customer Feedback Manager. In online retail, trust is a major issue that resellers need to address head-on. Since you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, customers can’t see and assess the products you’re selling online. They’re more likely to be skeptical about the quality of your merchandise. Also, in today’s on-demand economy, they have very high expectations for delivery and overall service. For resellers, that means it’s important to accumulate positive feedback on Amazon so that customers won’t hesitate to purchase your product. In fact, 90 percent of buyers read online reviews, and 88 percent will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative reviews. While having those positive reviews is great, they’re hard to come by. Any seasoned reseller will tell you that customers who had bad experiences will write novels online, but customers who had a decent or even great experience are often mute. To help coax those feedback from satisfied customers, it’s important to actively reach out to them. Services like Feedback Genius and Feedback Five are a couple examples of tools that will allow you to send automated emails to customers to try and generate feedback. This eliminates the time you spend writing—or even copying and pasting—a template email, and also prevents you from having to execute follow-up individually. This will also help you keep tabs on your comments and ratings, giving you alerts if a poor review is posted so that you can address it right away. These services are typically monthly subscriptions, and vary based on how robust an offering you’re interested in. Many have freemium options so that you can test out the tool and see if it works for you before committing to a monthly payment.